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Mulches are used for various agricultural and gardening purposes. They are applied on the surface of the soil and perform multiple functions, such as providing practical conservation of soil and water, protection of plants and in providing an attractive aesthetic landscaping effect.
Properly used, they benefit plant growth and minimize garden labour. The main functions of mulches are the conservation of soil moisture, the prevention of soil degradation and the moderation of soil temperature
During spring and autumn, mulches moderate internal soil temperatures by retaining heat from the day and radiating it to the soil at night.
In the winter, mulches moderate soil waming during the day, limiting the stress plants undergo during soil freezing and thawing cycles. They also are used to prevent frost damage of unestablished plants
During summer months, they keep soil cool by blocking direct sunlight exposure of the soil surface.
Mulches also help control the growth of weeds, blocking sunlight and smothering weed seedlings under layers of material. Mulch reflects sunlight back from the ground to the leaves of plants. They also provide a clean and dry surface for ground-lying fruits
They prevent soil erosion from heavy rains, prevent surface run-off of water, and prevent the direct impact of hard rains on the soil surface. Some mulches improve soil texture, adding humus. Organic mulches may add nutrients to the soil as they break down. Biodegradable mulches as they decay, are incorporated into the soil where they provide air spaces and surfaces for fungal and root growth.
While mulching may improve the growth of various plants by directly manipulating the plant's environmnet, mulch can also improve growth as an effective means of pest control
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