How Do You Mulch?
Written by Soils Matter
Wednesday, December 10, 2014
Soil is science and what you put on top of soil matters. If you need to get that point across to clients, you can lean on research by soil scientists at Virginia Tech.
You don’t have to be a scientist to understand what they have learned about mulch and landscape fabric and their practical points are easy to share.
The bottom line on this research is that mulches benefit the environment by reducing erosion. According to Virginia Tech professor Susan Day, research shows that mulch of many kinds benefits the environment by reducing erosion. Here are their three main findings.
Mulches help to control soil erosion. In the research, bare soil lost about 5 times as much sediment as soils which had mulches covering them. All types of mulches reduce the amount of suspended soils running off a site.
Geotextiles, often referred to as “landscape fabric,” appeared to speed up water run-off in the studies. This information lends credibility to others in the landscape industry who are moving away from landscape fabric for similar or related reasons.
Each type of mulch wears differently, but all mulches absorb a lot of runoff on their own independent of the soil beneath it.
According to Day, mulch “affects the traditional realms of aesthetics, moisture conservation and elimination of competition for landscape plants. But it is also an important cog in the machinery of the water cycle by keeping the soil surface receptive to water. This improves water quality by allowing the water to get into the soil, instead of the storm water control system. Soil is an important part of the water cleansing cycle.”
Day also points out that scientists and others are beginning to realize the importance of what she terms “stacked” or “bundled” ecosystem services and that every piece of unpaved land in urban areas should provide multiple benefits. Says Day, “Mulch is one component that can play a role in making urban landscapes part of our green infrastructure.”
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