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Putting it to the Test: Mulch

Find out how much benefit there is in using it and if there really is any difference among the common types

Fine Gardening - Issue 161

Every gardener wants a gorgeous garden. Choosing the right plants for your site and using proper planting techniques are, of course, essential steps in establishing a successful landscape. Choosing the right mulch, however, can also be critical to the success of your plants over the years. Most gardeners have heard that mulch can improve plant growth, conserve moisture, reduce weeds, and moderate soil temperatures. But how much good can mulch really provide to plants, and is there any difference in the benefits among common mulches?

To answer these questions, my colleague Bob Schutzki and I did a comprehensive study at Michigan State University to track the effects on plants of various landscape mulches. Instead of just looking at their effect on plant growth, we also examined the impact on soil moisture, soil pH, weed control, and nutrient availability to determine the underlying benefits of mulch. We continued to monitor the…

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