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All gardeners will be familiar with mulching their plants. A healthy dose of nutritious, rich compost is just the thing for many species as it can provide a whole growing seasons worth of natural, slow release fertilizer.
When using organic mulches avoid direct contact with the stems of trees or specimen shrubs as this can cause the trunk or stem to soften, making them vulnerable to diseases.
A dry mulch is primarily used for protecting susceptible plant roots from extremes of temperature and to reduce the incidence of fungal roots that could be encouraged when a regular mulch bio-degrades. They are usually applied in late autumn as a cold protection for plants whose roots are at risk of damage from ground frosts.
Traditionally, bracken fronds, pine needles, shredded leaves and straw are used as dry mulches, but as these degrade in the cold wet weather they would need subsequent applications to maintain a reasonable level of protection.
Gravels may also be applied in appropriate borders but perhaps the most commonly used dry mulch used today is bark chips. Dry mulches are usually removed in the spring to allow the soil to warm faster. Be aware though that when using wood chips there is a slight risk of introducing honey fungus
Dry mulches can also just be used for decorative effect with no intended benefit to the plants themselves except to serve as an ornamental background. In this instance, many materials can be used to achieve this including slates, pebbles, stone chippings, crushed CDs, sea shells, and tumbled glass.
For decorative mulches a woven landscape fabric should be laid down before their application.
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