ARS LANDSCAPE MATERIALS AND SUPPLY
Mulches control temperatures around plants. Mulches are cooler than rock mulches in the sun. Rocks absorb and store heat for long periods, reradiating heat to plants.
Mulches are often used to alter temperatures in other ways. Applying mulches at planting keeps soil temperatures above freezing, which protects fall transplants and allows a longer period for root growth before winter.
To protect plants from winter drying and frost heaving, apply mulches after the ground is frozen. This protects small bulbs by delaying spring growth until weather is warmer and more settled.
An ideal mulch doesn’t compact easily, allows air and water movement into and out of the soil, and breaks down slowly. In addition, the ideal mulch is weed free, attractive, won’t blow away and isn’t a fire hazard.
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