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Mulch can help with these things and more.

Mulching is one of the simplest and most beneficial practices you can use in the garden. Mulch is simply a protective layer of a material that is spread on top of the soil. Mulches can either be organic -- such as grass clippings, straw, bark chips, and similar materials -- or inorganic -- such as stones, brick chips, and plastic. Both organic and inorganic mulches have numerous benefits.

Mulch helps conserve and extend available water, protects the soil from erosion, reduces competition by suppressing weeds, moderates temperature extremes, and acts as a barrier or visible marker of gardening beds to limit damage by landscape maintenance equipment. Understanding when, what type and how much mulch to spread is important because spreading too much mulch can be damaging to trees and plants.

Helpful Tip

Avoid “volcano mulching” trees to prevent trunk rot, don’t pile mulch directly against the base of any tree.