A layer of decaying plant matter over the root zone of trees, shrubs and other plants prevents water from evaporating from the soil in hot weather, said Meghan Midgley, soil scientist at The Morton Arboretum in Lisle. That protects the plants from the stress.
When the soil is protected by mulch, such as dried leaves, shredded wood or wood chips, roots grow more and plants are more vigorous, Midgley said. By blocking sunlight, mulch keeps weed seeds from sprouting. And over time, organisms in the soil will help nutrients to be released to the roots as they break the mulch down.
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