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mulch,any material, usually organic, that is spread on the ground to protect the soil and the roots of plants from the effects of soil crusting, erosion, or freezing; it is also used to retard the growth of weeds. A mulch may be made of materials such as straw, sawdust, grass clippings, peat moss, leaves, or paper. For large areas under cultivation a tilled layer of soil serves the purpose of a mulch.
a cover made of straw, reeds, and other longstemmed plants. A mulch is used to protect plants in greenhouses from cold temperatures at night; in very cold weather it is also used during the day. Mulches are made with a hand-operated tool or by a matting machine.
a complete or interrow covering (as of mulch paper, crumbled peat, pulverized manure, humus, compost, or fallen leaves) on the soil. Mulching materials are used in agriculture in the cultivation of vegetables, fruits, berries, ornamentals, and other crops. Mulch reduces labor expenditures on interrow tilling and improves plant-growing conditions and soil fertility by conserving soil moisture, reducing the amplitude of soil temperature fluctuation, protecting the soil surface against scouring, preventing the formation of a soil crust, and preventing weed growth. As a rule, mulch increases the harvest of agricultural crops, particularly in arid regions. It is less effective on heavy and overly moist soils, on which it may even reduce the harvest.
The stubble of cereal grasses left on the fields for the winter plays the same role as mulch by protecting the soil against erosion. This procedure is of particular importance in the steppe regions of the USSR, where strong winds often prevail (Altai and Krasnoiarsk krais, Novosibirsk and Omsk oblasts, the northern part of the Kazakh SSR).
REFERENCESPlodovodstvo, 2nd ed. [Edited by V. A. Kolesnikov.] Moscow, 1966. Pages 261–63.
Rubtsov, M. I., and V. P. Matveev. Ovoshchevodstvo. Moscow, 1970. Pages 181–82.