material that is spread on the soil surface to reduce weed growth. retain soil moisture. moderate temperature extremes. reduce compaction from pedestrian or vehicle traffic. and/or to improve aesthetic appearance of the landscape. Mulch can be composed of chipped. ground. or shredded organic material such as bark. wood. or recycled paper (see green mulch).

Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary
mulch (noun)
a protective covering (as of sawdust, compost, or paper) spread or left on the ground to reduce evaporation, maintain even soil temperature, prevent erosion, control weeds, enrich the soil, or keep fruit (as strawberries) clean
mulch (Wikipedia)

A mulch is a layer of material applied to the surface of soil. Reasons for applying mulch include conservation of soil moisture, improving fertility and health of the soil, reducing weed growth and enhancing the visual appeal of the area.

A mulch is usually, but not exclusively, organic in nature. It may be permanent (e.g. plastic sheeting) or temporary (e.g. bark chips). It may be applied to bare soil or around existing plants. Mulches of manure or compost will be incorporated naturally into the soil by the activity of worms and other organisms. The process is used both in commercial crop production and in gardening, and when applied correctly, can dramatically improve soil productivity.

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