Applying mulch around your plants and trees helps maintain the health of the plants and soil and cuts back on the need for extra watering and fertilizers. Mulches can be made up of a variety of organic and inorganic material, including leaves, compost mixes, bark, and woodchips. Save a pile of leaves from the fall to use as mulch over the winter and into the next summer. A 2-4 inch layer of mulch helps retain moisture, suppresses growth of weeds, protects roots from extreme temperatures (both winter and summer), adds nutrients as the mulch decomposes, and improves soil structure and drainage. Mulch also houses beneficial micro- and macro-organisms, improving the health of the local ecosystem. Be careful not to apply mulch too deeply and not to touch the trunks of trees: pull mulch several inches back from the base.
For more details, see this article at Treesaregood.com
Photo by Susan O'Donnell