Thank you very mulch…

Just when I thought I’d make a blogging comeback, yet another camera has died. So my apologies for the lack of photos of utterly riveting recent events like…

  • Home brewing engineer-style (it’s precise, it’s methodical, it’s taking off)
  • The long-awaited return of the worms to their reconditioned bathtub worm farm. Yay!
  • Renovation of an ornamental native garden on the leafy side of town
  • All systems go for bees this spring… or maybe summer
  • New front garden design that’s all curves, baby
  • Frog pond. Ribbit. Just needs a few more rocks, some plants, and then tadpoles.
  • Slimline garden shed. It’s new, it’s shiny, and it’s got all my tools and stuff sorted. It fits on a side path and still leaves room for the wheelbarrow to get through. And it was cheap and fun to assemble.
  • The Trees the Postie Brought, now springing into life (that’s a Tropical Beauty apple and a Corella pear), along with a new persimmon and a couple more mandies. Seems Mum was right and you really can always squeeze in another fruit tree. (So far that’s 31 fruit trees, 2 passionfruit vines and 3 grapevines on a block that’s 400+ m2 including the house, and we haven’t even started seriously espaliering yet)
  • Marion Market stall 1st and 3rd Sunday morning of the month – Greenpatch organic seeds, fresh home-made muffins, cargo bikes, garden design and special guests (last week Rod with superb home-grown avocadoes)

Yeah, it’s been a quiet winter 😉

Actually I’ve been pretty preoccupied with researching gardening topics of interest and making an effort to observe and record some of what happens in our garden. I’ll share some more notes in upcoming posts. For now, here are some observations on mulching from the past few years:

Mulch discoveries at home…

  • Broad beans can grow through the winter right where you need mulch in late spring (e.g. under fruit trees, around perimeter of garden beds).  Slash and spread. You can even cut them twice and let them regrow for extra value. Dig them in as green manure or cover them with compost and pea straw…
  • Sweet peas grow happily up fences and sprawl over garden beds in late winter/early spring and are more mildew-resistant than other peas. The flowers are fragrant in the garden and useful as cut flowers. They also self-seed for the following year. When the flowers start to die off, the plants make heaps of great pea straw for mulch. This year they harboured millions of aphids though, and started to die off early. Great news if you’re a ladybird.
  • Council workers clearing up fallen trees will happily drop a load of fresh, fragrant mulch in your driveway if they are too busy to take it back to the depot between jobs. Share the love with the road verges and neighbours.
  • Fresh woody mulch may draw down too much nitrogen to be used on garden beds with hungry plants, but is perfect for mulched paths and over time will add lots of carbon to the soil and keep worms happy.
  • Pigface (native succulent ground cover with pink or yellow daisy-like flowers) is a great living mulch but can get very vigorous and compete with other plants. It’s easy to prune back with hedging shears, or remove by simply pulling out the runners, and cuttings or whole plants transplant readily (e.g. to neighbours’ verges). Best used away from other low-growing plants (under 45cm). Brilliant flowers in spring and occasionally through the year.
  • To suppress weeds, use thick cardboard (flattened cartons) overlapped by 10cm, then woody mulch on top. This is far more effective than just mulch as it blocks the light. However, cardboard breaks down very quickly under acidic mulch like pine chips, and then kikuyu and soursobs can make a resurgence. Still, it’s much easier to pull kikuyu from moist mulched soil than from dry exposed soil.
  • Sugar cane mulch is excellent around smaller seedlings as fine texture makes it easier to place between plants without smothering them. It does provide hidey places for slugs and snails though – combat them with beer traps and/or coffee spray or coffee grounds around the plants.
  • Beware of mulching too deeply if relying on rainwater or sprinklers – light watering can’t penetrate far through it and a deep soaking is needed so it doesn’t necessarily save water. Thick mulch is fine over drippers though. Pile it up on paths where it will compress and break down faster.
  • Native shrubs can provide much of their own mulch – give them a light haircut twice a year and leave the cuttings on the ground. Most of them respond with sturdy, bushy growth instead of becoming sparse and lanky.

…and in other people’s gardens…

  • A truckload of composted mulch is expensive (like over $500). Use it wisely.
This entry was posted in fruit, garden design, native plants, organic gardening, outdoor living, renovation, seasonal living, trees, Worms. Bookmark the permalink.

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