Saturday, January 1, 2011

Why Mulch?

Mulching is one of the best things that you can do in your garden. It saves you time by reducing the need for weeding and watering. It also improves your soil.

This photo demonstrates the benefits of mulching. One half of the bed was mulched for the first 2 months and the other side, with the smaller garlic, was not.

Mulching does this by suppressing light and therefore stopping weeds from germinating around your plants and competing for nutrients, water and light. It saves water and reduces the need to water by reducing the rate of evaporation through creating a barrier to evaporation. I rarely water my vegetable garden once seedlings are established.

If plant based mulch is used then soil health will be improved. Organic mulches break down slowly adding organic nutrients to the soil. This Improves soil structure and encourages earthworms and microbes that are important for your soil health.

I always use organic mulches in my vegetable garden. My favourite mulches are sugarcane, pea straw. One of the few downsides of mulching your garden is that mulch steals nitrogen from the soil in order to break down, leaving your soil short on nitrogen. This affect called Nitrogen draw down can me avoided by first applying a tight fistful of blood and bone to the soil surface before laying down the mulch.

My favourite mulch is organic sugarcane mulch. It is easy to use as it is finely chopped and so soft on the hands. It also looks nice, is readily available at most garden centres for no more than $20.

It is really important to mulch an area as you clear it of weeds. Do not leave time between weeding and mulching. This allows the soil surface to crust and seeds to germinate. You apply mulch thickly around 7cm thick in for cleared and thicker if suppressing existing weeds.

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