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Garden Tips

Retaining moisture and improving soil quality

How do you make gardening easier? It is as simple as mulching the surface of the soil around your plants!

The most common mulches are shredded bark, woodchips, pea straw, old spoilt hay, seaweed, decaying leaves, sugarcane mulch and even sawdust. Common shredded barks include 10mm pine bark, Eucey Mulch, Soft play or colored mulch.

Mulch should always be left on the surface to decay. Never dig it in. The bacteria, moulds and fungus that cause the mulch to decay predominantly exist at the surface of the soil. Accordingly, the optimal position for the mulch is on top of that surface.

Digging the mulch in may also cause the soil to become imbalanced and nitrogen deficient. In this case, the soil will use its energy to try and break down the organic matter that has not yet decayed rather than providing a stable environment for plant growth.

Mulch can be spread over weeds without having to kill them with herbicides or having to dig them out. Obviously, avoiding the need for herbicides is friendlier on the environment. Mulch spread to a thick (10cm) pad rarely allows weeds to penetrate through to the surface. Even persistent weeds suck as docks, cats-ear, flat-weed and dandelions can be controlled with mulch. Simply fork up the matted mass of mulch and lay it back down over the weed. Two or three of these lifts will cause the weed to become weak. It will eventually be smothered by the mulch. However, if you prefer, you could give the weeds an application of Glyhosate to quickly rid your area of them.

Mulching reduces evaporation from the soil. It seals in moisture and reduces fluctuations in soil temperature during the day and at night. The plants achieve strong growth even with reduced watering. The best way to maintain optimal moisture levels in the mulched area is to water it (deeply) once per week.

Mulched areas are also more resistant to soil erosion, even in areas with unstable or steep soil. Mulch also prevents surfaces from developing a water repellant crust.

If you also want to improve the quality of your existing soil, you should condition it before you mulch. You can use products like home made or commercial composts such as mushroom mulch or animal manures. Improving the quality of your soil enables the soil to circulate water, nutrients and oxygen. This will also achieve strong growth.

After recent consistent rains, now is a great time to start mulching. Moisture levels in the soil are currently high and mulching now will retain a lot of this moisture for the warmer months to come.

Published on August 15, 2010

How to make a 'no dig' garden

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • A border, for example; 3 sleepers, 2 half wine barrels, linkabord (see below), bricks, rocks, old tyres, an old concrete trough or anything floating around the backyard
  • Old newspapers
  • 1 pea straw bale
  • 3 bags organic manure (for example, sheep, cow or chicken)
  • 1/2  m garden soil
  • 1/2 m mushroom compost
  • 1 sugarcane bale
  • (more…)

    Published on April 15, 2010