I have delayed mulching the ornamental garden and orchard over the last couple of months because it was so dry. Now we have had a good soaking I will be spending the weekend spreading as much mulch as I can around my entire garden.
I do this for a number of reasons.
Firstly now that the ground in full of moisture, if I mulch heavily, the mulch will stop the soil drying out as it acts as a soil insulator, preventing moisture loss. This means much less watering going into the warmer months.
Also, I have had very few weeds coming up over the last couple of months – they knew it was dry and I am sure they have just been waiting for the rain so they can explode out of the ground. If I mulch heavily now I will be denying them sunlight, which will prevent weed seed germination, which means less work for me in the coming months.
Mulch will also breakdown to add organic matter to my soil, which improves soil structure and drainage and feeds the soil microorganisms. Whilst the soil microorganisms use some of the nutrients bound up in the organic matter for their own growth and functioning, most of the nutrients they break down are released into the soil water so they can be taken up by the plants for growth. When it is completely broken down mulch becomes Humus which is a wonderful thing to have in your soil, as it act like a reservoir for water and nutrients, releasing them as the plant needs them.
So what do I use?
I like to use mulch that breaks down quickly in the vegetable garden, such sugarcane mulch, Lucerne hay or straw. Just make sure it is not contaminated with weed seed.
On the permanent plants in the orchard and ornamental garden, I use a heavier, longer lasting mulch such as a mixed wood chip/ leaf mulch that I get from a local tree lopping service.
I always spread some cow or chook manure over the soil before mulching and water it all well after I finish.
Remember to keep mulch away from the stems of plants as it can cause collar rot.
By fertilising and mulching now I am preventing weed germination, helping to stop my soil drying out and I am improving my soil fertility. This sets my garden up for the coming spring /summer growing season and reduces weeding and watering so I can sit back and enjoy the warmer weather.
So do yourself a favour and spread some mulch around over the next few weeks and enjoy the benefits it brings.