Using mulch, he says, is a great way to do this, because it helps keep soil moist and warm.
Dudman, who is a gardening presenter for ABC Radio and the author of Down to Earth Garden Design, explains why we should use mulch and how we can make it.
What can we use from around the home to create mulch?
If you're using stuff that's already around the home compost is good.
People say use your grass clippings but there is some risk with using grass clippings in that it can form a crust on the surface, which makes it difficult for the water to penetrate.
So while you'll see people using grass clippings it's best to actually compost that first so it breaks down into finer particles.
Some people do grow their own mulch. You can plant some lemongrass and propagate it yourself by dividing the clumps, and have little borders of lemongrass which you can chop back and use as a mulch... it's just like using straw.
Leaves absolutely - it's free, it's out there. I'm the type of guy who if I see a heap of (leaves) in someone's front yard, particularly if they're in my street, I'll knock on their door and be standing there with a rake and a couple of bags and I'll say `can I have it?'.
And can you just apply mulch as is or do you have to do something to it?
Just throw it straight on. The important thing is, in the short term, that it's creating a cover; it's like a little blanket.
It's like tucking your garden in and keeping it all warm and toasty in the winter time and keeping those weeds out that compete; keeping the moisture in but really helping to regulate the soil temperature.
Why is mulch beneficial?
What a cover of mulch can do, say a 70-100ml cover of mulch, (is) reduce soil evaporation by up to about 60 per cent, so it's probably the number one thing you can do to save water in the garden.
If you're clever about it... really the best time to mulch... is after a really good downpour of rain.
What I'll recommend to some people is that they have some mulch somewhere in the garden piled away somewhere dry (and) covered (is) that they get out and start throwing it around after a good downpour... you come back weeks after you've applied it and the soil's still moist but the areas where you haven't put that little blanket over the top dry out.
Can you ever use too much mulch?
Yeah you can. If you put it on say 150-200ml thick it can get to the point where (during) those smaller rain events... the water doesn't even reach the soil; there's just way too much dry matter on top.
Thinner layers are much better than thick layers.
Is there certain organic matter that won't break down?
Yeah the woodier the material the slower it's going to break down and there's nothing wrong with that. It's about choosing the right mulch for the right application.
If you are growing vegetables you don't want a woody mulch... you want a mulch that's soft and it's going to break down quickly and start turning into compost and returning more humus to the soil, more nutrients and more life to the soil.
You want that quick turnover with that type of garden so you go for things like straw, lucerne, which breaks down very quickly, and you also go for things like sugarcane mulch.
You might do that too in a rose garden where you really want to get some good soil life happening there because you're focusing on great flowers and great plants.
In your general shrubbery, when you've got your gardenias and your magnolias growing in a big shrub bed, you don't want to be applying mulch that breaks down and having to re-cover it every three to six months. You want something that's long-lasting and that's where you'd use a woodier-type mulch.
Are there any other ways we can make mulch?
You can grow plants purely for throwing out a quick return of mulch or a quick way to return nutrients and organic matter to your soil and that's called green manuring.
So if you've got a garden bed that you're resting and you want to get some more organic matter into it but you don't want to be spending a whole lot of money or you don't have the compost, you sow a crop of say oats or lupins or some mustard... and before it matures, while it's still soft and sappy, you can turn it over and dig it into the soil and it will break down and basically you've created more organic material and you've enriched the soil.
By Jennifer Ennion