When it comes to garden maintenance, the one product worth investing in is mulch. Not just reserved for the gardening pro, it's something you can use yourself. Here's how.
Andrew Spillane, gardening expert associated with The Green Centre, shares his advice and know-how on everything to do with mulch, so you can ensure your garden is in top condition, year round.
Mulch is one of the best ways to conserve water in the garden during summer. The layer of material around your plants stops evaporation and keeps moisture locked in the soil. While water conservation might not be at the top of your mind in winter, it’s still a great idea to apply mulch at this time of year for a different reason - it stops your nutrient-rich topsoil from washing away in the rain. As an added bonus, it also suppresses weeds by blocking them from the sunlight. It’s a great natural alternative to weed killer.
Home grown versus store bought
You can make mulch in your own backyard if you have the space, or you can purchase it from most garden supply stores, including The Green Centre, for around $40-$60 per cubic metre. Some gardeners prefer bought mulch for aesthetic reasons, as it comes in a variety of colours. Bought mulch also tends to be screened and heat-treated, which ensures that any diseases and pathogens are killed. However, if you like to get your hands dirty you can certainly make your own at home.
The easiest material to use for home-made mulch is leaf litter, but you can use a whole variety of things including wood chippings, paper, coca shell, bark chips, straw, garden compost and soil conditioning compost. The most beneficial to any plant are the organic ones. These will break down over time and transfer their nutrients to the soil, which improves biodiversity and environmental conditions.
To make it easier to spread, it’s worth hiring or purchasing a small chipper to break branches and garden waste into small pieces. Create a stockpile in a secluded area of your yard where there’s no grass so you avoid killing it.
When you’re applying mulch, the most important thing to remember is not to lay it too thick, make it no more than 5 to 10cm. Organic mulch takes about 12-18 months to break down, so after that time use a shovel to dig it through the soil and reapply a new layer on top.