Wanda’s Word on Mulch

Wanda’s word on Mulch

I know, I know, everyone goes on and on about mulch. BUT…there is a good reason. In fact, there are LOTS of good reasons.

First of all, let me just say- not all mulches are created equal. The first thing you should check is if the mulch has been dyed or not. I’m going to be honest and say that my main reason for mentioning this is that I find the concept insulting.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s also not great for the garden. It’s usually made from re-purposed wood, (usually pallets and packing crates) chipped up and dyed. It’s very difficult to know where the wood was used before and what it was dyed with so you really have no idea what is going on your garden. Then there is the water factor. The dye quite often runs when it gets wet, staining your paths/ driveway. The main reason I dislike it, though, is the aesthetic. There is a house down the road from me with dyed mulch and every time I walk past, I think it looks like a bad wig. With so many great, natural options, there really is no reason to get the artificial one.

Good quality mulch should do several things.

First and foremost, it should allow water into the ground and help keep it there. Coarse mulch (the chunky kind) can prevent water loss by up to 25%. Despite increasing water restrictions and the fact that we are the driest populated continent, Australia has one of the highest per-capita water consumption rates IN THE WORLD. Really, we should be doing anything we can to save water. And let’s face it..saving some money along the way can’t hurt!

Mulching also helps to prevent weeds. It’s really a simple equation. Weeds need light to grow –  mulch blocks the light. With prevention being better than the cure (in this case, generally chemicals) this is pretty much a no-brainer.

Covering the bare areas in your lawn or garden with mulch or straw is an effective method for preventing erosion from wind and rain. Mulch and straw spread over the surface of the soil reduce the impact of raindrops striking the soil and cover it from the wind. Soil that is exposed to high winds may require a heavy form of mulch made from rock to prevent it from shifting in the wind.

Organic mulches also improve the condition of the soil. As these mulches slowly decompose, they provide organic matter which helps keep the soil loose. This improves root growth, increases the infiltration of water and also improves the water-holding capacity of the soil. Organic matter is a source of plant nutrients and provides an ideal environment for earthworms and other beneficial soil organisms.

Last, but certainly not least – mulch LOOKS great. It can finish off your garden beds and really neaten up your garden. It’s quite amazing how much difference mulch can make.

So, what type of mulch does your garden need?

Woodchip and Pine Bark Mulch

For most gardens, Wood Chip or Pine Bark mulches are perfect. They are nice and coarse which allows the water to penetrate through to the garden bed and retain the water whilst it is there. As wood based mulches can draw nitrogen from the soil (nitrogen being essential for plant growth) it’s a good idea to spread some compost and/or blood and bone over the soil before applying the mulch. You’ll also want to apply the mulch quite thickly- between 5-10cms at least. Woodchip mulch looks natural and goes really well with native gardens. Pine Bark has a great red colouring which really helps to brighten and define garden beds.

Pine Bark Mulch
Pine Bark Mulch
wood-chip-mulch
Wood Chip Mulch

Straw/ Lupin Mulch

Lupin and Straw are generally used as mulch for vegetable gardens or roses. You’ll want to apply it 5-10 cms thick for the initial application, Keep in mind that they break down quite quickly and flatten over time. You may need to apply another 2-5cms after about six weeks. If you are buying bales, remember that they are VERY compacted, and will probably go further than you think. Also keep in mind that a guaranteed weed free option is always better as some bales may contain hay seeds!

Lupin Mulch
Lupin Mulch

Straw Mulch
Straw Mulch

The Black Mulch

I’m including this, even though I really don’t like it. I know it LOOKS beautiful but it is deadly. Due to the structure, it actually absorbs water rather than letting it through to the garden bed. On top of that, once the mulch has dried out, it actually absorbs water out of the ground. Then, due to the colouring, it heats up and starts to bake the soil. Which is the exact opposite of that you want it to do. Personally, I’d stay far away from this, unless you want to put mulch in for decorative purposes only. Like in a pot plant…with fake plant.

Black mulch
The Black Mulch of Doom