I never mulched properly at our rentals, but can see huge value in out now that I own the ground I’m now growing in. Mulching protects the soil from drying out, as the top of the mulch will dry out instead and the underneath mulch will retain moisture, keeping the top layer of soil damp. The is not only great for your plants to stay strong and healthy, but keeps the bugs and bacteria in your soil alive too, improving the quality of your soil in the long run.
You can use different types of mulch. Most common in Perth is pine bark mulch. This is really chunky and really cheap. You can buy it by the bag at Bunnings or you can get a load dumped on your driveway to spread out. I would opt for the second as this comes with free bugs – spider and creepy crawlies to make your yard happy. Be careful of roaches though!
Ma uses hay usually, or in the past has used sugar cane mulch when it was available. If you can get your name out there, at the beginning of the new hay season someone is bound to have some moldy bales they can donate to you. If its moldy it has already started to break down which will be good for your soil. Be sure to wear a mask if it is particularly Moulton.
This year I used triple C mulch – corn, canola and chicken poop. It was about $15 a bag from Bunnings, I used five bags for my whole yard (just!). The great thing about using mulch like triple C, hay or even thin leaves is that its protecting your soil but will also break down, your worms will feed off it and your plants will thrive. James mum suggested using the stringing, papery seaweed in the mix which I might try out next time!
Above – Pine bark mulch, hay, triple C
Once you have picked your mulch and are ready to put it down, make sure that you soak the ground well first. All you have to do going forward is maintain this dampness, which is easy with retic! But even a hand water every few days will achieve this. If you haven’t fertilised for a little while, do this at the same time so it’s all going in to your soil rather than sitting in the mulch. Makes sure you carefully weed the garden too, especially careful of tiny weeds just starting.
You should lay the mulch about 10mm thick if you can. Mine varies in patches where I have seedlings, onions and mustard where it was hard to get between the plants, that sort of thing. If I can, I create a little nest around young seedlings so that they don’t get suffocated by the thick mulch. The thicker you lay it the better a job it will do!
If you have a reticulation system like mine, you will find that some areas the hose pops up from the ground. You can see below where I have stuffed mulch underneath the hose to fill the gap. The mulch will protect the hose deteriorating in the sunshine, so make sure it is especially laid thick over this.
My mulch is a bit whiffy from the chicken poo, but after a few days the smell is gone. Once I have put all my mulch down I water it in, this helps it compact and stops it from blowing away in the wind. For the first three nights I will soak it to help this process.