Sunday, October 20, 2013

Giving mulch a try

So this post starts with a gardeners confession...I have never mulched like other water wise gardeners.

I have always added layers of compost which can form a mulch layer until it breaks down in the soil, but it will not last the whole summer as a true mulch.

So what's mulch meant to do?

It has three main functions:

- to keep the weeds down through suffocation (Oh yeah!)
- to keep moisture in by creating an evaporation barrier layer
- to protect the roots from heat or cold

Mulch is typically a layer of organic matter, but some people also use shredded newspaper to function as a mulch. Ultimately the mulch will breakdown and provide further nutrition to the soil, but we chose straw which should last a season or two.

The reason I have never used mulch is two fold - laziness {blush blush} and not being true believer. I mean I know that all the experts do it and I once tried with freshly shredded garden matter but it just became such a mission I didn't see it through.

The reason I am reapplying my mind to this is that we have water problems....And weed problems....and when a woman is desperate....yeah, you know!

There are lots of us in our suburb all drawing water via boreholes or well points and by December the water pressure is so low that we can barely get enough water via the sprinkler. The weed problem is another thing I hope to control. We picked up a terrible little weed through some manure I got from a stable a year ago and it has been such a prolific grower that it is everywhere.

We have pulled up all the plants that we can find and now I hope to at least reduce the germination of any seeds that are in the soil.

So yesterday Superman went to buy two bales of straw from the local pet shop. It was the cheapest option that I could find at R48 per bale.

Then the kids and I spread the straw around all our newly planted seedlings. Beans, tomatoes, corn, marrows, pumpkin and cucumbers all got the same treatment.

When placing mulch on the beds it is important to not put it right up against the stem. This is to make sure that the plant still gets the water and that moulds and other diseases do not attack the plant in the super moist conditions.

We watered everything quickly so that the Cape Doctor that was blowing through our little town did not just lift it all and carry it away. (For those internationals - the Cape Doctor is the South East wind that blows in spring and summer. Called this because it blows away the city smog and pollution.)

So now we wait and see if mulch is the answer to my dilemma
of water and weed issues.

Do you mulch? What do you use?


Lois Evensen said...

So much work. I am sure you will have a wonderful harvest. :) We have three compost bins: rare, medium, well done. We just keep shoveling from one to the next and eventually have the most wonderful compost/mulch. Again, lots of work, but a great exercise plan for us that the plants love, too. We use straw over new grass seed, but the birds are very good at moving the straw around to get a snack.

africanaussie said...

We mostly use straw and pay about the same as you do! I love sugar cane mulch as it is fine and so easy to spread, but it is three times the price. This wet season I was thinking of mulching the fallow ground with cardboard. I mulch the asparagus with seaweed - they love it!

Kelly-Anne said...

I would love to get my hands on some straw - not only to mulch the garden but for my guinea pigs. We just cannot seem to get any in the Garden Route... We like to use dry grass clippings when they're available, otherwise we just make do with wood chips. Your garden is looking fabulous! Much love, Kelly

Anonymous said...

I'm a mulch devotee! I gifted my MIL a lemon tree, grown from seed and still very small. It was planted with due ceremony in a big deep pot full of delicious wormy compost at their holiday home. We tucked a 2L Coke bottle in along side with a pinhole poked in the bottom for slow slow watering. Then we added a good 15cm of lawn clippings to the top of the soil. We visit the holiday house once a month and not once has the top layer of soil been dry. The tree is thriving! I was utterly amazed, especially as (until this morning!) the E.Cape has been so very dry!

Urban Homestead South Africa said...

Hey everyone!

So nice to see all the comments. Lois, nice to hear form you again. i am sure mulch takes care of watering needs while you are sailing the high seas!

AfricanAussie, I am going to have to go to collect some seaweed from the beach. Do you chop it up yourself? Are you talking kelp?

Kelly-Anne, have you tried pet shops? I am sure you have, it seems very strange that you cannot get straw with all the horsey farms around George.

And Cestlavie, I have often thought of using 2L bottles like you describe, I think I just may give it a go!

Gina said...

Try watch a very interesting video on mulching called "back to eden". I cannot find wood chips in Jhb so will probably use straw.

Louis said...


I am thinking of trying mulch for the first time as well, but can't for the life of think where to buy straw in George - like Kelly-Anne!

Luckily we've received over 6 inches of rain just this month, so it's still a while before I have to actually start with the process haha.

Beautiful garden and gorgeous vegetables though!!!