Mulch is your garden’s best friend. Whether it is for established trees and plants to new plantings or seedlings, mulching your garden is one of the best things that you can do to help with proper growth. Perth has notoriously long, hot and dry summer days. As the temperature rises, so does the need for watering your plants. Most, if not all, of Perth gardening enthusiasts know that mulching the garden beds is as important as watering or fertilising your plants.
What is mulch?
Mulch is a material (organic or inorganic) that is used to cover the top of the soil to protect your plants. It shields the ground effectively. Usually, it occurs in nature as the debris and fallen leaves that cover the ground. But for the home garden, mulch like straw, lupin or pine bark are the ones that are generally used.
What are the benefits of mulching your garden?
- Provide protection for the roots of the plants.
- Prevent evaporation during the drier and hottest months of the year
- Protect plants from cold, wind and frost during the Winter months.
- Allow moisture to go to the roots and stop water loss.
- Reduce weed growth as less light reaches the soil.
- Prevent erosion of soil and water run offs.
- Organic mulches break down and nourish the soil.
- Create a base for microorganisms to grow and help plants thrive.
- Help reduce diseases.
- Improve healthy and thriving plants.
- Visually appealing as it makes the garden look uniform and tidy.
What are their drawbacks?
- Over mulching can be detrimental for the plants. It suffocates the roots and bury the plants meaning light and water cannot reach the plants. The recommended depth is about 5-7 cm anything more and the plants suffocate.
- Mulching too close to the base of the plants/trees will attract pests like slugs, snails and diseases that will damage the plants.
- Some mulches like saw dust can drain the soil from nitrogen making the leaves yellowish and causing poor growth. Counteract this by using a nitrogen based fertiliser.
- Can cause rot when placed too close to the bark of plants.
What are the different types of mulch available?
Organic mulches: natural, will break down over time and feed the soil and plants.
- Wood chips: easy to apply and cheap.
- Grass clippings: from mowing the lawn! Recycle your own grass clippings and help your garden. Let it dry a bot then layer around your plants.
- Straw, lupin, sugar cane or hay: keeps soil moisture, prevents or stops weeds and supplement organic matter to the soil as it breaks down. Use it around the vegetable patch for a crisp and clean look.
- Pine needles: fragrant and attractive. Slow degrading and won’t change your soil pH.
- Compost : recycle your kitchen scraps – you would need a lot of scraps! Or better yet, get it for free or a small fee from your local landfill/recycling facility. Help the environment and your garden.
Inorganic mulches: plastic based
- Black plastic: can increase the temperature in the soil which can have bad effects on the plants. Good thing is it will prevent disease from affecting your crops.
- Geofabric: locks in moisture and allows the plants to breathe. Decomposes rather quickly and doesn’t look very appealing! So you can still put a layer of mulch on top.
- Gravel or pebbles: give the garden a great look, and will not degrade. Create a feature in the garden.
When to apply?
There is no definite time where you can apply mulch. As a rule of thumb do it before the hotter season starts and keep topping up as needed as this will prevent soil erosion, water evaporation and keep the moisture where it is needed.