Thursday, 20 December 2007


I sit here, like on a strand of a cobweb, with everything inter-connecting around me and the little movement I make helping to stir a thought on someone else's line. This is what the internet is and does and why, no doubt, it is called the world wide web (www).

As sweat trickles just about everywhere down my body, after too long outside, and I sip my cold water infused with pineapple sage leaves, I want to discuss mulch. I have some ideas why people are finding fungal increase on their plants and other seemingly mulch-related problems. As I was out gardening in the vegie patch I noticed some things about how I use mulch and, now that this is second nature to me after 20 years of solitary gardening and making thousands of discoveries about vegetable things, I had not thought to mention them before. So here are my observations and actions:
Mulch reduces evaporation: for this purpose almost anything will do. Where my chooks forage I use lots and lots of rocks and stones as mulch and nothing else.
In the decorative garden which consists of shrubs and trees and also around fruit trees, I use 3" - 4" thick 'biscuits' of peastraw laid side by side like tiles. These plants are large and established. I usually lay this in October when the soil has warmed up. This year I did it in August to conserve every drop of moisture in the soil. Any weeds not fed to the chooks are just laid back on the soil too (see below).
In the vegetable garden I put thick but narrow biscuits of straw all along on top of the dripline to reduce evaporation there, where the water is, but around the plants I fluff up the peastraw and only put a light layer, just to shade the ground. Sometimes I add to this as it breaks down over summer. This way any rain we get (ha, ha, ha) can soak straight into the soil and moisture doesn't sit in the mulch itself and cause fungus to multiply.
With tomatoes I only put mulch over the dripper line and leave the rest of the ground bare as tomatoes are more susceptible to fungal attack, I think.
I use pea or other straw or hay and dead weeds for one reason only - they are light coloured and reflect the worst of the heat away from the soil and stop the roots cooking when its 40 degrees. In the shops they sell all sorts of stuff as mulch and these are wonderful for cold areas or in winter here but they absorb too much heat for a South Australian summer (except perhaps for parts of the hills) and often they set like concrete and become water repellent in our dry heat. If you have this problem break it up a little with a hand tool and then sprinkle over some straw - either from a bale or from a bag of the chopped straw you can get at the nursery.
If you have lots of weeds during winter and spring you can save the world by laying them down as mulch then you won't be introducing new weeds which always come in anything you buy in. And you won't be contributing to agriculture and all its adverse effects.

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