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Farming for Dummies
Farming for Dummies
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Commenced:
01/06/2012
Submitted:
15/06/2012
Last updated:
07/10/2015
Location:
Parkes, NSW, AU
Climate zone:
Mediterranean





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Mulch

Project: Farming for Dummies

Posted by Alexandra Berendt over 10 years ago

Of course anybody who knows anything about gardening knows about mulch. Alas, I am not anybody and I don’t really know much about gardening!

Even though I’d heard about mulching on a regular basis and sort of knew what it was about, mulch only really started to seem important to me once I had already started planting things.

You might think this is funny (and no, I am not naturally blonde) but when I planted my first handful of plants on my every own piece of dirt, it did not actually occur to me to mulch them. Really. Honestly. Not a single thought was spent on mulch to begin with.

Eventually I had some small bales of oaten hay leftover that had been sitting around for a while, moisture had gotten into them and they were definitely past the point where I would consider feeding them to my horses.

They were also taking up room next to my chook pen, underneath the roof overhang, where I like to store the hay I intend on actually feeding to my hay burners. So, those bales had to go.
For a second there I actually considered burning them Oh, my, sacrilege, with what I know now! Eventually I decided to give this mulching-thing a go and simply spread the bales around some bottlebrushes (with pink flowers, can you believe it?!) that I had planted a little earlier.

And wasn’t I a happy cookie when those bottlebrushes took off skywards! The ones with the oaten mulch grew like crazy! The other ones, not so much. Don’t get me wrong, they weren’t looking too badly, just not really getting too much bigger.

Of course it dawned on me eventually (after a short while, that is… well, maybe kind of a long-ish while) that the oaten mulch must have something to do with the amazing rate my little bottlebrushes were growing at and I finally ended up mulching the other ones as well. By now, there was quite a huge difference between my mulched and un-mulched bushes.

Here is one of my formerly un-mulched bottlebrushes:

 Formerly un-mulched Bottlebrush

And one of the mulched ones:

Mulched Bottlebrush

Looking at the photos, the mulched plant looks a lot more mature than the formerly un-mulched one. In reality, the mulched plant is at least three, maybe four times as tall as the formerly un-mulched bottlebrush. The stem has thickened a lot and looks woodier, a lot more like a trunk than a branch in any case.
Both the mulched plants have flowered happily already less than a year after planting, the two formerly un-mulched ones barely had a flower each.

It has become quite obvious to me, that mulching yields much better results than simply plonking a plant in the dirt and hoping for the best. Since planting, I have not watered any of the bottlebrushes, so all they had was rainwater and soil moisture. They are all planted within a few meters of each other, with roughly equal amounts of sunlight available to them, the mulched ones maybe spent a little bit more time in part sun than the un-mulched ones.

Mulching is clearly the way to go, so, let’s look at some of the mulches I have available out here…

Hay and Straw

Hay and Straw

Wood Chip

Wood Chip

Timber scrap

Timber Scrap

Ground Cover and Leaf Litter 

Ground Cover and Leaf Litter

Cardboard

Cardboard

Commercial (organic) Sugar Cane Mulch

Sugar Cane Mulch

To be honest, I haven't really noticed that much difference between them, but then again, I haven't really been using mulch for that long. The straw and hay definately deteriorates a lot faster than the wood chip, but is fairly cheap and easy to top up. It does not pack down too tightly and absorbs a lot of water and holds it well.


I have not really used any of the scrap timber for anything, other than suppressing weeds by laying them on top of particularly weedy areas. The ground cover and leaf litter sort of happen in their own good time and I do not have much influence over them, other than seeding and choosing trees that will shed a lot of leaves or are deciduous.


The cardboard is also mostly used as a weed supressant and I use it whenever I have it available, though I only use cardboard with minimum ink on it. The sugar cane mulch costs money and comes in plastic wrappers, which need to be disposed off. It is fairly fine and can blow away in windy locations. I have stopped buying it and prefer to use straw and hay instead. 

 

Comments (4)

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David Braden
David Braden : You could take your mulching one step further and add a layer of horse manure . . . then plant in the top of the mulch. http://www.organiclandscapedesign.org/content/sheet-mulchinghugelkultur-0
Posted over 10 years ago

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Alexandra Berendt
Alexandra Berendt : Thanks, I've been thinking about adding some manure to the planting holes as well, but the lady at the nursery said the manure might burn the roots of the plants if it is too fresh? Have you had this happen at all?
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David Braden
David Braden : Horse manure is not "hot" like chicken, pig or cow. However, if you are mixing the manure in the soil there is a possibility for an imbalance of nitrogen and carbon that could harm your plants. In the sheet mulches and hugelkultures we are feed the soil ecosystem and that is what is producing the nutrients for our plants. The ecosystem seems capable of taking any kind of manure but more experimentation is needed. My recommendation is to stop digging holes, build deep mulches and plant in the top of the mulch. We generally follow the formula Toby Hemenway published but all sorts of variations and mixtures of carbon and nitrogen seem to work just fine.

http://www.organiclandscapedesign.org/sites/nice-world.org/files/images/Bombproof%20Sheet%20Mulch.jpeg
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Alexandra Berendt
Alexandra Berendt : Thank You very much for the links and information, I will definately give it a go with my next lot of plants!
Posted over 10 years ago

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