With better weather you are probably heading out into the garden to prepare for the growing season. If you're fairly new to this pastime you may be considering how to use specific ingredients to achieve better results. Maybe you're considering the use of mulch and want to know what to look out for and what types to consider.
Why Is Mulch a Good Idea?
Mulch is a crucial component due to the benefits it provides the soil and your newly installed plants. Mulch will inhibit the growth of weeds, while preserving the water content of the soil. It's also aesthetically pleasing and complements all your hard work and preparation.
You'll find a large variety of options available, but you should also be aware of some best practices before you start. Mulch can come in either organic or inorganic form and most gardeners get better results from the various organic options.
Best Mulch Options
Alfalfa or lucerne hay is widely used and available in Australia. It's high in nitrogen and is long-lasting. Pea straw is equally as effective. It's easy to handle and lay out, is also rich in nitrogen and has great moisture conservation properties. It may be possible for you to use wheat straw, but usually this will require the addition of nitrogen, as straw can otherwise take this mineral out of the ground.
How about Wood?
If you're considering woodchips always make sure that you get them from a trusted and reliable source. You must ensure that they are "dead" first before laying them, as otherwise they have a tendency to compete for nutrients with the surrounding plants. You'll also find that fresh woodchips will absorb nitrogen, which should be conserved for your plants. Woodchips can also become compacted as they get older and this could cause an impermeable layer to be created, keeping necessary rainwater from benefiting the plants. It's not unusual for rotten woodchips to become a haven for termites, as well.
What About Best Practices?
Firstly, be very careful when opting for recycled mulch. Of course, it's a good idea to recycle anything but you should also get certification from the source that the mulch has been pasteurised and doesn't have any known pathogens or diseases within.
Also, don't be tempted to spread as much mulch around fledgeling plants and trees as you can, in the misguided belief that "more is better." If you pile the mulch up in mounds it can create an overheated environment towards the base of the mound and this can have a very detrimental effect on the plants or trees you're trying to protect. Contact mulch suppliers in your area for more information.