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Mulching with anything I could get...Is there a limit to mulchology?



My garden has  suffered from lack of water. Upon this problem I have meditated muchly.

Solving it is a hobby -- a creative hobby.

While there was little precipitation and  I was on a tight water budget, my garden also suffered from
  • too much wind
  • too much sun

The winds were unusually vicious and emanating from unfamiliar directions. 

While I could shade my plants -- and that's another story altogether -- I wondered if I was mulching as much as I could mulch. 

I wondered if there was a limit to mulchology?

Because the weather had been so dry, my supply of grass clippings from local mowing contractors weren't being delivered. I had engineered my garden to be grass-clipping-dependent, and when that supply line collapsed  I lost control.  

So in desperation I mulched with anything I could get.

Each week I traversed the neighborhood collecting junk mail and threw the rolls of newspapers onto my garden beds. (That's right, the rolls of papers -- I don't flatten them out). I collected  banksia pods to scatter on the garden. I gathered tree branches and brush cuttings from wherever I could get them and laid them atop the other materials.

Between the garden beds I laid out rejected wool and cotton cloths I snaffled from the local Op shop. 

Among  the mulched materials I sprinkled a generous amount of  blood and bone  and now that the rains have come, I carpeted my beds with fresh helpings of grass clippings.

Now my mulch layer is in places over 6 inches thick. To reach the  soil underneath I have to claw through the mix, parting my way through solids --  but this 'mix' is changing and settling in. 

This means that when I plant a seedling  it lives not only in a hole in the soil, but is surrounded during its infancy by a wall of stuff. A wall of 'junk' and 'rubbish'.

It has its own terrestrial  sinkhole address with  built in kindergarden protection from wind and hot sun.

I have been experimenting with radical mulching methods for some time (see my  Mulching posts here) in order to turn my seaside sand into soil. And each time I 'push the envelope' it seems to work despite my eclectic (one could also say 'desperate') use of materials.

In fact it always works! -- that is without recourse to worrying too much about all the NPK stuff.

I suspect that when you mulch like I do the break down is so casual that I may have lazy time soil ecology working for me. 

Since I've started to to lay down all this stuff my garden has changed and taken on a new life. 

While I have been inspired by Hugelkultur  (my 'logs' are in the main, made from paper)  I thought I was a lone nutter until I came upon this piece: Growing food in a mulch pit.

Granted, a garden full of newspapers and rags may not be aesthetically pleasing to the eye but a coat of grass clippings can do wonders to your backyard style. 

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Comment by Andrew Cumberland on February 21, 2013 at 21:38

LOL. Nice work mate. 

Comment by Dave Riley on February 21, 2013 at 19:37

After the recent rains I am ecstatic! This tweaked  Hugelkultur approach on sand has given me garden beds that have life for the first time in over two years of gardening here. No worms as yet but plenty of insect activity -- indeed an amazing amount is happening if you pull back the stuff on top and visit below: wood slaters, ants, termites,  digesting the vegetative matter. 

This isn't mulching -- which in effect is gardening under an outer skin -- it's stewing. 

I think after so much experimentation I have arrived at my preferred method of turning sand into agriculture. The recent rains also underscore the need to up my irrigation -- because now I have garden beds that will hang onto the water I give them.

Sponges.

Junk mail sponges....

Comment by Andrew Cumberland on February 7, 2013 at 21:33

I was wondering similar things actually.  Compost is great - but it's different to mulch.  Yet in its infancy, much of the compost is mulch.  Ilike the way you cogitate Dave. 

Comment by Elaine de Saxe on February 7, 2013 at 6:09

You've hit a winner there, Dave!

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GrowVetiver

Vetiver grass helps to stabilise soil and protects it against erosion.  It can protect against pests and weeds. Vetiver is also used as animal feed. (Wiki.)

GrowVetiver is a plant nursery run by Dave & Keir Riley that harvests and grows Vetiver grass for local community applications and use. It is based in Beachmere, just north of Brisbane, Australia.


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