Much Ado about Mulch

It is a little-known fact, that in Shakespeare’s Richard III, for the sake of a more dramatic narrative, Shakespeare mis-quotes King Richard III as saying “A horse, a horse, my kingdom for a horse!” When in fact Richard III who was an avid gardener, knew that if he could just get a few bales of mulch he could plant a hedge that would have kept his enemies at bay and that he was much more likely to have said “Mulch, mulch my kingdom for some mulch!” … maybe. But seriously, mulch is marvellous stuff, for numerous reasons including moisture retention, feeding and protecting top soil, weed suppression etc.

What are the types of mulch I hear you ask? First up we have bale mulch (straw), this is not only good for the veggie patch but in combination with our Pink Guards one of my favourite options for establishing trees and shrubs. Apply bale mulch liberally at up to a quarter bale per plant and watch your trees grow! Next up we have chip or shredded mulches of wood, bark or leaf. These are potentially the longest-lived mulches (if high in wood), but heavier to move around. If they contain a high percentage of wood they can rob the soil of nitrogen initially while they break down, but this can be countered with an additional organic based nitrogen rich fertiliser. Apply at approximately 100-150mm thick. Finally, there are mulch blankets and mats. These are light and easy to install, but the blankets can be very costly and act mainly as a weed preventative or erosion protecting layer with less benefit to feeding the topsoil like the previous two mulch types.

One word of caution, the reflection of light and heat from straw and chip mulches can burn the stems of tender freshly planted stock, particularly when temperatures are in the 30’s (this can be overcome by using tree guards such as our Pink Guards).

In addition to helping get your plants off to a great start, mulch helps kick-start your plantings by creating a forest type soil that is full of all the microbes, fungi, insects and whole host of other micro fauna. All this life can thrive in and below a mulch layer not much deeper than 100mm, and creates the perfect conditions for healthy tree and shrub development.

Notice my not so subtle mention of the use of Pink Guards throughout this article?  Not only are we stocking these, but Forest Heart Eco-Nursery is also stocking Rocky Point Sugarcane Mulch. Give your plantings a kick start this spring and help keep your soils moist after the recent rains and mulch, mulch, mulch.

About the Author
Brush Turkey Enterprises is an award-winning business based in Maleny, on the Sunshine Coast, South East Queensland.

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