The Mulch Story Continues … Turning a New Leaf

Last month we talked about mulching your soil with traditional mulches such as baled straw or wood and bark chip etc… basically the stuff you have to buy in and that’s grown elsewhere. But what if you could grow your own mulch? Sometimes we do grow our own mulch and just throw it away in the bin!

All plants naturally produce mulch as they shed, leaves, stem, bark, branches and eventually themselves as they die and decompose. Plants through their shade, organic matter and their symbiotic relationship with mycorrhizal fungi enrich the soil for future generations of plants (and the everything else – including ourselves!). We can manage this process for our own benefit by planting and working with fast growing plants that provide mulch through their natural leaf fall or through pruning and lopping. You can grow your own mulch and soil improvers, in fact in the long term this is the only solution to creating sustainable and regenerating soils and reduce dependency on fertilisers and mulches from external sources.

Native plants that are great for soil improvement include our native Hibiscus spp, Rainforest pioneers like Pipturus, Homalanthus, Macaranga and of course our legumes (who have the bonus ability if adding nitrogen to the soil) such as Acacia spp (usually the smaller ones), Pultenaea spp, Hovea spp, Oxylobium spp, and many more. Diversify your orchard and vegie patch by incorporating these plants into your plantings. These plants if managed will provide shade and protection from the intense summer sun, strong winds, provide habitat for pest controlling birds and insects and when pruned – mulch. In the case of the Hibiscus and many of the legumes you also get the added benefit of their beautiful flowers. Managing these plants is a simple as going for a stroll with your secateurs, hand saw or whatever cutting implements strikes your fancy and pruning to the desired shape that provides shade and protection to your food bearing plants and all the pruning’s are dropped where required to provide an in-situ mulch source, a permaculture term for this is “chop and drop”.

Soil improving plants have been used by traditional subtropical farmers for millennia throughout Melanesia, Polynesia, Africa, SE Asia and the Americas. Permaculturists and forest farmers have adopted these techniques in Australia for many decades but often using exotic plants from these other traditional systems. However, Australia has a great range of plants tried and tested by Indigenous Australians also over the millennia, its time for us to catch up and incorporate our native plants not just into our amenity gardens but into our orchards and vegetable gardens, for both beauty and sustainability.

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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