Gardeners, gardening programs and magazines are all talking about mulch – the importance of mulching and how we should be using this technique in providing ideal conditions for plants and most importantly, reducing the loss of moisture in the soil area. Water particularly in sub-Sahara Africa is a scare commodity and we need to preserve and protect this precious resource.
We, as home and garden owners, can start in our own gardens by understanding and practicing mulching, which will in a small way be helping to conserve water and at the same improve the health of our soils. Mulch is a thick cover of inorganic or organic material laid over garden beds or exposed soil. Mulches reduce exposure to wind, help to hold and build the soil, prevent weeds, keeps water in the root zone and also provides an attractive design feature.
Examples of Organic Mulches:
- Compost – 5 to 10cm thick. Will improve soil structure, fertility and water holding capacity. Make sure to buy weed-free compost. It is a good idea to renew annually.
- Lawn Clippings – 2.5cm thick. Must be dry first. It will allow water in slowly. It holds little moisture and inhibits transpiration. It is a good source of nitrogen and useful when mixed with sawdust. Ideal to put around seedlings. Renew annually.
- Leaves – 5 to 10cm should be partially rotted before use. Will allow water penetration and will improve the water capacity of the soil. Renew one to two years.
- Mushroom Compost – 5 to 10cm is suitable for plants that tolerate lime conditions. Do not use with Camellias and Azaleas.
- Mulch – is best for weed suppression and water conservation.
- Shredded Bark and Woodchips – 8 to 10cm thick. Lets water in. Good retainer of moisture. No nutrient value. Attractive for decorative purposes in the garden.
- Peatmoss – 5 to 10cm thick. Improves soil structure and conserves water.
Examples of In-Organic Mulches:
- Rocks, Gravels and Pebbles – attractive, helps retain moisture and keeps plants stable. Lasts well.
- Weed Guard – it allows water and nutrients in yet suppresses those unwanted weeds. Use with top covering of gravel, bark or stone for a more attractive appearance. Lasts well.