Mulching your Gardens ….. secrets to Success in Landscaping.
Mulch is crucial to any garden to assist in moisture retention and to assist restricting weed seed germination. The are a number of key factors that need to be considered when applying mulch to any garden.
1/ how quickly will the mulch breakdown.
2/ Will the mulch use the available nitrogen in the soil to assist in the breaking down process.
3/ Is the mulch likely to wash away in rainy weather
4/ Which types of matting are best under mulch & why.
5/ How attractive is the mulch you want to use
6/ which mulches offer best resistance to “white ants”
Types of Mulches and purpose.
1. Hammer milled Garden Mulch.
One of the most popularly mulches in Bundaberg at present is the Hammer Milled Mulch from Bundaberg City Council. This Mulch is widely used because its quite inexpensive to add to any garden. For residential users the mulch is free and they only pay for the frieght/ deliver costs. The mulch does have some drawbacks…. there is not graded and as a result there is quite a lot of rubbish mixed with the mulch… plastics and larger pieces of bark and timber. but hey its almost FREE anyway . You will need to apply at a good thickness, say 100mm or so, as it will rot away and also settles quite a deal. You will need to top up in 18 months to 2 years. Nitrogen supplementation is required to ensure the plants don’t go yellow from being starved of nitrogen. Upon breaking down you will see plenty of improvement in soil texture and worm numbers will be up also. So all in all, is quite a good mulch, just not the most attractive. The mulch is great on banks and high pressure areas where washouts are possible… tends to bind together and also has a pungent odour as it begins to rot away.
2. Woodchip mulch.
Woodchip mulch has been around for a while and has been used for quite a while. This mulch is recovered for the waste product from Sawmills when no further timber can be recovered from the milling of logs. As a result also contains quite a lot of mulch & has a higher percentage of sapwood. This results is relatively quick breakdown of the material, along similar lines to the Council mulch. Nitrogen supplementation is also required to achieve the best results when establishing new plants. Care should also be taken to avoid wood stain on concrete surfaces when using fresh woodchip, even morning dew or a passing shower of rain will cause the stain to run.
3. Forest Mulch.
Forest mulch is really a combination of woodchip, tree leaves and branches. This product is generally recovered from prunings in residential and commercial situations using mobile woodchipping machines. Again use the product with caution around freshly planted plants as nitrogen is taken from the soil when it begins to breakdown, so be sure to top up the nitrogen for best results. Holds well together however will float when flooded.
4. Cyprus mulch.
Cyrpus physically looks like the woodchip with a little extra fines. This product is often chosen because of its white ant deterrent properties. Pricng is mid range above wood chip, below pine bark etc. Similar features as far a breakdown is concerned, with wood chip. A good be 50-75mm will provide the best results. Cyprus Mulch is regarded as one of the best mulches where white ants are active. Always be cautious placing mulch to close to a home or creating wet areas against building foundation where white ants can florish.
5. Pine bark.
Pine bark has been popular for years and is now graded into a number of sizes. 25mm, 50mm and ungraded. Mulch lasts very well 4-5 years and has a great effect in conditioning soil as it breaks down. Pine bark doesn’t seem to use as much nitrogen, maybe its the slower breakdown that you don’t notice the sudden yellowing of plants. Pine bark doesn’t leave any stains when placed on concrete, however floats and washes easily when watered heavily. When using pine bark often a 200-300 wide strip of river stone to the perimeter is used to prevent the washing. At present pine bark is around $45-$48m3 in Bundaberg, depending on the grade.
6. Hoop pine Mulch.
Hoop pine mulch is not used widely in the local area as supply is difficult to obtain and usually only in larger quantities 45 – 65m3 loads. The mulch tend to have curles of bark which tend to have spikey piece on the mulch. Binds well together and last very well with cost being around $55 -$65m3 also depending on seasonal supply. You will require a good 100mm layer as the product will bed down quite a lot.
Hoop pine fines is a great product, looks impressive, very upmarket. When applying this mulch 40-50mm will be sufficent to provide a solid bed of mulch. Doesn’t stain when wet and holds well in place when saturated. Often used is soil mixes with a fine sand, providing excellent moisture retention and weed control. Only available by order and very hard to obtain as southern markets are in very short supply. Last purchased at $65m3 for 85m3 load.
7. River stone and pebble mulches.
River stones and pebbles all require a solid depth of mulch as sunlight penetration allows weed growth. This mulch assists very little in moisture retention and when placed on soil must be laid on either a Geo textile fabric or weed control matting. NEVER use plastic as this will prevent the soil from breathing and the plants will generally rot away. Be cautious when planting in this type of mulch to avoid building to high around the plants as the heat absorbed by the stone can burn plants. Stone and pebble mulches are often used where flooding pressure will wash away organic mulches… barks and chips etc. Great for use especially along path edges where water often washes along paths and drive ways, this will create an interesting effect. Cost $50-$250m3 depending on the type of stone you require. Ok course gravel mulch can also be placed as a border 200-300mm wide to give an added layer of protection, keeping organic mulches away from the home.
8. Sugar Cane, Lucerne hay mulches.
These mulches are generally economical to purchase and and easy to apply. They can be bulky and hard to handle however do enhance the soil microbes. A solid bed of this mulch is required as they will settle considerably. Cost will be a seasonal issue being purchased in bales handliing is also a little more difficult. Not the most attractive mulch to look at, however a very good choice when soil conditioning is required. Breaks down readily and will require regular topping up to keep a solid coverage
9. Newspaper and old carpet.
Often used to provide a solid underlay for mulching. Old news paper laid in a solid mat will last 12-18months and when combined with regular mulches will achieve the results mulching provides. Downside is, paper is time consuming to apply and large quantities are not regularly available. Similar with old carpet. Some synthetic carpets can cause problem with breathing for the soil. Supply is generally difficult to obtain and is also difficult to handle.
There are many products we have used in landscaping projects in and around Bundaberg. Macadamia nut shells, various crushed brick, Blue-metal crushed rock , Siltstone pebble to name a few. Mulching of gardens and adding compost to soils are key factors in achieving the best results in any project. Retention of water and prevention of weeds from germinating will create a better low maintenance environment. For over 35 years we have been working on Landscaping projects in and around bundaberg, so please call 4155 5500 for any advise you need on your next Landscaping Challenge.
bought to you by Lifestyle Landscaping Solutions , 78 Mt Perry Road, Bundaberg. written by Peter Moller