Opinion

Mulch ado about nothing

Compost_

My apologies for anybody looking for my lecture list in the last article. I do not of course work for Planet PR. My web address is www.guydeakinsgardening.com

This week I have been asking myself that vital question. To mulch or not to mulch ( whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous gardening fortune?)

Well, it depends. If you mean mulch now with a good, rich compost then yes, do so. This will enrich the bed, feed the plants, keep the soil moist for longer and extend the longevity of the plants. If whilst you are doing it, you can add a good mixture of blood, fish and bone, the better your garden will like it. The blood provides an instant fix of nitrogen, the fish – a longer term solution – the bone, and even longer term offering. Organic too.

If on the other hand, you are thinking of mulching with ‘landscape bark’ to suppress the weeds, then don’t bother – that is unless you are planning a mulch 4 to 6 inches thick.

Here’s the rub. Bark does not do anything for your garden except offer the Blackbirds something to throw around. It robs the soil of vital nutrients as the bacteria and fungi that break it down use up vital nitrogen to do so. It adds to the acidity of  your soil in the process too. To be frank, it looks pretty for about a week and then the weeds come back, but now instead of a clear run with the hoe, you have to get down on your hands and knees to separate the proverbial wheat from the chaff. Ultimately leaving you to grunt and sweat under a weary life all the same with a slighter lighter pocket. Quite simply put, it is an industry lie – the result of the wood industry having leftover materials and nothing to do with them. My advice, use it on paths and nowhere else.

The best mulch I ever found was cocoa husks, a waste material from the chocolate industry, but they have long since disappeared from the shops.

The structure of your soil is vitally important, but so is the knowledge to unlock the goodness. Locally to Horsham, we have a heavy marl. Clay in other words. It may surprise you to know, clay is full of nutrients, but its structure prevents much of this nutrient being released. One way of getting to the good stuff is by generating vast electric storms. That’s right. Buy or make a large Van Der Graff generator  (not the prog rock kind) and release the nutrient naturally by having your own lightning party -wearing rubber boots for safety.  Or you can add a soil improver which changes the soil structure to one that is more amenable to life. You can do this at any time from now until late October. Remember, adding organic matter to the soil can alter the pH so check it regularly to make sure you are not creating an acid bed fit only for extremophiles.

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