Sunday, 26 April 2015

Mulches and Mulching

Mulches and Mulching

in #WinsfordGardens a #CTWW Weekly Challenge

Mulching doesn't only give a garden a neat and attractive appearance but it also improves the soil around plants, and it helps conserve water in the Summer and to keep down some of the weeds. Any way to reduce watering and weeding certainly works for me! Mulches will also protect roots of plants from frost damage during the Winter.

We use mulched wood chip where it is especially effective - around the Roses in our Rose Garden and around the Fruit trees in our Urban Orchard. It is excellent for our fruit trees - apples, pears, gage, quince and cherries. We mulch in the Autumn and in the early to late Spring, when soil is moist and warm.

Winsford Gardens Rose GardenWe use the compost and the leaf mould that we make ourselves in Winsford Gardens as a biodegradable organic mulch on the flower beds and vegetable beds. It is then drawn down into the surface layer by earthworms and improves the soil structure and fertility. We also use soil improver made by the London Borough of Bromley from local residents recycled household garden waste. Other options are to use seaweed, well rotted manure, spent hops or spent mushroom compost.

For our Rose Garden and the Urban Orchard, we have the wood chip delivered from local tree surgeons working in the area. Fresh wood chip needs to be seasoned before use as it takes longer to biodegrade and can actually take Nitrogen out of the soil. This reduction in available Nitrogen can last for several months to several years, depending on the species of wood. We must also be careful not to lay mulched wood chip in direct contact with tree stems it can cause them to soften, making them vulnerable to bacterial and fungal infections. Certain trees such as Larch, Ash, Maple and Red Fir have been blamed for inhibiting nitrate formation by soil micro-organisms so we try to avoid those.

We try our best not to use any peat because its use leads to further depletion of the peat bogs in countries such as Ireland Winsford Gardens Urban Orchardand the Baltic states, which supply most of the peat used in the UK. Another alternative is to use coir, made from coconut shells or tree bark. Bark isn't as useful as wood chip as it tends to come in strips and doesn't give good coverage.

You can also use shingle, pebbles, gravel, and other decorative aggregates around trees. These inorganic, non-biodegrade mulches do not improve the fertility or structure of the soil, but they do suppress weeds and conserve moisture.  Permeable woven landscape fabrics can also be used that allow rain and irrigation water to reach the roots. Stone chips have the disadvantage that they can damage lawn mowers when they migrate onto lawns.

Once you have added a mulch to the soil you will initially need to apply extra water to reach the roots of the plants beneath. If you want to apply fertilisers there is no need to remove mulches. Fertilisers spread over mulches in late winter are washed down to plant roots by rain more slowly with less loss of Nitrogen by runoff or volatilisation.

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