Choosing your mulch

Choosing your mulch

Mulch is essential in creating a low maintenance garden. It provides a protective covering on the soil and used correctly it helps to conserve water, keep weeds at bay, cools the soil in summer, slows run off and reduces erosion.

Which Mulch ?
There are now mulches available in a huge array of colours and forms. So which do you choose? First, decide how long you need it to last and what look you want to achieve. These are some of your options.

Stone and pebble mulches will give a modern look but will be hot in a sunny position. They don’t break down so don’t need to be replaced regularly but they do need some maintenance to keep free from leaves and debris. They won’t improve the soil and are a pain to dig around so make sure you’re happy with the soil before you lay them.

Large grade wood mulch like tanbark or pine mulch is ideal for a low maintenance garden as the larger the particle the less often you need to top up. Kinder to plants than pebbles but they will rob some nutrient from your plants over time. This is not usually an issue for shrubs and trees but not great for vegetables or any plant you are codling. Water penetrates larger particles well so probably the most water efficient mulch.

Eucalyptus mulch is usually finer than pine, hardwood or tanbark. This can look neater and suit a formal garden but watch out for the crust forming. You will need to rake it over regularly to let the water through.

Forest litter or canberra organic mulch can be quite variable. If most of the particles are small it will break down fast (usually 12-18 months) – make sure you’re happy to top up this frequently. Again keep an eye out for an impenetrable crust.

Straw, sugar cane and lucerne mulches break down quickly and return nutrient to the soil making them ideal for vegie patches and around Azaleas and Rhododendrons. Watch for a crust and you may be picking out peas if you choose pea straw. If you are happy to top up every 6 months or so and want to improve your soil this is the mulch for you.

Whichever you choose remember your mulch will only be effective if applied and maintained properly. Make sure your mulch is 75mm thick for Summer and the water can penetrate.
For more information try How to mulch

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