Mulching for winter

2015-05-31 09.50.34 (848x1280)I had a chance to get out in the garden last weekend, and a fine time to garden it was too.  Saturday and Sunday morning were comparatively warm and sunny, and rain was forecast for Sunday afternoon and evening.

A perfect time to mulch.

I started by planting out a few more seedlings to add to the silver beet, lettuces and broccoli I’d planted about a month ago and the celery I started in summer.  The silver beet and lettuce’s growth rates have been excellent, the broccoli’s slowed considerably by chook attack (those birds are really starting to annoy me….. Who knew they liked broccoli leaves even more than silver beet?)

Once the seedlings were in and the sun had warmed the ground a little I started spreading mulch.

I mulch in winter for 3 reasons:

  1. To add organic matter to the soil.  Broken down mulch can improve soil structure and as a mine tends towards clay I find the texture mulch gives it really beneficial.
  2. To retain warmth.  This can be a little fraught as if you mulch at the wrong time in winter you can end up retaining cold rather than warmth.  As a result I try and mulch on a nice warm sunny day preferably after a comparatively mild night.  Night time temperatures often significantly impact on soil temperature and so this can be more important than day time temperatures.  I probably should have mulched a month or so ago but at least I managed to get round to it in Autumn (albeit on it’s last day).
  3. To retain moisture.  In theory we get most of our rain in winter in Melbourne.  In practice it is often dry and the shorter daylight hours mean that I frequently leave for work in the dark and arrive home in the dark leaving little time for comfortable watering.

This time I used sugar cane mulch.  As much as I like pea straw, and the little volunteer plants it produces, I find sugar cane mulch easier to spread.  As a result I use it quite a bit particularly when I am mulching around seedlings which can get swamped in the never ending strands of pea straw.

Rain did arrive on Sunday afternoon bedding my mulch down nicely, now I just hope the various birds that inhabit may garden leave it alone.

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8 Responses to Mulching for winter

  1. foodnstuff says:

    Oh, yes, chooks love brassicas. Mine will kill for kale, but won’t look at silver beet. I like sugar cane, too, for the same reasons you do. It’s great for piling around wobbly seedlings to help them stand upright.

  2. Red-apple says:

    Hello I just found your site! I love it! I’m in Dandenong North and really looking forward to learning heaps about vegetable gardening and improving my harvest from my newly build garden beds! I’m planning to mulch soon, but now, I’m doing it tomorrow.

    Thanks for the tips already!
    Kim

    • Liz says:

      Thanks for the feedback Kim much appreciated. Hope you find it useful. Good luck with everything – I’m sure you will grow some delicious food.

  3. Thanks for the advice! I agree that mulching can protect the plants from freezing in winter, but I also notice how many people completely underestimate its importance. I personally have added mulching to my “to-do list” for each winter in the garden.

  4. Hello Liz. last night i just found your website. I read all the blog very carefully . It is very helpful for me. Please tell me how can i improve my tomatoes harvest? i am waiting for your response. please ans me as soon as possible.

    • Liz says:

      Not sure – it depends what you are doing now. Tomatoes need regularly food and water and I find they prefer their roots to be kept reasonably cool so mulching helps in that respect.

  5. Hello Liz! I have just started to grow tomatoes in my home backyard. But after some days I found fungus on the tomato plant leaf. Please tell the best solution to resolve this problem.

  6. Gerry C says:

    I too find cane mulch more convenient than pea straw.
    It’s easier to move away to plant seedlings then fill back the mulch gaps.
    And it stays put better, although I think it’s the birds that mess up the pea straw not the elements 🙂
    I tend to only use a thin mulch layer of 30 – 50 mm but to those that say it doesn’t help at that level – I have checked both soil temps and moisture content with and without the thin mulch, and with mulch is far better.
    Anyway, I need as much organic matter as I can get in my clay soil.
    I swear the stuff I dig up in new areas would make great bricks!

    Cheers

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