Mulch Now!!! The soil is nicely wet but still warm, as it cools down more slowly than the air. Seal in these lovely soil conditions with a good layer of mulch.
Mulch doesn’t just mean just wood-chip; it’s anything laid along the surface of the soil. It keeps away weeds (providing it’s laid thickly enough), it helps retain this moisture in the soil (meaning less watering over summer), and organic mulches (as opposed to pebbles) also break down to improve your soil, feeding soil life such as worms.
Weed an area before you mulch, paying special attention to perennial weeds like kikuyu or those that have seeds. Then spread on a good thick layer, and you won’t have to weed again for months. Once a garden has been thickly mulched – we’re talking a 10cm layer that fully blocks light reaching the soil surface – it should only need top-ups to any bare patches for the next few years. Re-apply when the mulch has broken down and is no longer suppressing weeds.
Cocoa husks make great-smelling mulch
Best Value Mulch: Grow your own - eg blue lupin – from a sprinkling of seed. Or use fallen leaves under trees or shrubs. Arborist chip is also cheap (even free from a friendly arborist!)
Best Nutrients: Seaweed or compost. Use these for high-need plants like fruit trees and roses.
Best for Veges: Straw is light and lets the rain through.
Best in a hot spot: Pebbles or rocks make long-lived mulch, in open areas away from falling leaves (otherwise they can become high-maintenance).
Best-Smelling: Cocoa husks are light but long-lasting, great around perennials.
Watch for: Don’t smother tussocks and grasses with mulch. Their growing tip is at ground level, so keep that clear. Soft things like lavenders and succulents can also rot if over-mulched – use a drier mulch such as pebbles around these.
The Council Green Gardener, Hannah Zwartz, offers sustainable and waterwise gardening advice to local residents, community groups and schools.
Community Visits and workshops are free.
To contact the Greener Gardener, call the Council on 296 4700 or 0800 486 486 or see www.kapiticoast.govt.nz/greenservices