George’s Gardening Tips: Mulch!

You’ve probably heard of it but what is it, when is it necessary and what function does it serve in a regenerative garden?

Mulching is essentially the process of covering bare soil with organic material. There are a whole variety of materials which can be used for this. In the Margan garden we like to use straw (easily and sustainably sourced from our Assistant Vineyard Manager’s farm), woodchip (a recycled by-product from our local arborists), and cardboard (a good use for left over wine boxes). Brown leaves are another wonderful mulch and even freshly cut grass (providing it’s weed seed free!). At the moment we are mulching vegetable beds, pathways and under fruit trees.

Mulching can be used for several purposes and can be done any time of the year, but usually when spring and summer come back around is when mulch will be most effective. This is due to the amazing ability of mulch to decrease water loss in soil through evaporation. In a climate such as ours, even in this wetter than usual year, water preservation is essential, and some studies show that mulching can decrease evaporation by 50%. In addition to mulching garden beds, we also use a double layer of cardboard and woodchip to mulch our garden pathways. This helps significantly in suppressing weeds (of which we have a lot of seeds in the garden this year due to the July floods washing them in). A side benefit of mulching pathways and beds is that it also makes the garden look pretty and colourful! It also helps with soil erosion and maintaining a healthy soil temperature for beneficial organism activity.

You may be wondering what happens to laid mulch over time. Well, that’s probably the most satisfying part – it feeds our beds! Brown waste such as straw, cardboard and dead leaves decompose over time and feed the plants with carbon – an essential ingredient for healthy plant growth. When our garden beds are in need of a little raise in height we even scrape the pathways (full of nicely decomposed cardboard and woodchip) onto the beds, ready for a new crop to be planted in.