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Mulching with compost


by Adam Pasco

Not that I'd admit this in public, but I think it's partly the lazy gardener in me that chooses mulching over digging - it's a far easier way to incorporate bulky organic material into soil.


Mulching a border with compostI love mulching, and my soil loves it too. Not that I'd admit this in public, but I think it's partly the lazy gardener in me that chooses mulching over digging - it's a far easier way to incorporate bulky organic material into soil.

Yes, there's a place for forking over and digging to break up heavy soil and relieve compaction, but mulching is so much quicker. Just spread it over the soil and leave it for the worms to work in over the coming months. What could be simpler?

I mulch everywhere I can ... round shrubs, roses and flowers, along the base of the hedge, around fruit trees and bushes, and over the veg plot. Beans get a good, deep mulch of compost to help conserve soil moisture, too, but it's not just water retention that mulching is good for.

Every soil needs feeding with compost to boost its organic content, and mulching with well-rotted material does just that. Thick bark chips or "pretty" man-made materials like glass, tyres and broken up CDs (yuck â?? who, other would ever use these in a garden other than a trendy non-gardening designer at a major flower show) have no place in my garden. It's got to be home-made compost if I have it, otherwise I buy in bags of the brown stuff. I've used mushroom compost in the past, but now I tend to look for the best offers on peat-free compost and mulch with that.

Then there's weed control. That thick mulch provides a perfect overcoat for borders to prevent annual weed seeds germinating, but it has to be a good 7cm or more deep to be effective. Too thin and the weeds will grow through regardless!

So, if I'm ever asked for a gardening tip for a new gardener it would have to be mulch, mulch, mulch. Home-made compost costs you nothing, so make as much as you can from kitchen and garden waste as well as leaves and lawn clippings. Bags of peat-free compost may cost a few pounds, but in my view it's money well spent.



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Gardeners' World Web User 05/06/2008 at 15:41

I agree with the idea of mulching with compost. Can you tell me which compost would be suitable for acid loving plants? Thanks Tracy

Gardeners' World Web User 06/06/2008 at 00:09

You say you have used mushroom compost, have you ever used spent mushroom compost, is there any disadvantages or words of caution i should know before taking delivery of a fresh load many thanks for any help :-d

Gardeners' World Web User 06/06/2008 at 16:38

When should you apply mulch??

Gardeners' World Web User 06/06/2008 at 17:30

I use compost mulch, and this year have tried laying down the cut stems of bolted spinach on a strip of empty ground, to try to keep weed seedlings down. Have also tried (SSH!) tap-rooted perennial weeds that haven't set seed. Is this likely to do any harm? Thought it worth a try.

Gardeners' World Web User 06/06/2008 at 19:48

Spent mushroom compost is lovely stuff, but during the composting process lime is added, so never use it around acid-loving (ericaceous) plants.

Tracy, for mulching acid-loving plants I'd probably choose a composted bark product rather than a normal peat-free potting compost. I believe this will help lower the soil pH and make it slightly more acid .... perfect for camellias, rhododendrons, azaleas, pieris, magnolias, heathers, gaultheria, and many others.

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