The hot summer weather can dry out your garden’s soil quicker than you realise, causing plants to wilt. Neville Orsmond of Create a Landscape in Johannesburg and Wouter Kruidenier of De Kruidenier Exclusive Gardens in Durbanville offer their advice.
When To Apply
It depends on where you live. In winter rainfall regions, the ideal time is the beginning of spring when the soil starts to dry out but is still damp. In summer rainfall areas, apply mulch after the first rains when the soil is damp. But it’s never too late – if you haven’t already done so, add some mulch to your garden now.
What To Use
A mulch is usually organic material, such as compost, prunings, straw, dried lawn clippings, wood or bark chips, leaves and even strips of newspaper. Mulch can also be inorganic – such as pebbles – or living, such as groundcovers. Wouter prefers to use compost. ‘A garden should in any case get an application of compost every year. Using compost as a mulch makes my garden chores easier as the plants get nutrients at the same time. Use good quality compost that is as weed-free as possible,’ says Wouter. It will keep the soil moist, prevent weeds from germinating and return essential organic matter back to the soil to benefit the plants.
Wouter warns that animal manure should be avoided as it usually contains weed-seed and may also burn the plants. If you prefer not to apply organic material, you can create a natural mulch in your garden by following good gardening principles, says Neville. ‘When making a border, it’s better to plant trees, shrubs, groundcovers and perennials at the same time. The groundcovers will keep the soil moist, the leaves shed by the trees will form a natural mulch on the soil, and the trees and shrubs will protect the groundcovers against frost in winter, which will ensure that your garden will start the summer with a healthy ground covering as a mulch.’
How To Apply
Use a spade to apply about 5-10cm of mulch around your plants; then spread it with your hands so you can feel if there’s an even layer. The layer should be slightly thicker around shrubs and trees, and thinner around perennials and annuals. Lift the branches and leaves to ensure that the material is applied close to the plant’s stem. Don’t just toss the mulch into the flowerbed as smaller plants might get buried. If this happens, remove the mulch to ensure that they get sufficient sunlight and aren’t damaged.
Words and image: Home magazine