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Sugar Cane Mulch

Now that it’s well established, our garden is very low maintenance – on average, we would spend less than two hours a week on it.

As I’ve mentioned several times before, the chickens do most of the hard work. They rotovate the soil, eat the weeds and grubs, and fertilise the beds for us. Worms help a lot too, both in the ground and in the worm farm, where they produce liquid fertiliser and castings that further enrich the soil.

The final essential element in our low maintenance approach is mulch.

We had originally hoped to make our own mulch as per Linda’s plan – but it didn’t work out.  We just couldn’t source the necessary organic material to create sufficient groundcover.

In our second year, we started buying mulch, and it has made the world of difference. Apart from conserving water and keeping the weeds in check, the mulch makes the  beds look pretty, which in turn makes the whole gardening experience far more enjoyable.

We mulch heavily when we plant out a bed, and don’t add to that cover until the next rotation (unless we’re hilling up potatoes).  The weeds that do manage to grow through are easily seen and pulled out.  By the time the mulch has started to break down and the weeds are beginning to spread, the bed is just about ready for the chickens to do their thing.

It’s taken a little trial and error to figure out which mulch best suits our garden.

We started with lucerne hay, but found it hard to use, as the hay is baled very tightly and difficult to tease out.  Then we tried pea straw, which is great for the soil, but has two major drawbacks – firstly, it’s often full of peas which shoot all over the beds, and secondly, the birds seem to love it and will often scratch out seedlings planted in the beds.

At the moment, we’re using organic sugar cane mulch.  It costs $15/bag, which will cover nearly two beds to a thickness of 5cm (2″).  It seems to be doing the trick – the birds have learnt to leave it alone, as it’s free of any seed or other edible material.

Mulch shades the ground on hot summer days and helps to hold moisture in the soil. I honestly don’t know how we ever managed to garden without it!

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