I have been a little slack mulching the garden this year. In past years I have used leaves collected in Autumn and rotted down over the winter to scatter around the summer plants. This year we used all our collected leaves to mulch the blackberry patch and use as ‘brown layers’ in the compost. So… with being busy with other things, the garden has been mulch-less. With the almost drought-like conditions we had leading up to Christmas this was not good for the garden. The soil dried out and water ran through like a sieve. I have learned my lesson.
Mulch is an integral part of an organic garden system. It provides the obvious protection against weeds as well as locking in moisture, therefore less watering and healthier plants. But most importantly, mulch ideally provides nutrition for the growing plants. Now, you may ask me, why didn’t I go out a buy a bale of pea straw? And yes, in past years I have used pea straw. It is easy to use, not too messy, and only blows away in strong winds (which we have had our fair share of this summer). If I can source organically grown pea (or barley) straw I would use it, but I haven’t come across any lately. The organic community gardens up the road used to sell bales of organic barley straw, but not this year.
Like my business partner Wolfgang, who has 20 years of certified organic growing under his belt, I prefer to use organic growing principles in my home garden. When I found out commercial pea straw from the garden center is heavily sprayed I decided to investigate other options. Generally our chosen mulches are free or cost us a small donation. These include the previously mentioned autumn leaves (collected in wool sacks from a local secret spot), rotted down saw dust (from untreated wood – my partner is a builder so we can easily source this), and ‘garden waste’ i.e. beetroot leaves, carrot tops, end of season silverbeet/ spinach/ kale plants etc. As long as the plants haven’t been infested with garden nasties, are diseased, or have gone to seed, anything goes. Obviously minus any pernicious weeds such as convolvulus, wandering dew and oxalis, that are all plentiful in our garden. They come with the territory of an organic garden I suppose.
So to further my mulch education this week I was reading the latest edition of Good Magazine (a good read if you are looking for a modern magazine with an eco twist) and came across an excellent article by permaculture expert Kath Irvine. In her article Mulch ado about nothing, Kath discusses the importance of mulching and explains how she makes a nutritious garden mulch. This includes the garden waste I discussed above plus a mix of nutrient-rich garden weeds (that I prefer to think of as wild herbs); comfrey, borage, lemon balm, yarrow, tansy, pineapple sage, and rosemary among others. As I had many of these wild herbs growing abundantly in the garden I decided to give it a go.
The kids were tucked into bed and there was still a good hour or so of daylight left so I headed out to the garden… First I harvested some marjoram from the wild bush in the orchard…
Then I harvested a large bucket-full of comfrey. Cutting the leaves as close to the ground as possible, there is plenty of goodness in the stems as well as the leaves…
I tidied up the rosemary bush and ended up with half a dozen woody branches…
A couple of large borage plants (warning: wear gloves they are prickly). I love borage in my garden, and it seems now I have it, it is here to stay, self-seeding and showing up all around the garden. Their blue flowers attract bees which are very important for an organic garden to pollinate fruiting plants.
And I found a small lemon balm plant under the lemon tree so that had to go in too…
Now I had my garden goodies I made a pile on the ground and choppy chop chopped with my sharp garden secateurs to cut it all into 10 – 20 cm lengths. My large pile halved in size once chopped which I then scooped into the wheel barrow…
And trotted off to the tomato bed, and spread my fragrant mulch about 2cm thick around the plants.
This mulch is excellent for tomatoes as it contains comfrey (rich in potassium) and is not bulky so the stems won’t be in danger of rotting. AND it smells fantastic. All up this took me about half an hour from reading the article to stepping back and admiring my happy tomato plants. Plus I got some fresh air and exercise, so everyone is happy 🙂 Read the article in the latest edition of Good Magazine (plus more awesome reading, these guys make a fantastic magazine).
*If you have any wonderful mulching ideas/ tricks please leave a comment below and tell me all about it. I love to learn new garden ideas.
A Simple Marrow Dish
I really don’t know how they do it, but my zucchini (courgette) plants have a small zucchini on them one day and when I go to harvest it the next day for dinner that small zucchini has become a marrow overnight! I mean, these things must literally double in size in a matter of hours. Surely, if I had time to sit and watch the plants I could see the zucc’s growing.
Never to be deterred by the garden offerings I cut the marrow into slices about 8mm thick, seasoned them, then grilled on the BBQ until golden on both sides. Arrange on a plate, drizzled with extra virgin olive oil, scattered with sheep milk feta cheese and torn basil from the garden.
This was amazing, so simple, so delicious. My almost 3 year old daughter who so far this year hasn’t been interested in zucchini ate half of that plate above… seriously.
Have a great week. Nicola x