In Dry Season Garden series 1, we mentioned watering as the most important task during the dry season. After watering, mulching comes a close second.
Mulches are loose coverings or sheets of material placed on the surface of cultivated soil. Mulches can be applied to bare soil or to containers in pots. When applied, they reduce the evaporation of moisture from the sun, so during the dry season, the plant does not get as thirsty. It can also reduce the growth of weeds in flowerbeds.
Mulches can be organic or inorganic. Organic mulches are biodegradable. They break down gradually to release nutrients into the soil and help improve its structure, and need to be replaced when when the material has fully rotted down. Examples are dried leaves, coconut fibre, dried grass, palm kernel shells.
At Omar Gardens, we use a lot of coconut fibre for mulching our indoor plants. Apart from looking natural and attractive, it keeps the soil moist and prevents it from drying out. This means that plants may only need watering twice a week. As the coconut fibre breaks down, it increases the soil’s capacity to retain moisture thereby improving the quality of the soil.
Inorganic or non biodegradable mulches do not improve the quality or structure of the soil, but they suppress the growth of weeds, conserve moisture and have the added advantage of looking decorative. Slate, shingles, pebbles, granite chippings and other decorative aggregates are often used as mulches.
We use a lot of pebbles for mulching and decoratively in our landscape designs.
When mulching, it is important to cover the uncultivated parts of the soil with fibre to material which will allow water to percolate into the soil, but will stop weeds from growing through the mulch. When mulch is not applied properly and weeds start growing through granite, it makes the garden untidy and ugly.
Remember that the most important function of applying mulch is to reduce evaporation of water. Since this prevents the soil from drying out quickly during the hot dry season, the plants remain healthy, disease free and are happy.