Organic Matter and why it matters
Mulch in our climate: Organic matter is essential to a sustainable, natural garden. In Victoria, BC, gardens can "digest" a lot of organic matter over the course of a season - this is due to the copious rainfall we receive in this mild, temperate climate. This is an advantage, because it means that the building of healthy soil can happen relatively quickly, and that you can see changes to your garden's health in a matter of months. By keeping garden soil blanketed in a layer of organic matter, weeds are discouraged, evaporation is greatly diminished, and much less labour is necessary to keep a garden healthy and tidy.
What is Mulch? Mulch mimicks the natural litter layer in a forest - a layer of organic matter that feeds the microbial life in the soil, which in turn feeds the plants. Just like in any natural ecosystem, the microbial and insect life in the soil also naturally aerates it. Mulching boosts your plants' vigour and resilience to pests and drought, and practices like "digging over" the earth; or "cultivating the beds" by scraping the soil surface become irrelevant. In fact, the less mulch is disturbed (which brings dormant weed seeds to the surface), the more effective it is.
If weeding is done regularly (we recommend biweekly), mulch disturbance is as well as weed seeds are minimized. Numerous clients have attested that they spend less and less time weeding after embracing regular mulching. It has an exponential effect - weeds decline rapidly as mulching and regular weeding continue, leading to less and less time spent pulling weeds.
Overall, yearly mulching and maximum plant cover (minimal bare soil areas) is the most low maintenance and cost effective strategy for Victoria gardens.
Depending on your sense of aesthetics, mulch can be created from your garden’s natural droppings and/or leaves down the street… or you can apply some good quality compost product once a year. Once your garden is well established and the plants form an effective carpet that shades the soil, adding product is often not necessary at all, making for a truly self-sustaining garden with very few weeds.
Products we use:
Commercial greenwaste compost (MacNutt, Peninsula Landscape Supply, Oak Bay Public Works etc)
Composted manure/greenwaste blend from Stanhope Organics
What we don't recommend:
Bark mulch: The bark of trees is naturally antibacterial and anti-fungal to protect trees from diseases. These compounds also discourage soil microbes.
Wood chips and saw dust: These will take up nitrogen as they break down. If you want your plants to grow and stay a healthy green, avoid high-carbon mulches like saw dust or wood chips - unless you plan to mix them with a lot of lawn clippings!
Recycled tires, gravel, lava rock: These are not organic matter and have their only place as perhaps a decorative accent on top of landscaping fabric. Whether on landscaping fabric or not, any one of these are going to get weedy and be a maintenance hassle sooner or later.
Feel free to contact us to pick our brains if you have more questions about mulch!