PROBABLY the biggest mistake most home gardeners will make is either not mulching their gardens or, if they do, using the wrong type of mulch. Both are detrimental to the garden.
There are number of important reasons why you should mulch your garden. The first, and probably the most important, is for water conservation. Mulch stops the top of the soil from drying out, keeps the soil moist, and can reduce watering by up to 60 per cent. Mulching also prevents weed growth and weed seed germination, which compete with your plants for moisture and nutrients.
As the root zone begins only four centimetres beneath the soil surface, plants can be badly damaged if the soil becomes hot and dry beyond this depth. Many plants will tolerate the full blast of our hot summer sun, providing their roots are kept cool and moist. Using organic types of mulch has many benefits to most plants in the garden as you are adding that extra organic matter to the soil to improve plant growth.
The best time to mulch new plantings is right after you plant your plants. Around established plants mulch is best applied in late summer and early spring. This is when plants are beginning to grow and before weed seeds start to germinate.
Over the last week I have received a number of inquiries about mulching up against brick walls of a home and if there is a mulch that is a termite resistant. These are both very important questions.
Firstly, when gardening up close to the walls of a house there is an increased risk of termite infestation. Especially using organic mulches, the best rule of thumb is allowing about half a metre to one metre clearance from the wall of the house. Stone mulch has always the best mulching material to use in this position. Central Queensland gardeners are fortunate to have a large selection of stone mulches to choose from.
Some garden designs mean an organic mulch is more suitable visually. This is where the balance between the termite risk and the garden appearance gets serious. Just about every organic mulch available is a termite risk, with the exception being cypress mulch.
Cypress mulch is a natural termite resistant mulch obtained from the Western Queensland White Cypress. The mulch has a honey tan colour that is long lasting and smells fantastic in the garden. Cypress mulch is easy to apply and spread in the garden and is stable in windy areas making it a landscaper's favourite.
Cypress heartwood contains resins that is detrimental to termites but this resin can also create problems with the quality of the soil. That is why I would only recommend using cypress mulch in gardens around a house.
This week on 4RO's Garden Show I received an enquiry for the recipe to make a natural ant insecticide and I said I would include it in this garden column. Since Tuesday I have received over a dozen home recipes for ant insecticide as well as many others.
Mix 60g of borax, ½ cup of water, 180g of sugar and a generous cup of breadcrumbs together.
Mix well and place it in shallow container in problem areas.
Honey/borax ant spray:
Mix 50g of borax with 3 tablespoons of honey and 150g of dry sugar, place into small shallow containers and put around the nests.
They will take the mixture to the nest where it will kill the queen and the young.
This is the recipe we have used for many years, but the ingredients can be varied.
You will require one bulb of garlic chopped finely or blended, added to two tablespoons of paraffin and then soaked for two to three days. Dissolve half a cake of sunlight soap (two cups of Lux flakes may be used instead) in one litre of water, add the garlic and paraffin mixture, mix well and let stand for a further one or two days. Strain through material such as mosquito net, pantihose or calico to remove the residue. To use, this mixture will need to be diluted at the rate of half a cup to four litres of water. Apply this with a spray bottle at regular weekly intervals until the pest problem has abated. The solution is best stored in a well-labelled container out of direct sunlight.
Please note that Neil Fisher and The Morning Bulletin take no responsibility for the use of any part of these recipes.