Rainy Day Activity #2

We are now half way through spring and the weather is warming with every passing week. So, now is as good a time as any to fertilise and get that mulch topped up.

I know that nobody really wants to be out in the rain but, believe me this is actually the best time to be out there spreading mulch and fertilising your garden.

Fertilisers – pellets, drenches or powders – all need to be well watered in so what better time to spread them out than when it’s about to rain or raining. The same goes with mulch, particularly straw based mulches. They can be very dusty and are always best to be watered in. Even better, I like to break my straw bales into biscuits and soak them in a big tub before putting it on the garden. It will do a much better job of keeping the soil moist and it will start breaking down very quickly.

Soak the straw in a tub first.

I generally use pelletised chook manure or ‘pearls from my girls’ when I fertilise our garden. Everywhere except where the chooks forage. For those areas I use my blood and bone mix. If you have pets and are concerned about using pelletised manure the try this as recipe for a safe alternative. I like to make up a bucket full of mix so that as and when I need it I can plunge my hand in and know that it is ready to go. Now that’s good home economics 😉

Blood and Bone Fertiliser Mix: 9 cups of blood and bone to 1 cup of sulphate of potash. Add to a bucket and mix well. Now, this is just a ratio – 9:1 so, just keep going until your bucket is full. You can spread this anywhere in the garden that needs a feed, lawns too! Spread at a really good handful per square metre. I do this in my orchard so that my chooks don’t eat the pellets.

My personal preference is to fertilise first and then lay mulch on top. I do this for two reasons: First – I don’t like the idea of other animals consuming fertiliser pellets or granules (organic or not!), Second – fertilisers like chook manure and blood and bone are compost activators and I treat mulch in our garden just the same as I treat our compost. These fertilisers kick start the composting process and this is great news for our soil. This is why I am never stingy with the mulch. I lay it as thick as I can and I top up as soon as the mulch starts to look a bit thin.

Don’t forget your pots too! They can use about a tablespoon of fertiliser per 30cm in diameter and in most cases there is a suitable mulch for plants that are in pots. Mulching pots will slow down evaporation and help plants survive the hot summer. Just remember this: The more arid the plant the more coarse the mulch should be. For instance, with fruit trees and vegetables use straw, with succulents use gravel or pebbles.

Quick Tip: If you know of anyone who is doing weight training and is buying buckets of that awful powdered supplement bollocks, ask them for their spent buckets. Or try your local café’s. They often have spare buckets with lids. The important thing is to find one with a lid so that you don’t get unwanted critters in your bucket and your contents stay fresh.

You know, the best thing about gardening in the rain is the beautiful hot shower or bath you have when you come inside. Go on, get your rain coats on and get out there!


7 responses to this post.

  1. Your garden is so productive ! I’ll have to try the soak the mulch tactic!


  2. I’ve just found your blog and I tried to subscribe to it using google reader. It can’t pick up the RSS feed you’ve got. It might pay you to adjust your RSS feed, because most people won’t want a seperate feed going straight to their computer for just your blog, which is what seems to be happening at the moment if they use the button you’ve got at the side. Heaps of people use google reader and it’d be a shame if we can’t keep up with what you’re posting.

    Really useful information about the blood and bone and potash. Thanks!


  3. Posted by paganaidd on December 1, 2011 at 4:27 pm

    works fine in my reader frogdancer…?


  4. Jodi, I’ve been experimenting with different types of mulch lately. I bought a bale of lucerne hay, but it’s difficult to spread. I’m finding that sugar cane mulch breaks down too slowly, but maybe that’s because I’m not putting blood and bone/pelletised manure down first. What do you use?


    • Hello dear,

      I have been using rice straw for some time. I love it! The bales are much larger (isn’t that what we all want?), and like sugarcane mulch it also takes longer to break down. In fact, as it isn’t chopped up fine like sugar cane mulch, it takes even longer. I’m cool with that. As I tend to hide my weeds and cuttings under the mulch /don’t tell O’l Pauly, I still get plenty of stuff breaking down and feeding my worms. It’s funny because I was just speaking to my rice straw guy today. It is somewhat hard to get at the minute but I’m quite sure that very soon it will explode onto the shelves of your local garden supplies store. The bonus for us in the southern states is that we get a product equal to or better than sugar cane mulch without having traveled thousands of kilometers to get to our gardens. What do you think about that?


  5. I am having a mulch issue at the moment- my garden is just full of grass and it is doing my head in. I’d rather be doing other productive things in the garden but all I seem to be doing is pulling out grass!

    I live on a farm (my partner works on the farm and I live in the house on the property with him) so I can get hay if I need it, is there a difference between hay and straw? I have used some hay to mulch before but the grass just grows through it! Am I not going it thick enough? Any tips would be much appreciated!


    • Hi Candi,

      I checked out your blog – nice one! 😉 /I have Arthritis too! Its quite new for me though. Thanks for the links btw, I had no idea that there were Arthritis blogs out there – what a revelation!

      Now regarding the mulch: It sounds like you need much more. You can try soaking whole cardboard boxes or whole (unfolded) newspapers, making sure that they are absolutely wet and completely overlapped. You can give the ground a good sprinkle of blood and bone before you put down the paper as it will help to break down both the paper and the grass as it starts to die back. Put a nice, thick layer of mulch over the top (to keep moisture in the paper) and if you like, about 1/4 cup of molasses diluted in a watering can (or in a small amount of hot water first) poured over the mulch. This will help to kick start the microbes that will break down the mulch, feeding your soil while you kill the grass.

      I had a group working on a community orchard yesterday and I though the picture below may give you an indication of just how much mulch I am talking about. As you can see the trees are fairly heavily mulched. We had some rotting bales of lucerne laying around so we put those underneath and top dressed them with rice straw. In a nut shell, we put the most beneficiall stuff for the soil on the bottom and the longest lasting stuff on the top.

      On that issue of straws: People get way to fussy about straw types. Yes, lucerne and other pea straws are great as they have higher nitrogen content than say rice, wheat or oat straws but, chook manure is cheap and way higher in nitrogen than pea straws. So, unless like us you grow high quality mulches like lucerne or pea straw I say use whatever you have in abundance.

      How does all that sound?

      Banksia Gardens Community Centre


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