Mulching day has arrived…but why mulch?!

There are four important reasons to mulch. The first, and probably the most important, is for water conservation. Mulch stops the top of the soil drying out, keeps the soil moist, and can reduce watering by about 60 per cent. Mulching also prevents weeds and weed seed germination, which compete with plants for moisture and nutrients. Mulching also keeps the soil temperature constant, and using an organic mulch means you’re adding extra organic matter to the soil. So that’s an added benefit.Mulches can either be organic or inorganic, but we will use organic mulches because they break down and add organic matter to the soil. This improves soil structure and drainage, and encourages earthworm and soil microbial activity.

Organic mulches, such as straw based mulches, are quite common. Pea straw is great, but there is also our current sugar cane mulch, bean, and other cane type mulches. They can either come by the bale, as in this case or some people prefer to use the chopped product for a neater look.

Cube type mulches are also available, such as cubed pea straw which has other ingredients added to it. As soon as this mulch gets wet it forms a softer material. This can be used as mulch, but is better used as a soil conditioner and worked through the soil.

The depth of mulch depends on the type of mulch used. For coarse mulches a layer of between 2 and 6 centimetres is ideal. Although unprocessed straw mulches from the bale can be applied thicker.

Rather than using lawn clippings, leafy prunings and leaf litter as mulch, it’s far better to put it in the compost and let it break down naturally. We have mixed our worm compost through the soil first to use it as a soil conditioner or improver, and then have added mulch on top.

Apart from a few plants that don’t like mulch, the mulching process will encourage the garden to thrive and help to conserve precious water.

With friends like this, composting is easy!

EARTH WORMS ROCK!

These amazing little animals come and live in our compost bins and help speed up the decomposition process of all our collected green waste. Here are some interesting facts about them…

                           

Earth worms

  • Earth worms do not have lungs, they breathe air through the skin
  • They burrow by jerking and contracting the muscles along their bodies
  • They feed on dead organic matter by passing such material through a complex series of stomach chambers
  • In doing so, the worm extracts nourishment while producing a waste product that provides a number of beneficial results for both plants and their keepers
  • Earth worms are also hermaphrodites, capable of producing both male and female gametes (sex organs)Worm castings ready for the veggie garden, plants, potting mix.
  • For creatures who live under the soil without eyes, they have quite active ‘breeding’ lives!
  • Today there are at least 2700 different kinds of earth worms on the planet

Worms will mulch organic material through their front end and out their back end comes warm poo, which is very important natural important plant food. Because of the worm digs long deep tunnels and excrete worm poo behind itself, it creates tunnels which aerates the soil and carries water plus nutrients deep down to the plants root system.

REPRODUCTION:

Earthworm Biology

  • Earth worms are equipped with both sex organs, yet they must still pair in twos
  • Sexually mature worms have a swollen band called the clitellum, which is located between the head and the tail
  • Mating can occur any time
  • Mating involves two worms laying in opposite directions. They each secrete sperm into each others sperm storage sac which in turn forms the cocoon for the fertilized eggs to mature and to eventually hatch
  • Each cocoon is capable of holding up to twenty worms
  • Baby worms are almost undetectable to the naked eye
  • During maturation, worms transform from white to yellow then brown and finally, red
  • Maturation takes 3 weeks
  • Reproductive success depends upon temperature, wetness and dryness of the earth, acidity of the soil and so on…our bins must be perfect because our worm population has exploded!Anatomy

WORMS: INTESTINES OF THE EARTH:

  • Worms are without eyes, relying instead upon their sensitive skins which act as light sensors. Sunlight is a major irritant for worms and when exposed to sunlight, they will bury themselves in the soil
  • Worms source food with a small, bulging tip located at the posterium which acts as a mini shovel.  It protrudes out and pushes food into the mouth
  • Worms have no teeth
  • Food is digested with the aid of internal muscle action which grinds the food
  • Worms have a powerful gizzard which is capable of breaking down many types of food and particles of foods mixed with top soil and sand
  • Worms wait until micro organisms break soften and break down food, making it more palatablePic 3 Earthworm

Hint: When your organic kitchen waste goes into the kitchen bucket with 1/3 water, it may take 2 to 3 days to fill the kitchen waste.  In the meantime, the waste is breaking down in the bucket making it ideal for worms to eat

  • The end product of digestion is castings that pass through the earth worm
  • Castings are made of undigested materials such as top soil, sand, plant residue and natural bacteria
  • Let the worms do the work and make pure, clean humus for food growth and garden health!

We’ve been germinating….

Yes…germinating from the safety and warmth of our hydronically heated classroom. What wouldn’t sprout in those conditions??! Next week we plan to transfer our baby pea

plants to the safety of the P2 garden bed. From there, the sky’s the limit….might find a giant up there! No, these are peas, not beans!

Mulching time has arrived!

Now that the garden beds have many plants thriving and have survived the initial onslaught of the possums (and the students)…it’s time to go the next step – mulching the beds!

Wikipedia states that: “”A mulch is a layer of material applied to the surface of an area of soil. Its purpose is any or all of the following:-

  • to conserve moisture
  • to improve the fertility and health of the soil
  • to reduce weed growth
  • to enhance the visual appeal of the area”” …and I agree with all of this. I love the way the little bugs and organisms create new worlds under the mulch layer and all kinds of interesting chemical reactions occur there too. Virtually any organic material can be used as a mulch – I generally use pea straw or lucern hay, but this time sugar cane straw gets the nod. So, Week 10 of Term 2 – Let’s Mulch!

The Playground 2 garden beds are coming alive….

 

The playgrounds are alive with…the sounds of worms chewing their way through our new P2 garden beds! Not only are the little beasts aerating our compacted soil mix, but they are adding their fertile castings to the garden beds so that our new plants have some nutrients to snack on! We hope to mulch each bed early next week with sugar cane mulch to retain moisture and to encourage microbe and worm numbers. Imagine your life as a common (but vitally important) garden worm…. trying to wriggle your way through pitch black soil, without any eyes, arms, legs, fingers or even ears, no brain and not knowing where you are or where you are going to…a bit like being a Demons supporter at the moment! Lots of great things are finally happening now in Playground 2 – and we’re all VERY excited!

 

Happy World Environment Day for 2013!

Today marked the beginning of serious action in the new St Dominic’s garden precinct. After lunch and in the shadow of the final bell, many classes surrounded their apportioned garden beds – and began planting furiously! I’m not sure if any of the plants will survive, but every student armed with gloves and a spade had lots of fun. A variety of herbs were dug in ad hoc, as well as some punnets of delicious lettuce, cabbage, peas and brussel sprouts – all guaranteed to test the self control of any self-respecting local possum! Time will tell of course and you Dear Blog, will be the first to know what degree of success we are enjoying!