Thursday, April 19, 2012

Back to basics with mulch...

“Back to Eden” Documentary & Timer mulching..

Have been getting stuck back into a few jobbies in the patch the past few weeks as Winter is creeping up on us.. One job that we neglected to do for a few of the beds during summer was mulching.. We normally buy sugar cane mulch & top the beds with.. This is then turned into the beds before planting out the following crop.. Was reading on line (a Simple Savings thread from memory) where someone mentioned that sugar cane mulch tend to use up nitrogen when dug through the soil as added organic matter.. This is far from desirable when trying to build up fertile soils..  It wont be turned into the beds from now on & the plan is to make up our own mulch for future use from local resources.. 
One method of mulching we have become interested in is the “
Back to Eden” method that some You Tube gardeners we follow have been using.. This documentary was a great mini refresher course in the ways of mulch that have helped us to rethink our mulching ways.. 
The core theme of the film is the use of semi composted tree trimmings/wood chips as a thick mulch that can help you to garden on undesirable soil types..
Other ways wood chips/timber mulch can be of great benefit to the health of all soil types are,
  • Beneficial fungus, worms & bacteria will break the chips/mulch down from underneath working the nutrients into the soil improving soil structure so no tilling is required..
  • Suppresses the weeds from growing & the ones that germinate on the surface are easy to pull due to the loose nature of the mulch layer..
  • Insulates the soil from the extremes of cold & heat.
  • It can be used in many styles of farming/gardening.. Orchards, veggie plots, pots on a deck or veranda could all benefit from a layer of mulch..
  • Fertilisers such as composted manures & garden waste can still be added as a top dress.. 
  • Liquid fertilisers like seaweed, worm cast tea & fish emulsion are a great to use as not only do they add nutrients but the action of the liquid will move nutrients from the decomposing top layer into the soil below..
  • The wood chips hold water & release it when the ground around it dries out..
Our mulching progress..
We have been slowly processing a ½ rotten mango from our neighbours yard in the electric mulcher with some of this mulch already being added to bed #’s 5 & 9.. There is still more to mulch & we might play around with it in a few different mulch blends yet..
 The mango tree in the chook yard & some Chinese elms have been pruned then mulched up to run a few experiments.. The aim of all is to find which will breakdown the best into a usable wood mulch.. 2 barrels were set up with a mix of the different mulch, some lawn clippings, a large bag of off spinach leaves from a store & a bag of well composted horse manure that had a few worms inhabiting it.. Some castings full of worms were then added straight from a worm farm into 1 barrel to see how the 2 compare..
On Good Friday morning we purchased a Tumbleweed Composter from Gumtree then set about mulching the rest of the elms.. The mulch was used in 3 different tests to try some other methods of composting.. A barrel was set up with a mix of dried & fresh Chinese elm mulch with about 500g of 
Dynamic Lifter to add some extra nutrients to see how it will go..  The Tumbleweed was also filled with the same mix as the barrel.. The last batch of mulch was left in a pile to decompose naturally with no additives & exposed to the weather on the spot of last year’s Good Bug Mix garden..These will all be left until mid May when a comparison of all batches will be made.. Hopefully we will get some nice nutrient rich blends to use in the patch.. We shall continue to use sugar cane trash while we build up our stores of tree mulch.. (We will swap to Lucerne hay once the S/Cane runs out)
 Since mentioning it on the
Brisbane local Food site a fellow member (thanks Even) pointed me in the direction of Jean Pain & his Brush wood composting methods.. Jean goes a few steps further using the heat from the composting mass to heat water as well as collecting gas to run vehicles & cooking equipment.. These other bi products from the composting process  have interested me greatly but I fear Bianca will not agree with modifying the car to run on methane from compost just yet..
The clip bellow runs through our progress with the different set ups & some of the results so far..

Thanks for reading if you made it this far.. Feel free to leave suggestions if you can see where we could improve in our methods..
Have a great one…


  1. Hi Rob,
    Thanks for all the wonderful reading and videos on your site, and the link to the truly inspirational "Back to Eden" video.
    I am not totally new to vegetable growing, but since moving to tropical Cairns I have had trouble finding web sites for growing in our hot climate.
    I will be converting over to wicking beds if I can find some IBC or 44g drums, which are hard to find and are expensive up here.
    My question or 2 if I can ask is, do you know of any groups or web sites which are based NQ, and after watching the back to eden video, I have remembered about a 9m truck load of green waste mulch I had put behind the shed 4 years ago, and it is know composted down; what would be the best size screening mesh to use before putting the final product on the garden. My current mesh has 24x24mm holes, or should I find myself some smaller 10 or 12mm mesh.


    1. Hi there Steve..
      I'm sorry but I am not aware of any growing groups in NQ myself & couldn't find any when I did a quick search but am sure there would have to be some..
      As for planting guides we use Gardenate as a rough guide
      Not sure how accurate their tropical planting lists are though..

      With the mulch, if it has broken down into a fine compost like medium I would use a finer mesh (10-12mm) & try to separate that out to use else where in the garden & keep the larger pieces to go directly onto the beds..
      Hope that helps some..

    2. Could you contact me at please as I might know of an online group that could be a help to you..