vegetable patch management
mulch
mulching materials Page 2.
Lucerne hay (Alf Alfa)
While lucerne is considered the king of mulches I rarely use it as there are so many other mulching materials around that are almost as good but very much cheaper.
advantages
  • As lucerne is a nitrogen fixing plant lucerne hay contains plenty of nitrogen.
  • Easier to spread than pea straw.
Disadvantages
  • The most expensive of all mulching materials.
  • Like pea straw it is hard on the hands when handling it without gloves.


photo of vegetable bed with mulch on it made from lawn clippings
Vegetable bed with mulch on it made of fresh lawn clippings.
Traditionally lawn clippings are used as a composting material and not applied directly to a garden bed as mulch, but I find it can be a quite acceptable as a mulch.

advantages
  • Very local source of mulching material if you are using clippings from our own lawn.
  • Free.
  • Easy to spread.
Disadvantages
  • Can smell a bit.
  • Can contain weed seeds.
sawdust
Sawdust is not normally considered a mulching material as fresh sawdust actually draws nutrients out of the ground as bacteria tries to breakdown the sawdust's tough cellulite structure. But if it is processed correctly it can be used both as a mulch or as part of the material used in seedling potting mix.  See  Using Sawdust As A Mulching Material   on the Processing Mulch webpage for details on how to process it


advantages
  • Either free or very cheap.
  • Easy to spread.

Disadvantages
  • Draws nutrients from the soil.
  • Needs to be processed first before it can be used on a vegetable patch.
Some of the larger horse sables use sawdust in place of straw which has the added advantage of not only being free but is boosted with horse manure and urine.


Photo of pine needles in a tub
Pine needles make an excellent mulch for plants that thrive in acid soils such as blueberries and strawberries.

Photo of pine needle mulch under raspberry plants.
Pine needle mulch under raspberry plants.
Pine needles have a very low PH (acidic) which makes them unsuitable as a general mulch.  However they are ideal for plants that love acid soils such as blueberries and strawberries.


advantages
  • Ideal for acid loving plants such as strawberries, blueberries and raspberries.
  • Free.  Most towns and suburbs that I know of in Australia have some pine trees accessible to the public.  simply rake up the fallen pine needles under the trees and take home to your garden.
  • The acid soil conditions the pine needles create inhibit the growth of weeds that prefer alkali soils.
Disadvantages
  • Not good for any plants that like a neutral or alkali soil.
  • Pine needle mulch usually comes with pine sticks and twigs, which do not break down easily.



Lake Weed
Photo of Lake weed mulch
Lake weed mulch piled in a great heap in Victoria Park, Ballarat.
Ballarat has a unique source of mulch in the form of lake weed that is harvested on a large scale from our local lake during the warmer months.  the harvest is dumped in Victoria Park next to Gillies Street.  Because lake weed breaks down into almost nothing I rarely use it.  However it is a good mulch source for people living in Ballarat.  it would be especially useful for pe

advantages
  • Completely weed seed free.
  • Costs nothing.
Disadvantages
  • Only available to Ballarat residents.
  • As lake weed is very soft and largely made up of water it breaks down to a very small amount.
  • Hasn't got many nutrients in it.
  • Has a strong odor.