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Gardening with Gael - Gravel my new wonder-mulch


gravel(copy)The sign outside Naja’s says: Time to Plant EVERYTHING.

And it is. Warmer weather, rain, spring well on the way, the ground warming and the possibility that there will be more rain in the next couple of months makes it an ideal time. October can be quite dry and there can be a mini drought. Best to plant now and get the plants established before the ground dries out again. And mulch as you go.

This year I am experimenting with a new mulch. It would be great to think that mulch suppresses weeds, and to a certain extent it does, but generally mulch is there to retain moisture.

This year gravel is my new wonder-mulch.

Last year I inadvertently conducted an experiment. I planted a series of small hedges of Olearia nummulariifolia because of its form and its ability to withstand dry and windy conditions. I thought it a good native alternative to box hedging. Of the two hedges I planted at the cottages one was mulched with leaf mulch and the other was planted on the edge of the driveway and so I raked gravel around it. The third hedge was planted at the Block in lovely loam and because I was sure they were hardy enough they didn’t get mulched at all.

At the end of the drought the hedge at the cottages with the leaf mulch was a sorry sight. Although protected from the wind by larger shrubs, the leaf mulch had dried and disappeared and the plants were black, very dead sticks. The plants nearby in the gravel were not only alive but had all flourished. Up at the Block, seven out of 30 plants had died and the rest were all alive but had stayed the same size. Because a fence has to go where the gravel plants were, I dug them out and replaced the dead ones at the Block. By comparison they were larger and stronger and generally healthier. I explained it to Box. He pointed out I should already have realised it by the number of plants he has seen sitting waiting to be planted over the years on the side of the drive sending their roots down into the gravel and doing surprisingly well.

To build the rock walls at the Block we get delivered piles of rocks. When the large rocks have been used, there on the side of the lawn is a pile of gravel. I was unsure what to do with it and how to get rid of it. Solved! I am barrowing it around all my plants. Yes the weeds will come through but the plants will flourish, and slowly the minerals from the gravel will leach into the soil.

Jaraho Gardens sell ground rock dust called Rok Solid and highly recommend it. Google ‘Agrissentials’ or ‘Rok Solid’ to to read about all the benefits. The Sustainable Ecological Earth Regeneration Centre (SEER Centre) in Scotland has tested the ability of rock dust to improve soil fertility and its ability to retain moisture.

With the gravel and a sprinkling of Rok Solid I expect great things from the garden this year.

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