Passing rain


The ants have started trekking through our house and the letterbox.

A small shower of rain passed through yesterday. One of only two rainfalls in the last two months. Mind the gap between the soil and the pots. The red dust storms with their iron rich topsoil from down south have kept us out of the garden. At least that’s our excuse, the weather has been very erratic lately.

I’m trying to appreciate the bindi patches and yellow dandelions. Thankfully it’s nearly the end of swooping season.

But sometimes you just need to get back out there. Yesterday between light showers and predicting the optimum wet clothes hanging on the washing line time, we did a few odd chores. We topped up another bed and pulled off all the old canes of the passionfruit vines.

Our grass is beyond yellow and now mostly dust sticks. Our legs grew itchy as we sorted out our baby cherry tomatoes into bags of unripe greens and healthy reds for chutney making.

Matt dug up the remaining potatoes and proudly filled another shoe box.

Only the parsley and silverbeet are thriving.

How to mulch

We decided we needed to spend some time on our natives. The couch grass had nicely grown over the bare patches and weedy areas, but now we had a new problem. The grass was getting near knee high and there were plenty of hard-to-mow areas. We hadn’t left much room between the plantings because in some cases we were trying to create a hedge along the fence. This has made it hard to whipper-snipper the area also.

I arranged a truckful of half red cypress mulch and half rainforest mulch. The rainforest mulch was finer and recommended as a soil conditioner, so it went on as the first layer. The red cypress will last longer and we layered it on top.

When I placed my order I asked for some advice on how to remove the grass. The guy at the nursery recommended putting down a couple of sheets of newspaper first to kill the grass.

He also cautiously explained how Roundup could be used, but that it was not very good for some natives with shallow roots, in particular grevilleas. It was first developed as a fertilizer, but they discovered it was also effective as a weed killer. Therefore it leaves a lot of phosphorous residue in the soil. No thanks, besides we’re trying to be organic.

Before mulching prepare the area by removing any weeds and grass. Give the soil and plants a deep watering. Add an optional layer of newspaper, and then your chosen mulch at least 5cm deep. Leave some breathing space around any tree trunks, and try to avoid creating a volcano effect.

Mulching prevents moisture loss from the soil and will help keep weeds out of your garden. In colder areas, it also acts as insulation.

Mulch vs termites

The guy behind us decided to put up a fence about half a metre inside his property. I’d never seen this done before, which was a little strange because we would have been more then agreeable to get the rusty school style fence replaced. The neglected back corner was over run with grass and I regretted not putting a thick layer of tea tree mulch down.

A few days later the wooden fence was finished and it was growing on me. It should shade our vegetable patches a little (but not too much) and will also act as a bit of a wind break. I’ve decided to liven up the area and put in a hedge of low maintenance lilly pillies.

Matt pointed out that our termite inspector would not approve of the fence. (The inspector looked like he could have stepped out of a Ghostbusters movie.)

“It’s way too close to the bare earth” and “those wooden posts should have steel bottoms”!

The biggest bump we had when buying our house was finding termites in the laundry, which we promptly had treated. Matt had to cut off all the wooden palings underneath the house so there was a decent gap between the ends and the ground. A very grubby job. Since then we get our place checked once a year for peace of mind.

Last time I asked the inspector about mulch.

He said “Nup don’t put it anywhere near the house.”

“What about cypress mulch? It’s supposed to repel termites.”

“Nar, I wouldn’t use it. Don’t believe any of that marketing stuff. If you’d seen some of the damage to houses that I’ve seen termites can do. No mulch or wood near the house!”