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!”

Topping up the vegetable beds

We topped up the vegetable beds this weekend. We wanted to use a mixture of different organic matter to add texture, substance and a range of nutrients to the soil. We ended up using coir, cow manure, and chicken manure. For the top layer of the vegetable bed, we added sugar cane mulch. It isn’t particularly high in nutrients but it helps to reduce weeds and moisture loss and protect the soil from the sun’s heat.

Here’s a quick round down of your options to top up a vegetable bed:

Compost

  • Home made is the best if you can get the pile hot enough.

Animal Manure

  • Rabbit – very good
  • Poultry / Chicken – good, very high nitrogen
  • Goat – good
  • Horse – fair, slow release
  • Sheep – fair, high in nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium
  • Pig – poor, high in nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium
  • Cow – poor, slow release

Plant Manure

  • Lucerne
  • Coir – fibres from coconut plants. Good for bedding in worm farms.
  • Mushroom compost – very good, made from straw and chicken manure (make sure it’s genuine)
  • Green manure (grow your own)

Extras
Add a handful per square metre:

  • Blood and bone – high in nitrogen, phosphorus and calcium
  • Mineral rock fertiliser – ground rock
  • Kelp meal or fish meal or Seasol or Charlie Carp – trace elements and high in potassium
  • Cat litter – recycled from phone books – helps to retain water.
  • Charcoal and ash – high potassium (aged first)
  • and spoonfuls of trace elements.

It’s important to make sure any manure or compost added is well aged, so that when it is added to the bed it doesn’t heat up the soil too much and kill any seeds you are trying grow. I tend not to use sawdust as it may be treated and when it decomposes it uses up the nutrients you need for your vegetables. I’m not a big fan of newspaper and paper as some of them have dyes and bleaches that are also not organic. Hay can also contain grass seeds so be careful where you purchase it from.

Please do not use peat as it is not renewable and comes from wetlands and bogs which support an enormous array of wildlife and migratory birds, and should be protected areas, if they aren’t already.