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Ah, the miracle of mulch!

After a bit more research and experimentation -- and  a lot more work -- the garden is shaping up even more in way of becoming a tamed space. Biology needs time for all the life forces to get down and dirty.

That we are only talking about 5 months of gardening activity the change has been remarkable in what is happening below the surface. 

Ah,  the miracle of mulch!

So long as those grass clippings keep on coming I think we are doing a sort of short cut to a DIY version of the  Graden of Eden minus devilish snakes perhaps and naked homo sapiens  cavorting under the eye of God.


The impact of the Leeaky Hose system is remarkable. It's like growing vegetables on the smell of an oily (wet) rag. But it becomes clear that the logic of the whole enterprise relies on the same approach. Leeaky Hose principles of osmosis -- water sweating through   capillary action into the surrounding soil --  is the underlying engineering of the 'perched' garden hypothesis I was exploring.(Even if initially I was unaware of it). The trick is to generate 'soil' that acts as a conduit  for the transaction. This is where sheet mulching comes in -- not just as a blanket covering but as a dynamic layer which, as it breaks down, generates an energetic soil layer above the sand that   has an independent  life of its own with its own capillary activity.

This process is something I did not begin to comprehend until I discovered garden sponges and vertical mulching.  In fact the garden beds were layed out with the aisles serving as vertical mulch troughs.

Mulching: vertical and horizontal

Wicking Beds follow the same osmotic principle. My challenge now is not only to keep up the volume of grass clippings -- at a level to which the garden has become accustomed -- but to also find enough paper and cardboard (plus cotton rags, etc) that I can bury in trenches to act as water sinks/soaks. 

I had pondered the  challenge of how I'd water my fruit trees -- growing,as they do,  on sand -- so that I made best use of the precious fluid. It has now become self evident that by digging holes near the saplings and filling them with spongy mulching material like newspapers -- esp junk mail -- I created a nearby sink where the tree could always drink if it turned its roots thataway. All I need do is irrigate  the trough  every now and then confident that like a  surface dam the water will stay in situ to serve the plant's ab hoc requirements.

Of course among the vegetables you use decomposing green matter mulch as paper concentrates can be  nitrogen demanding at close quarters.

So mulches can be 
  • blanket, surface  and horizontal or 
  • spongey, buried and vertical.
The trick is, as I have leant, that any surface mulch can also prevent light waterings reaching the soil below as they can contain the moisture. That's the irony. Inasmuch as  blanket mulches protect and enliven what goes on beneath they also can be moisture greedy. 
Note: this is why you always rough up your mulch surface so that the pitted and embossed contour pools water which gravity directs below. This is the same principle behind Imprinting: "Imprinting is is a water harvesting technique used to accelerate  the revegetation of disturbed and denuded land by creating numerous small,  firm, well formed imprints or impressions in the soil that collect seed, rainwater, sediment, and plant litter and provide sheltered microclimates for germinating seeds and establishing seedlings -- Brad Lancaster
That's where the Leeaky Hose system kicks in because it irrigates below the mulch layer where  the hoses are laid. So your water budgeting  with Leeaky is very protective of your outlays. The only drawback is that to run at full efficiency you need to keep the moisture content up so that the capillary action is constant rather than intermittent. So while there's much less plant stress there's more irrigation activity using much less water. 

It's like a frequent wipe down with a sponge similar to the way we keep our eyes moist. I use one 100 litre drum to gravity irrigate two 5 metres long beds at a time. Such precision ensures that my accounting is strict. I know exactly how many litres I outlay each week to water the garden. With a 3,000 litre rain tank as my cistern and the estimate of local median monthly rainfall as my guide I reckon I can survive the year without supplementary water sourcing.

I am soon installing an outdoor bathroom which will be fed from town water  but I'll harvest the 'greywater' to irrigate my fruit trees and scattered garden beds by running hoses into the vertical mulch sponge troughs. I'll move the hose outlet from trough to trough and allow nature run its water course. 

Finally, among recent amendments, we collected driftwood from the beach to use as posts and with chicken wire bequeathed to us by a neighbour, we built a chook pen. The hens spend their days -- you guessed it -- scratching around on a carpet of grass clippings. 


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