I have been exploring the big wide world of junk mail gardening.
After the recent rains I am ecstatic! This tweaked Hugelkultur approach on sand I'm now using has given me garden beds that have intense life for the first time in over two years of gardening here on our sand spit. No worms as yet but plenty of insect activity -- indeed an amazing amount is happening if you pull back the stuff on top and visit below: wood slaters, ants, termites, spiders, digesting the vegetative matter and probably each other.
This isn't mulching -- which in effect is gardening under an outer skin -- it's stewing.
I think after so much experimentation I have arrived at my preferred method of turning sand granules into agriculture.
Junk mail sponges....
My mix, however, isn't as simple as making papier mache.
A layer of newsprint -- junk mail in rolls, like logs as that's the way the junk is delivered-- will tend to seal off the underlying soil from the air and rain. Even though the rolls are thrown on the garden beds higgledy piggledy, like pick up sticks. By also throwing wood pieces into the mix -- branches with their leaves, banksia pods,palm fronds, whatever other hard vegetative matter I can collect -- there's more structure and texture in this layer and it functions less like a suffocating carpet.
On top of that comes the icing on the sponge: grass clippings. The grass adds a certain neatness to the garden beds such that they don't look like lines of sorted garbage and the green matter kick starts and feeds the activity that gets underway underneath. That way the mix stays moist and there's a bit of Nitrogen to be had to facilitate newspaper and wood break down.
I've found that grass clipping alone will congeal when wet and often form a dense carpet over the bed suffocating the underneath and preventing a lot of moisture seeping through. Unless you tees up the clippings -- aerate them -- you may get a putrid mess. But on top of the uneven contour of newsprint and logs -- with their valleys, gorges, crevices and spurs -- the grass clippings settle into the spaces and establish varying relationships with the matter below.While I sprinkle my junk mail and wood layer with blood and bone -- this method seems to start working only after the paper begins to break down. However, if this junk mail layer is dry it seems to prevent a lot of moisture getting through to the soil. Similarly unless it is moist, the paper will break down very slowly.
If you want to call this 'mulching', then my mulch layer is almost a foot thick. To plant a seedling I have to part the layers as if I am performing keyhole surgery on the garden bed.
And the deeper you go the more moist it is and the busier is the insect life. Nothing I've done before can match this level of change in the sandy soil beneath my feet.
I used to trench mulch but this approach is much better.I originally planned to dig new trenches in the garden beds and bury wood and junk mail but the excavation was just too damaging so I said, "bugger it! I'll just throw all this stuff on top."
As far as I'm concerned, anything that will rot is material I'll throw on these beds. Boxes, any cardboard packaging-- I'm opportunistic and greedy. I even collect from the neighborhood, branches blown down in storms. I just trim them and throw them on the beds. At the moment I'm layering the garden paths between the beds with old rags(wool and cotton) I get from the local Op shop.
This gardening method is very hungry for biodegradable junk and rubbish and foraging for the mulch material is a now a weekly routine.