One of the most cost effective ways of maintaining your xeriscape garden is by making xerimulch yourself. Any organic material that is readily available can be used, and will make caring for your garden much easier. The mulch helps conserve moisture to the soil, insulates the soil from extremes of temperature, minimizes soil erosion, and can help to control weeds. Purchasing mulch can be expensive and is unnecessary when so many organic materials can be used to easily make it yourself.
Materials for Mulch
- Leaves and branches
- Lawn clippings
- Pine needles
- Hay or straw
Step 1: Determine the Best Material to Use
Choosing the xerimulch material involves several decisions. The best place to start is by determining what materials are the most available, attainable, and inexpensive to you. Most people have leaves and lawn clipping, but depending on where you live, other materials might be easy to come by. If there is a sawmill in the area, they may sell or give away sawdust and wood-chips. Another consideration when choosing a material, is which will be most aesthetically pleasing to you personally. You may have piles of lawn clippings, but don't like the way they look spread around your garden.
Step 2: Determine How Much Xerimulch You Will Need
Measure your garden areas to establish how much mulch you will need. Mulch should be 1 or 2 inches deep, so make sure you have enough material to surround flower beds and plants. If you don't have enough of any one material, you may have to consider using something else, or using materials that look similar to maintain continuity.
Step 3: Preparing the Material
In the case of using leaves, bark and branches from your yard, it is best if they are run through a wood-chipper or a mulcher. Some leaf blowers have mulching attachments that can handle small branches. Many lawn mowers mulch, so mowing over leaves and bagging them can be a very easy method. Grass clippings should be dried before applying as mulch. Corncobs can be cut up and easily colored to make a decorative mulch. If using hay or straw, make sure the material is well dried. When using compost, make sure the material has not decomposed all the way. Another precaution is to make sure your compost contains no seeds that might start a garden you did not anticipate.
Step 4: Applying the Xerimulch
The best time to mulch plants is in the spring when the ground has warmed. Applying the mulch too early will keep the soil too cool and discourage plant and root growth. When planting new plants, water well before applying mulch. Make sure the plants are set and won't need to be repositioned. Dry mulches should be watered when they are applied or they will leech water out of the soil and plants.
Step 5: Monitor the Xerimulch
Much organic mulch will decompose over time, so you will need to continue to make mulch and replace the decomposing mulch occasionally with a fresh batch.