Christine's garden Gardening Home page features Products Reviews

Lets talk about Mulch

Today I tried a product that completely blew me away. I am thrilled to have found Rooibos Mulch by Carmién Tea (based in Citrusdal in the Western Cape) and I want to tell you a bit about it.

[note_box](For our foreign visitors that are perhaps not familiar with Rooibos: Rooibos – Afrikaans for “red bush”; (scientific name Aspalathus linearis) is a broom-like member of the legume family of plants growing in South Africa’s fynbos. The plant is used to make an herbal tea called rooibos tea, bush tea (esp. Southern Africa), redbush tea (esp. UK), South African red tea, or red tea. The product has been popular in Southern Africa for generations and is now consumed in many countries – source: Wikipedia)[/note_box]

A few weeks ago I saw Rooibos Mulch for sale at a nursery and saw someone walking out with a few bags. I was curious. I stopped the friendly gardener and asked her about it and she pretty much raved about it to me. As I had just finished laying bark mulch all over my garden so I decided against buying any that day but made a mental note to try out Rooibos Mulch before the next time I need to mulch all my beds.

Coincidentally, a few days later I received a mail from from Lize at Carmién Tea offering me a few free sample bags of their rooibos mulch, with no strings attached. I responded, admitted that I was considering using it and I offered to pay for a few bags to trial it. A few days later a charming young man delivered five bags of the mulch to me as a gift. The correspondence was clear – I would trial it and if I felt that way inclined I would blog about it giving my honest opinion.

So where to use? My vegetable planters have never been mulched with anything other than compost, I’ll give those some of this mulch. In the garden I have been pulling out spent annuals and overgrown ground covers, so I have a few blank spots of exposed soil that could do with some fresh mulch.

I decided to compare the Rooibos Mulch with the mulch I have been favouring – Bark Mulch. After all, the objective is to see which one I will use next time my entire garden needs mulching again.

I will let the photos do the talking …

[one_half]The trial gets underway … Rooibos vs BarkThe trial gets underway ... Rooibos vs Brak[/one_half]

[one_half_last]Lets compare. Both look very niceLets compare. Both look very nice[/one_half_last]

[one_half]Close up of Rooibos MulchClose up of Rooibos Mulch[/one_half]

[one_half_last]Close up of the Bark MulchClose up of the Bark Mulch[/one_half_last]

[one_half]Lets compare them in a flower bedLets compare them in a flower bed[/one_half]

[one_half_last]Rooibos and Bark Mulch – Both are beautifulRooibos and Bark Mulch - Both are beautiful[/one_half_last]

[one_half]Before in the veggie planter …Before in the veggie planter ...[/one_half]

[one_half_last]… and After with the Rooibos Mulch... and After with the Rooibos Mulch[/one_half_last]

[one_half]Lovely between pavers and dainty flowersLovely between pavers and dainty flowers[/one_half]

[one_half_last]Suberb around tender plants and bloomsSuberb around tender plants and blooms[/one_half_last]

[one_half]A newly mulched veggie containerA newly mulched veggie container[/one_half]

[one_half_last]Surrounding the Lemon GrassSurrounding the Lemon Grass[/one_half_last]

My “Wind Trial” shots

It was quite windy today. I only realised after I’d cut the bags open that it was gusty out. How would the wind affect the laying of the Rooibos mulch which is so much softer and lighter than the bark chips? Well lets see …

[one_half]Photo of the loose mulch taken at 16h18Photo of the loose mulch taken at 16h18[/one_half]

[one_half_last]And taken again at 17h15. Not much changeAnd taken again at 17h15. Not much change[/one_half_last]

Rooibos Mulch – What did I like?

  • It looks really fantastic! I love it! I think it looks better than the peach pips I used once and the bark mulch I currently use.
  • Compared to bark mulch, this was extremely gentle on the hands. I did not need to wear gloves to lay it! Wonderful!
  • It went down easily!! Much easier to put down than bark. Firstly, the bags are lighter and it is easy to control the flow of the mulch out of the bags as opposed to having to handle the bark to lay it. And it pours beautifully!
  • When laying bark I have to be careful around tender, soft little plants that I don’t damage them or even cover them completely if they are tiny. The Rooibos Mulch went over seedlings that are about 3cm tall without ease and without disturbing a single seedling. Fabulous!
  • Between pavers it is amazing! No mess, no fuss! Try laying those big bark pieces between a 3cm gap between pavers. Can’t be done if you want it to look nice. The Rooibos Mulch went into the gaps with ease, looks fabulous and I made hardly any mess (see Photo number 9 above – mulch laid, no cleaning afterwards).
  • You cannot easily “sprinkle” bark mulch around. Rooibos Mulch sprinkles easily so you can lay mulch even in hard to reach little places. It can be sprinkled over and around plants.
  • Its totally organic!
  • Snails dislike the slightly sharp stalk edges so its a good biological pest control. I have quite a snail problem so this is great news!
  • But … The VERY BEST Feature of Rooibos Mulch is the smell when you water it … OMG! It is absolutely wonderful to get the subtle smell of Rooibos when you water on and around this mulch. I’d buy it just for that!

What didn’t I like?

  • Not a single thing. Zero. Zip. Nudda.

My Verdict

I am very tempted NOT to tell you where to get it because I want to keep this little secret all to myself!  Just kidding, but Im going to be a upset if they can’t supply me when I order my next load of mulch in September because y’all have bought every last bit of Rooibos Mulch in the country! I fear that once this product becomes known there will be a shortage! Please leave me some then I’ll share my secret …

Contact details for Carmien Tea

To order the Real Rooibos Mulch, contact the farm directly on:
Telephone: +27 (0)22 921 3405/7 or via e-mail
The bags cost R6.00 per 3kg bag, excluding delivery. (Those are 3kg bags you see in my photos).
You can get the full details, all the features and benefits etc. from the website at: Carmien Tea – The Real Rooibos Mulch.

PS: This product is going to the very top of our “Recommended Products” list which you can see here: Recommended Products by The Gardening Blog.

Other Benefits of using Rooibos Mulch

  • Rooibos mulch forms a crusty layer on the soil after a few waterings. This layer reduces water loss through evaporation and is thus ideal for reducing stress on young transplants and contributes to considerable water saving in gardens and potplants.
  • A 10 – 15% better growth was observed on young plants when using the rooibos mulch.
  • The mulch is a natural organic product and will not harm the environment – it is attractive and will not blow away once watered thoroughly.
  • The tea reduces germination of weeds through formation of an insulating layer above the soil, thus facilitating cleaner seedbeds and potplants.
  • The leachate, which is low in tannins, is beneficial to plant and root development. Tea has been used by gardeners since Grandma´s days for maintaining healthy growth.
  • Mixed with potting soil, it provides an excellent growing medium – light and well drained.
  • PH is between 5 and 5.5 – ideal for plants requiring slightly acidic medium. Bonemeal or lime can be added to modify pH for plants requiring more alkaline conditions.

By Christine

Dominated by large trees on a medium sized property, my garden is very shaded. With no “full sun” areas I have to plant shade and partial shade loving plants. I love shrubs and flowers including camellias and azaleas but Roses and Irises are my favourite and getting these to thrive is a challenge …

36 replies on “Lets talk about Mulch”

I’m definitely switching to Rooibos mulch now! Promise not to buy it all though!

Thanks for the tip.

Hi can one use old rooi bos tee bags in your pots as mulch or are they maybe treated with something thats not good for your plants?

This is good news about the rooibos mulch. Can one do the same with unused ordinary tea?
Would love to know.

Hi Ellie – This I do not know, but I would assume so. All sorts of things are used as mulch, from compost to coffee grounds, nut shells (I’ve used apricot pips before) to bark, pine needles and even stones. So tea sounds like a very good option.

I dry the used Rooibos tea bags and save the dried leaves/stalks. Can I sprinkle them directly onto my azaleas and roses, etc instead of the rooibos mulch mentioned your blog?. Both are in pots.

I mulched my Azaleas with pine needles. They’re both in pots. I collected the pine needles from Rhodes Memorial — free on the side of the road! And they have not broken down (it’s been about 6 months), and the soil is beautifully cool underneath.

I’m wondering whether I could use them for all my plants? I initially used them for the Azaleas to make the soil more acidic, but I was reading in a composting book that pine needles do not change the acidity of the compost — I’m assuming in small quantities? I can’t see how a layer on the top of my pot can change the soil acidity, particularly that it has not broken down. And I think it looks very pretty as a mulch. Anyone had any experience with pine needle mulches?

I tried mulching my plants with bouganvillea leaves because I have massive piles after a strong wind. It keeps the soil underneath cool to a certain extent, but I couldn’t water the pots cos the water just ran off the leaves. And it looks very ugly once the leaves have faded to a dirty gray. I finally removed all the leaves (in wads, they stick together after a while) last week and replaced with the Rooibos mulch.

On another note: should I be mulching geramiums? I seem to be a geranium killer! I think I over-water and then they rot and die. So should I mulch them or not? Thanks for your help dear gardening community!

What a fabulous post – thanks my friend! 🙂 I have been looking at Rooibos Tea mulch for ages, but my garden will need tons of it, so cost was a factor. But the idea of putting it in the pots is perfect for me! Will definitely give it a go.

I am experimenting with Peat as a mulch and I love it for my pots and wheel barrow, but I love trying new things – will get some next time.

Wow, what a pretty looking mulch! I love how finely grained it is – it looks so nice between the pavers, and it seems like it would break down much more quickly (which I like, since that means it is helping out my terrible soil). I don’t think I’ve ever seen it over here in the States, though.

This post caught my attention right away because my husband is a fan of Rooibos Tea. We can find it at most stores here either pure or blended with other teas. They sample many different blends at the local tea shop. I do hope it’s not going away soon.

The mulch looks great, but would probably be a big problem to ship all this way. I don’t think we have a local version made of anything that is similar. My grandmother used tea and coffee grounds on her plants too.

What a thorough study and review! Have never heard of this product but it sounds great to work with. I do think you need a fragrance widget for readers–and I look forward to the updates on the testing.

I looked at the fine texture and was wondering if it would stay put. It looks like a great product. We do no use course bark mulch for many reasons, but this mulch looks like it will keep the ground moist and cool.

How funny! What a coincidence! I just laid some Rooibos tea in my potplants this morning before I went to work.

I have used it before when I first started gardening a year ago. The woman at Stodels said it’s absolutely the best thing. I duly laid it in my pots, but I think it lost its colour quite quickly (I think, I didn’t really pay attention!). But it kept the rough texture, and I presume it did its job.

I do prefer the blackness of compost on my beds rather than the orange of the Rooibos, so I’m quite happy for it to change colour.

What does impress me, though, is that it really is a marvel when watering: the water seeps right through and the surface is not disturbed at all. Which means my soil surface is less disturbed. I find this particularly useful in small pots that are difficult to water with all the foliage hanging over the edges. With my small pots, the water washes over the soil (taking some of it with it) and over the edges of the pot. With the Rooibos mulch, the water sinks through the Rooibos and stays in the pot.

I’m not so keen on the smell! It smells like a thatched roof that got wet in the rain!

Interesting the cost of R6 for 3kg. At Stodels they had them on special this past week at R6 or R7 for 15dm (I have no idea what 15dm means!).

The usual price at Stodels is about R18-R20/bag, which I think is rather pricey considering you need quite a lot to cover all your beds. Therefore I prefer to use compost, which is generally cheaper.

Hi Christine! What a find I must say! It sounds like it is nothing but good for plants and environment so that is a big plus. I personally think it is WAY more attractive than standard bark mulch. I always try to get a fine grind mulch. I think once the mulch is settled, the wind won’t bother it at all. My mom lives in a really windy area and her fine grind mulch works great once it has been on for a week or so.

Oh that sounds heavenly – I love rooibos tea – cant imagine anything nicer than smelling that when i am out gardening. It will break down quicker I imagine. that is quite acidic – I find i like to mix it up a a bit and alternate different types of mulches as they all add something different to the soil.

I think the ground up leaves is still the prettiest and easiest of mulches. Great if you have enough leaves. I’m looking to buy a grinder/shredder so I can do it with mine.

Interesting. I’ve seen lots of Rooibos tea here, it seems to be quite popular at the moment, but never envisioned a Rooibos mulch. I prefer the finer textured mulches. Here bark mulch tends to get washed away, rather than actually decomposing into the soil. The finer mulches I feel actually can more efficiently improve soil texture and health, beyond simply reducing water loss. This mulch is pretty too, I can see why you love it so!

I’ve also noticed that bark mulch seems to wash away some, its happening in my garden too. I’m pleased to hear that the finer mulches will improve soil health – I recently read that bark mulch first leaches some nutrients from the spoil as part of the decomposing process.

That mulch looks amazing, so much better than the bark chips. I’ll keep an eye out for it, in case it is ever sold on these shores. Sometimes products like this do make it to the UK, usually years after they’ve been introduced elsewhere.

From what I’ve read, these are the “left-overs” (i forget what they called it but there was a name for it) of the tea, i.e. what they can’t sell as tea. That’s my understanding. I also read last week somewhere that there is a shortage now of Rooibos tea. What’s interesting to me from the comments here is how many of our overseas friends have heard of it. I’m surprised.

Interesting. I’m glad you did the wind test, because my first thought was “it will blow away”. I do wonder how long it will last though — it seems like it would break down relatively quickly. The fine texture looks fantastic for pots like you said.

Please give us an update in a month or so.

A month and a half later and the Rooibos mulch is holding up well despite rains, winds etc. Once its been watered it forms a sort of “crust”, so it doesn’t blow away. The “crust” will crumble if you lift it and rub it … so its not impenetrable. I’m still really thrilled with this mulch 6 weeks later.

Comments are closed.