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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.
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Organic layers

Now that I have flexed my muscles on building a raised garden bed on my own, I have my work cut out for me to fill it with really good soil. I have been doing my research on sheet mulching or sheet composting. The main concept being composting in place. Its a way of eradicating weeds and building soil without using herbicides or tilling, of which both rupture soil ecology. I have found this in the e-book I’m reading – Gaia’s Garden: a guide to home-scale permaculture by Toby Hemenway – which has now become my bible! Sheet mulching is a variation on nature’s way of building soil by accumulating and breaking down organic debris from the top down! I thought this to be a practical and common-sense way of creating compost! So I have the perfect area to try this method.

I have created an uber-large area to fill, so I’m hoping I have enough material to do it! I believe that it gobbles up organic matter! Gulp!

I started with the soil I was standing on – leave grass and weeds and anything that is growing there in place. Any knee-high grass can be mowed down and left there.  Then lay down a deep stack of newspaper (minus any glossy sections) or corrugated box cardboard. This is to smother the weeds and prevent their seeds germinating. Now add soil amendments, i.e. lime, bonemeal, (depending on your soil’s needs), then add a thin layer of manure, then a 2.5cm layer of newspaper, then another thin layer of manure or nitrogen rich material, then a bulky layer (30cm) of organic matter like straw, finely ground bark, wood shavings with grass clippings. The Carbon/Nitrogen ration must be between 100:1 and 30:1 – if it is too high in nitrogen then it causes anaerobic decomposition and makes it smelly and slimy! Eeeuw! Don’t want that!

To finish, add 5cm of compost/manure and top it off with straw, pine needles, sawdust or leaves or other seedless mulch. If you can’t find every item, don’t worry – sheet mulching is very forgiving. As long as you have enough newspaper or cardboard and organic matter of anykind, you’ll have good soil!

[one_half]First layer of newspaper now my compost[/one_half]

[one_half_last]Garden clippings and kitchen waste collections[/one_half_last]

[one_half]Starting to look like Lasagne![/one_half]

[one_half_last]Next layer to go go![/one_half_last]

[one_half]I always have happy helpers![/one_half]

[one_half_last]Bring on the local manure![/one_half_last]

Finding local manure was easy. My neighbour has 7 horses….Adding the horse manure was not as terrible as I had thought. I was expecting it to be a really smelly job, but on the contrary. The manure was rich and sweet smelling – what, you don’t believe me?

I’m nearly done. I am looking for the top layer ingredient. I wanted to get straw today but the farms around here don’t have any! Oh, darn! I’m going to have to do search for some!

Have fun – I am! Now we wait! I’ll keep you posted on my progress!

[one_half]Well-rotted manure is actually sweet smelling![/one_half]

[one_half_last]Adding the manure – nearly done![/one_half_last]

Happy Gardening xxx