Mulch may make a garden look tidy, but the work it does to improve the growing conditions for plants is what makes it most appealing. Those layers of bark or pine straw also improve soil texture, suppress weeds and conserve water.
In nature, the forest floor is covered by leaves, twigs, fruits, branches and decomposing plants for much, if not all, of the year. With the help of animals, microbes and seasonal weather changes, these decomposing materials create a litter layer that protects the soil from erosion and weather extremes. That’s the reason why people spread mulch in their gardens; to mimic this natural process.
Choosing mulch involves both aesthetic and practical issues. Packaged materials are no better than bulk mulches from local sources, though they may be easier to move around. The garden path is usually given a hard surface of bricks, pavers or concrete.
Shredded Eucalyptus Mulch
Occasionally, softer surfaces such as grass or gravel are used. Another option is a shredded mulch path, which is usually composed of thin strips of varying lengths of bark. Eucalyptus and cypress are the most common shredded mulches.
In particular, a eucalyptus mulch path could go well with your garden path; it looks sensational and costs next to nothing. Moreover, the path is soft and springy to walk on, making it very comfortable underfoot.
Eucalyptus mulch is particularly beneficial in a native garden because it promotes the development of microorganisms in the soil which enhance plant health. As the eucalyptus mulch is a waste product from sawmills, a mulch path is also a great way of making use of leftover materials.
Uses of Eucalyptus Mulch
The real benefit of this type of path over surfaces such as brick or concrete is that it is easy and cheap to construct and maintain. It takes no more than half an hour to complete a path from scratch. It can be used as a soft path through an informal woodland or native garden such as was shown on the segment but will also suit more formal situations and even cottage gardens. The mulch comes in a range of natural colors and, when laid thickly, inhibits weeds.
To work out where the path should go, study the "goat tracks" which form along the most frequently taken routes through the garden. The soil under these foot-worn paths is already compacted and provides an ideal base for laying the mulch.
Laying the Eucalyptus Mulch Path
To lay the path, simply barrow loads of mulch into the area and spread it over the existing compacted track using a rake. The mulch should be at least 5 cm (2") thick but can be thicker. As the mulch ages it will become darker in color and blend in with its surroundings.
The path will not last forever as the mulch will break down. Once or twice a year add more mulch to the path and rake it level. There is no need to remove the existing mulch, simply add more to the top.
Availability and Cost of Eucalyptus Mulch
Eucalyptus mulch is available from landscape suppliers and some nurseries. Cost: around $42 per cubic meter (most companies have a delivery charge, some offer trailers so you can cart your own). As a guide, about half a cubic meter (or cubic yard) covers the average backyard path.
To work out the quantity needed for your path, measure the length and width of the path and decide the depth of mulch you will lay. Give these measurements to your landscape supplier who will calculate the volume you need.
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