Mauritius, like a lot of the world, suffers from water shortages.
It’s also pretty windy so there’s a lot of soil and dust in the air (and consequently on the patios, and in the house, and in my lungs).
Why not mulch I hear you wonder – because there isn’t any readily available, I reply.
I tried to buy bagasse – after all, sugar cane as far as the eye can see and all that.
No chance – the sugar companies use it all to power their factories. Greedy!
Although a Queenslander friend has since told me it’s pretty stinky, so maybe that was a blessing in disguise.
I found small bags of woodchips but too expensive for the quantities I need (plus they were a funny colour – possibly dyed).
In the past, I’ve collected seaweed from the beach, rinsed it to remove the sand as soon as I get home, and mulched with that.
Apparently it’s a terrific soil conditioner but I’m not sure what that means.
If it means that buried objects like rusty nails and random bits of plastic are drawn to the surface, then yes, it is a terrific soil conditioner.
It smells like the sea (unless you accidently pick up some older bits!!), and looks good with all its different colours and textures when it’s fresh. It all fades to a uniform pale cream after a couple of weeks. Still nice.
If I recall correctly, the plants that were mulched with it seemed to grow faster and looked healthier than those without.
On the minus side:
- it’s heavy to collect and carry, as it’s wet and full of sand
- you need a lot of it – one very full shopping bag will mulch 1-2 plants
- it shrinks enormously when it dries and so needs constant topping up – refer to the first point
- when you gather it, people either
a) stare at you
b) ask if you eat it, then tell you the Chinese do
c) engage you in very long conversations about it
d) give you gardening advice
e) help you by putting those older bits I mentioned in your bags, which you discover a few days later when the garden starts to smell like dead fish
If I have the time and energy, I will start collecting it again for mulching around individual plants but not entire beds.
Up to now I’ve been chopping up and using green-waste from the garden around my plants. Messy-looking, not very efficient, nor is there much of it and it’s probably full of weed seeds, but it’s better than nothing.
Now that it’s breeding season, the neighbourhood birds have discovered ready-made nesting material and it’s disappearing fast!
Compost to the Rescue
A friend of ours has found a company that makes compost, so we’ll be ordering a truckload of that as soon as I’ve killed the grass and finished planting.
I made him a Lemon Meringue Cheesecake as a thank you (he also tried to get the bagasse for us). Thanks, Steve.
The black of the compost should highlight the plants from up here, and be a good contrast against the sawdust paths from both perspectives.
The downside is that everything that falls on it will be very noticeable. Or maybe not. Will wait and see.
Either way, it’s our only choice, and it is, after all, good for the plants.