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Using mulch as soil improver on clay.

madpenguinmadpenguin Isle of WightPosts: 2,422
edited September 2018 in Problem solving
My heavy clay soil has been planted up for 16 years but I would like to add some more oomph! to it.Although I improved a lot in the early years it now needs something else.Because it is planted up I cannot dig a lot of stuff in but would a bark mulch help,letting the worms do the work by dragging the mulch deeper into the soil? or 6X Natural Fertiliser?
When would the best time to lay it be,I would assume once the soil is quite damp (it is very dry right now).Now could be a good time as some plants are being cut back so have the space to move around and the bark (or whatever) could protect the plants.
Any info would be welcome  :)
“Every day is ordinary, until it isn't.” - Bernard Cornwell-Death of Kings
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  • BobTheGardenerBobTheGardener Leicestershire, UKPosts: 11,336
    edited September 2018
    Mulches like bark are really only for moisture retention and don't feed the soil beneath although they do improve soil structure as they slowly break down.  To actually feed your soil you can use well-rotted farmyard or horse manure as a mulch.  Alternatively add something like fish, blood and bone, gently work it into the soil, and then mulch with bark etc.  As you say, only put a mulch on once the soil beneath is nice and damp.
    FYM and garden compost will be taken down by worms much, much quicker than bark and so will improve your soil structure more rapidly - bark will take decades.
    A trowel in the hand is worth a thousand lost under a bush.
  • madpenguinmadpenguin Isle of WightPosts: 2,422
    edited September 2018
    I am not too worried about feeding the soil but rather to improve the texture.Thing is I need something that I can wiggle in around existing plants.
    If I bark mulch round shrubs would that help a bit when it starts to break up?
    I would dearly love to be able to dig in lots of good stuff to improve everything but that's not going to happen!!
    “Every day is ordinary, until it isn't.” - Bernard Cornwell-Death of Kings
  • BobTheGardenerBobTheGardener Leicestershire, UKPosts: 11,336
    edited September 2018
    I've just edited my post above, madpenguin - hope that helps.  You may need to refresh to see the addition. :)
    I use the westland bagged FYM from garden centres which has a texture like coarse compost so can be put wherever you like.  Mine has also proven to be free of weed seeds which is a big plus when using as a surface mulch.  :)
    A trowel in the hand is worth a thousand lost under a bush.
  • BorderlineBorderline Posts: 4,639
    It's a personal choice. I think Mulch is better suited to permanent shrubs where there is minimal disturbance throughout the year. Around herbaceous plants, I find it's better to put down well rotted manure or compost every year. Just makes weeding easier. But, if you seldom weed, then bark mulch would be fine.

    But be careful with bark mulches. They need to be rested for at least 3-4 months. If not, fresh bark mulch should not be placed around new young plants. They contain compounds that could stunt growth.
  • I'd mulch with compost or 'soil improver ' that is made from composted garden waste, then it will feed the soil. We have clay and I've improved m uch of the garden just by slinging compost on in the autumn or with new plants.
  • madpenguinmadpenguin Isle of WightPosts: 2,422
    When you say 'compost' I assume you mean from the compost bin (I don't have one,no space  :/).
    Our Local Authority do compost from household kitchen waste so may see if I can get a few bags!
    “Every day is ordinary, until it isn't.” - Bernard Cornwell-Death of Kings
  • well rotted manure with as many worms in it as possible, that way they the worms drag it down into the soil for you
  • madpenguinmadpenguin Isle of WightPosts: 2,422
    Shall have to find a source of well rotted manure!
    “Every day is ordinary, until it isn't.” - Bernard Cornwell-Death of Kings
  • Or peat free all purpose compost bought from the garden centre. Any organic matter
  • BobTheGardenerBobTheGardener Leicestershire, UKPosts: 11,336
    Shall have to find a source of well rotted manure!
    You can get it in 50l bags from garden centres and places like Wickes also sell it, if you can find any from local farmers etc.  For years I've been spreading a couple of inches of it on all my beds and borders (heavy clay soil here, too) once a year in late autumn.  By the time spring comes, much of it has been taken down by the worms.  The only time I dig these days is to plant or remove something.  I have to say that my soil is lovely stuff now but it did take a few years to get there.
    A trowel in the hand is worth a thousand lost under a bush.
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