Like most gardeners I’ve tried a plethora of mulches in my garden. Some have been purely for their aesthetic value, others for their ability to control weeds and still others to offer a feeding solution. But I’ve never been impressed with any mulch to offer all three options – until I began using sugar cane mulch.
Where Does Sugar Cane Mulch Come From?
For those who have no idea what sugar cane mulch is allow me to explain. When sugar cane is processed it leaves behind the cut canes – extracted of all its sugary goodness. These canes are then usually burnt as a waste product polutting the atmosphere with gases and smoke.
In fact, before the sugar cane is even harvested it has been common practice for farmers to burn the crop to remove debris plant litter aiding the harvest process. This practice now has its days numbered meaning than more of the leaf litter becomes a waste product at the mill end.
With the growing amount of waste it means the environment isn’t adversely affected but it creates a huge dilemma for mill operators. Limited pre-burning and post-burning means that something must be done to eradicate this waste product.
Like most problems in life, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. With limited options to dispose of this waste product it seemed “natural” to start using it as an organic mulch. And why not? Sugar cane mulch has so many benefits that it seems absurd that we haven’t been using it in the past.
What Are The Benefits of Sugar Cane Mulch
One of the most preferred mulches used by home gardeners has been pea straw, or lucerne hay. It has been used ever since mulching became fashionable and has offered gardeners a versatile, and relatively cheap, mulch. However, the one major downfall of these mulches is that they need to be completely weed-free yet seldom are thereby introducing more weeds into our gardens.
Sugar cane mulch doesn’t carry weeds, or their seed.
In other settings gardeners have opted for more aesthetic and durable mulches to cover their garden beds. Organic mulches such as; tree barks – waste products from timber mills, recycled green waste and other mulched items have been preferred because they last quite a long time and add to the visual appeal of the garden.
This is where sugar cane mulch comes into its own as well. Because of its fine strands it doesn’t break down as quick and won’t bleach in the sun meaning that it looks as good 12 months later than it did the day it was used to cover the garden beds.
Finally, sometimes gardeners opt for feeding mulches. These mulches offer gardeners the ability to feed their beds with a single approach. The mulch will usually consist of animal manures, trace elements and other organic fertilisers (worm castings etc.) that help nurture plants. The only downside to this is that one-size doesn’t usually fit all and one feeding mulch can’t aid native plants, plus exotics, plus fruit and vegetables.
And this might be where sugar cane mulch comes into its own. From the moment it has been used to cover the earth around your plants, and then watered in, you can almost smell the goodness of its effect. Being an organic mulch that breaks down slowly it allows the micro-organic world to flourish beneath its cover. If you need extra fertilisers for your plants then you can introduce these before the sugar cane mulch is applied and then supplement your plants with a liquid spray on a regular basis, as needed.
The Problems With Sugar Cane Mulch
There aren’t any problems associated with sugar cane mulch although the price is a little dearer than most conventional mulches. For instance, a bale of pea straw might set you back between $7-11 per bale (depending on quality) while a bale of sugar cane mulch will set you back about $16.
I’m not sure why it’s more expensive as one might expect that a waste product than can be processed on-site would be far more economical than hay harvested in the field. Hopefully, in time, the novelty factor will fail to appeal and we might be able to obtain this wonderful mulch for a more practical price.