When you are starting your food forest from scratch, chances are that you will need to add some mulch and or some manure to help increase fertility and reduce weed pressure while plants are getting established.
We are lucky living in such a green country that you are never too far away from a source of manure or mulch when you know where to look.
Sadly, it is becoming increasingly difficult to find hay, straw or manure that has not been contaminated with a long acting broad leaf spray.
The most common active ingredient in these is aminopyralid, it is a common active ingredient in many broadleaf sprays.
Sadly aminopyralid can take many years to break down, and it is not broken down in the digestive system of animals, making their manure toxic to many plants.
If you would like to know more about aminopyralid in manure and compost read my more extensive post here.
If you are buying manure or compost you are also not safe – many brands have been infected at one time or another – it is best to try and grow some beans or peas in the compost/manure that has been mixed 50/50 with some soil or potting mix.
Grow these for 4-5 weeks and check for curled or malformed new growth. If the plants look healthy and strong, you are probably safe to add it to your garden. If they are curled and malformed, you should contact the place you got it from and let them know that it is contaminated.
Hay, straw and balage used to be a great source of mulch, but these days, you need to be careful that it too has not been sprayed. For a list of brand names of affected sprays, read here. Always ask the farmer if it has been sprayed to control gorse, thistles or broadleaf weeds.
Wood mulch can often be sourced through your local council or council contractors – down here if you have contacts with Delta and you live close enough to town they will drop you a truck load for free.
If you live further from town, contact some local arborists and ask about their wood mulch, it is cheaper to buy it by the truckload directly from them, than to buy it from a garden supply store.
If you are trying to smother out couch or quack grass, you will need a layer of cardboard and then at least 20-30 cm of mulch to keep it at bay.
Add borders of rhizome blocking plants to keep the couch grass from sneaking in sideways.
Read here for more mulching ideas and tips