Thursday, August 7, 2008

Mulch a do about nothing

Black mulch with tickseed.

Good friends of ours decided they want to landscape in front of their lake cabin. I brought down some cuttings from my garden and some sun-friendly perennials. I was all set to plant.

To my surprise, they had laid down black mulch in the bed and around the shrubs they had already planted. Black mulch? Hmm.....

"The guy at the nursery told me I would really like it. It camouflages the dirt when you start planting - especially if you move things around a lot," my friend explained.

So I put the black mulch to the test. And you know what, I liked it. Once you started mixing in the plants with the dirt and the mulch - it did seemingly blend well together.

I have a love/hate relationship with mulch. I try different mulches like Lindsay Lohan tries boxed hair color. I like how mulch looks right when you put it down. Everything is neat, organized. Then I get bored and I move something around and all of a sudden, I have mulch mixed in with clumps of clay-like soil. Not very appealing.

For a few years, I tried cocoa bean hulls. The front of our house smelled like a giant bottle of Nesquik. It drove my husband nuts. Whatever ... (!)

This was my feeble attempt at cypress mulch - gross. I took it all out this year. Plus I didn't have edging on this bed and it was messy and wind-blown all the time.

For some reason, I didn't mulch this year and the soil and plants look particularly parched. Although a lack of rain would have something to do with that too.

Do you mulch in your gardens?


Northern Shade said...

Mostly I mulch with leaves, since the trees are very obliging.
I've used cocoa shell mulch too, and love the smell. It looks good also, especially after it starts to age.
I've used wood chips, which are okay.
I also tried coconut shell mulch (coir) in a few areas last year. I liked them once they started to age a bit.
All of them seem to do the job, as far as suppressing weeds and conserving moisture. I liked the look of the yummy, chocolatey cocoa shell mulch the best.

Susie said...

Hi Beth,

I use pine straw mulch. It does look good when you first put it down but then after awhile it starts looking dingy. But I definitely wouldn't garden without using mulch. The heat and lack of rain here would just make my plants suffer.

I've never used cocoa hulls before but sounds great. I love the smell of chocolate.

Your bed with the cone flowers in it looks beautiful and so organized.

Connie said...

I mulch with compost or shredded leaves in my vegetable garden, shredded bark in some flower beds.
Love the look of that cocoa bean mulch....where can you get it, and is it expensive?

Beth said...

Northern Shade: I agree - the look of the cocoa mulch is the most sppealing. And how can you beat the smell? :O)

Hi again Susie! I can't imagine NOT having mulch where you live. If you can find the cocoa mulch - give it a try. Speaking of finding it ...

Hey Connie - I bought the cocoa hulls at Menards (which is the Midwest equivalent of a Lowe's or Home Depot). A fairly large bag costs less than $3 each. I should have invested in some this year. Oh well ...

Kim in Fargo, ND said...

I have also tried every mulch carried in NorthDakota garden centers. But in the end, I found the best mulch for my extensive flower borders is a 2 inch thick layer of compost which I get nearly for free from Fargo's community compost yard. Well it's nearly free. The city charges you $10 per pickup truck load. The only drawback is that it's not screened so you wind up with some junk in it from people who aren't careful about what they put in the recycling bins. One year it was glass. This year it's little bits of shingles. But it smothers the weeds, enriches the soil, and doesn't blow away in the prairie winds (well not as bad as shredded bark).

garden girl said...

Hi Beth, there are years of large pine nugget mulch in our garden. I don't like it - it's too big, takes too long to break down, and sinks into the soil like rocks. Thankfully I've convinced DH to cease and desist putting down about 30 bags of the stuff every couple of years. It will be years before it's gone. We have three mature maples that drop enough leaves to keep us in mulch as long as they (or we) live.

I've always lived on wooded properties, and have found shredded leaves to be a free, endless, weed-free and excellent source of mulch. It keeps moisture in the soil, weeds out, and as it breaks down, makes a wonderful soil amendment.

I'm glad you're staying away from cypress mulch. Few people realize it's illegal to harvest cypress tress for mulch but it's done anyway. Cypress trees are slow-growing, take about 100 years to mature, and before the wholesale removal of them, prevented some of the worst hurricane damage near the gulf. Cypress forests are home to endangered species whose habitats are rapidly shrinking and are in danger of extinction. Here's some info on the serious environmental damage being done by the illegal harvesting of old-growth cypress:

Most people are as surprised as I was about this tragic situation, but all of us can help a little by saying no to cypress mulch and getting the word out to others.

Beth said...

Hi Kim in Fargo - nice to have you drop by. I got the compost from the city too. I agree for the most it's pretty good stuff although I did find a piece of glass in there. I think it's a great service of the city to provide that free to residents (I only get big containers full - not truckloads!)

Garden girl - I'm so glad you told me about the cypress mulch, I had no idea. I have no intentions of going back to that kind of mulch. Thanks for the tip. P.S. How nice that you have ample supply of shredded leaves!