Mulch Madness

by Risa Edelstein on January 30, 2008

in Garden Maintenance,Rants & Raves

I hate mulch and I say that with all of my heart.  I know that when properly applied it maintains moisture and suppresses weeds and when it breaks down it feeds the soil.  But it is absolutely one of the most abused practices in this business and I cannot imagine how it got this bad2007_10_27_007 . I understand that it is a big money maker and that landscapers haul in hundreds of cubic yards of mulch each spring and then get paid to apply it.  But what about their clients?  Do they not realize the insanity of it all?  I would expect more from them especially because it involves saving a lot of money and because current practices are so environmentally unfriendly.

Let me explain.

Mulching as an organic practice is very much endorsed for the reasons I listed above.  However, mulch needs to be applied properly which is no more than 2 inches thick on average and away – yes away – from the base of all plants.  Otherwise it rots the roots or bark of the plant and invites insects and diseases and make death a long and slow painful process which often results in the replacement of trees after 7-8 years.  How many mulch mountains do we see each spring?  A lot.  These slow deaths equate to more business for the landscapers who mulch improperly in the first place because they often get to replace these trees. 

Let’s delve further. 

Natural mulch, such as the one in the forest, is made of leaves and other decaying stuff.  It is NOT DYED!!!  That red mulch or even dark black mulch you see is full of dye and is obviously not good for your plants nor is it good for the planet for that matter.  Here’s the crazy part.  Most urban gardeners pay their landscaper to gather and bag and dispose of their leaves every fall.  Leaves that could easily be chopped up and used as mulch.  In the spring, these same clients get these same landscapers to haul in mulch.  If you shredded the leaves and mulched your beds in the fall, you’d need a lot less mulch if any in the spring, right?  That’s the money saving side of the equation.  The environmental side of the equation is that of course you are saving lots of gas because there is a lot less hauling.  The real savings is trees which are often cut down from our forests to create the mulch.  So next time the fall hits, gather the leaves and reuse them the way nature wanted us to.

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{ 1 comment }

Jane June 13, 2008 at 3:19 pm

One of my big pet peeves. Could have (and have on occasion) written it myself. It’s a bit like paying somebody to maintain your yard for you and also paying for a gym membership so you can get some exercise!
One problem with any kind of mulch, though, is that it harbors those voles you mentioned as a problem in your slug post. Voles don’t like running around in the open, so mulch, like a weed patch, is like an open door with a “Come right on in” sign on it to them.
The organic farmers hereabouts don’t use mulch in their commercial field plantings at all because of them, and only very sparingly on flowerbeds around their own houses.

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