doodle by andre: what is, and isn’t, mulch

say no to dyed mulch (doodle by andre jordan)

I HAVE ISSUES with mulch–and what is, and is not, qualified to be used as this most important of all garden “tools.” Yes, I am fussy on this score, very fussy–as doodler Andre Jordan knows. Want to know just how fussy? My popular Mulch FAQ Page will answer that (and all your mulching questions, from which material to how deep to apply it and much, much more). Can we all make this the year we give up the plastic-bagged junk in favor of a pre-composted, locally produced product that actually helps build healthy soil, and supports soil life? Imagine that! (And imagine a landscape without a dyed orangey-reddish blight upon it.)

19 comments
March 26, 2013

comments

  1. says

    I use newspaper and then put a thin layer of wood mulch on top. I especially like to do this when the daffodils start to die off as I can cover them up and let them die naturally without all the withered leaves showing.
    Ann

  2. Marie McRae says

    Yes, indeed — just say no to red/orange/black dyed stuff in the garden.
    My town maintains a HUGE pile of chopped up tree branches and wood chips for free to anyone who wanders in with tubs or a truck to haul it home. And I maintain a large pile of horse manure that gardeners come to collect.

  3. Sam Yachup says

    I fully agree about not using red dyed “mulch.” I use several different mulches over cardboard to suppress weeds. I like to use chopped straw in the garden but have used wood chips around the berries.
    A note on spinach. I do not plant spinach after the first week of April. In the past two years we got a break in weather and I got it planted in mid-March with excellent results. But for me this is not possible in most years. I have had good success planting spinach (Bloomsdale, Olympia) in late September. The small plants, about 1″ will winter over especially if we have a good snow cover and begin growing as soon as weather permits for a very early harvest.

  4. says

    Hi I am from Australia. Thank you for your interesting and knowledgeable blog, I never miss reading it. It is like my daily paper. My favorite mulch is lucerne straw, no seeds and also very rich in nitrogen. I like to put blood and bone underneath the straw and I usually mulch really thickly twice a year.

  5. Margaret Mary Dabe says

    Living close to Madison’s Olbrich Garden and being a member there I have to opportunity to buy their mulch that they produce. I also have a compost that I turn with a fork and at the bottom it is like gold although dark black and rich.

  6. Katie says

    I am so glad to see this post. I hate all the dyes etc. dumped into our soils. Nature provides so many nutritious and bountiful mulches to use. You need only take a lot at any woodland area to see how rich and vibrant the soil is to know there is a better way. A good site to learn more is Back to Eden. Just google it and watch the amazing video.

  7. Dahlink says

    I am trying to minimize the use of mulch by using ground covers–so far, so good!

    I do wonder about Ann’s practice of covering up the foliage of bulbs as they die back–I thought they needed to ripen naturally if they are going to come back strong next year–? My m-in-law thought all daffodil foliage should be braided to make everything look neat and tidy, and was somewhat scandalized when I told her I had read that was counterproductive.

  8. Michelle says

    I never use bagged mulch. I have 12 yards of finely shredded mulch delivered every spring and put it down after everything growing is visible (but not near plant stems). What exactly is it that makes the red and black colors in mulch? I just never liked the unnatural color so never used it.

  9. trisha says

    I hate those rainbow looking colors on mulch too. But I have always tied my daffodils up when they get messy and as they wilt on down, I cover them with pine straw. They do fine! (maybe in spite of me :-( )

    • says

      Hi, Trisha. Technically we should let our bulb foliage ripen naturally, so each leaf can get the most sunshine possible and photosynthesize and feed the bulb, but I know it’s tempting to tidy them up! :)

  10. Cathy says

    I’m with you all the way! When I see the red mulch used, it grates on me! I think “fake”. Not at all an appealing color.

  11. Patrick says

    Hi Margaret-

    In my area, I’m very wary of the mulch mountains every where this year for the taking. Because we had so much storm damage from several major events this past six months – Myself and others are concerned about introducing salt, diseases, poison ivy, weed seed and pests. Every town has mountains of the stuff, and the mountains at the nurseries look like the same stuff.

  12. Fran hamburg says

    Hi Margaret,
    Your posts are wonderful! Great advise and humor!
    Mulch question. Three years ago a got a truckload of rotted manure delivered and have slowly been adding it to my garden beds. It is still lumpy in spots( I don’t use the lumpy stuff) but I am wondering if I still need to mulch on top of this?
    I too hate the red stuff but like the look of a mulched bed and have used pine bark mulch for some beds. From what you are saying that’s not the best choice.
    If I can’t get it delivered in bulk any suggestions?

    • says

      Hi, Fran. I don’t think of rotted manure as mulch as much as being a form of compost for soil-improvement (assuming it’s well aged). So I still use mulch. Many towns have a free leaf mold (rotted, shredded leaves that have been aged) and that’s wonderful as mulch, or ask the local garden center about bulk material that’s a good texture (not as big as the chips).

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