Thursday, March 1, 2012

Confessions of a Mulch Hoarder

I have a confession to make. I became a mulch hoarder in 2011 and it wasn't by accident! Every so many years our local electric company (Coweta-Fayette EMC) trims the limbs and new growth away from electric lines to minimize their work in case of high winds, ice storms or any type of bad weather causing outages (thank goodness). In the past, I have taken advantage of their efforts to keep our electricity up and running by requesting a load or two of free mulch. Last spring, I must confess, I did go crazy and had eight or nine loads dumped in my yard. Actually, I have a plan to use this free commodity in the garden, yard and around my house this spring 2012. Like anything free, there are good and bad points, so weighing the benefits and the draw backs, I plan to tell you some of both.

 I find two drawbacks with such a hoard of mulch. First, new debris of limbs, leaves and bushes like any compost pile (seen above), must decompose. As much as, my sister and I would have liked to use this mulch last year everywhere in the garden, we had to use it sparingly because it needed time to "cook," or decompose.

Secondly, this mulch composition is made up of many different types of trees like oak, pine, sweet gum, native bushes and vines. Such a combination does mean more work to clean out smaller limbs, if the EMC's chipper (or their contracted business) didn't chop them into small enough pieces. Don't expect mulching a garden, flower bed or island in the yard to be easy because mulching is hard work but once the initial work is accomplished you and your plants reap the benefits.     

The benefits of mulching in a vegetable garden is tremendous. Like these smaller winter collards seen above, mulch retains moisture in the soil during dry periods, giving below ground root crops (like beets, onions, and carrots) and above ground plants (like peppers, tomatoes and beans) the water they need to produce healthier and larger fruit, especially during Georgia's hot and dry seasons. Mulch also, impedes unwanted weeds from depleting moisture and nutrients from the soil in the garden and saves time and work removing them.

The same idea is true for spring or summer bulbs, annual or perennial flowers, nut or fruit trees, any plant you love and want to grow, plant then mulch, mulch and yes, mulch some more. I suggest never pull the mulch up around the stem of any plant regardless of the size, or texture (including trees)
as this could cause rotting and disease.

Today, mulch is available in almost any color red, green, brown, black and in lots of mediums and forms: bags, bales, truck loads, leaves, straw and plastic but I like the old-fashioned mulch (as seen above) because over time it gives back to the earth what it took away in air, water, dirt and sunshine. My tendency to hoard mulch in 2011 may seem over the top or out of the box to you, but to me it's just what the plant doctor ordered.  

posted by Wilma Smith

1 comment:

  1. Should I call that "Hoarders" show on TV? (Nah, your hoarding is too neat!) This reminds me of happening upon the scene in Cobb County over the weekend where they were chipping up trees felled by a tornado. Cobb gardeners should have their fill of mulch this week!