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Ah…the smells of spring…lilacs, mock orange and MULCH. It’s time to get your mulch on. I just got 12 cubic yards. That big old pile was neatly dumped by my favorite mulch place Mulch Masters this week. If it looks like a lot, well it is. It will probably take me a couple of weeks to move it. Bonus of moving mulch–I don’t have to go to the gym. In fact, on a 3-hour moving session this week I burned 2,200 calories. So that is a win for you in your mulch endeavors, but the real winner is your garden.
Mulch has three functional purposes and one big aesthetic one.
Functional Purposes of Mulch
1)Mulch helps keep weeds at bay. I don’t know about you, but weeding is a never-ending task for me. You may also want to put down some newspaper or cardboard to kill big patches of weeds, then pile on about 3 inches of mulch. Some people like to use that weed fabric, not me, because the things I want to spread don’t spread because of the weed fabric. But that is just me–the choice is yours.
2)Mulch keeps moisture in and protects from extreme temperatures. You have to plan for the future and our HOT NC summers are inevitable. Watering in the summer is always the battle. A thick layer of mulch will keep that moisture in the soil longer and give you a little reprieve from daily watering.
3)Mulch decomposes over time and adds nutrients. So unlike rock or gravel, mulch does breakdown, but that is not a bad thing. As it breaks down it releases good stuff for your plant. Plus, it helps shore up the soil structure too.
Aesthetic Purpose of Mulch
What a dramatic difference a few inches of mulch make. My aunt recently “got her mulch on” and said, “man, my yard looks like a million bucks.” It offers a finishing quality to your garden. It also defines your bed lines.
As for the type of mulch, well that is up to your preference and price range. I personally love the “triple shredded hardwood” mulch. It is a finer mulch, it is dark brown and it spreads like butter. But there are lots of mulch varieties, there is red cedar, pine bark–regular and mini, there is cypress and natural cedar and some people even use pine straw (although, be careful using too much near your house, straw is very flammable). Whether to buy in bulk or bag depends on your preference and price range too. In the spring, I like to buy a big bulk. If I cover well, it almost lasts all year, plus I can augment as I add new plants with the bag stuff. Blog partner Chris, likes the bag stuff because it is easy to handle….I must admit a giant pile of mulch in your driveway can be a little daunting. The bag stuff will cost you more over time, unless you buy it on sale. Plus you have to dispose of all that plastic.
So add mulching to your spring garden activity, you won’t regret it.
I feel rich. We came home from the beach to find the garden lush and green–the rain barrels running over.
It was a very different picture when we left. The garden was so dry–despite my watering–I almost didn’t go.
But good rain changes everything.
Even the most mundane chores become very pleasant when the ground is wet and the plants are happy. Here are 4 things I like to do after a long, lovely rain.
Pull Weeds. It’s so satisfying the way weeds come out of the wet ground roots and all. This is wonderful time to clean up your beds. No tools needed. Just grab and pull.
Spread Mulch. Mulch retains moisture so I always like to spread it when the ground is nice and saturated. And you don’t have to move a truck load of shredded bark around. Use newspapers, cardboard, grass clippings–anything to make this wonderful moisture last. A couple of my beds were mulched with Christmas cardboard in January, then covered over with leaves. It works.
Stake, Thin and Groom. It is best to stake before plants fall over, but rain always brings something down. I keep a stack of bamboo and metal stakes in tool shed for quick fixes. Getting plants upright quickly is important. Half a day on the ground and they will start to twist toward the sun. This is also a great time to pull out extra seedlings and share. Plants don’t just come up easily after a rain, they go back down well too. It’s a great time to transplant.
Relax and Enjoy. Gardening is hard work–but a good rain makes it sooo much easier. Walk around your garden and drink it in. Well done.
If you are anything like me, this warm weather makes me want to get “my garden on.” So if you are looking for something to do, you can always prep your veggie or flower beds. I wouldn’t jump the gun to plant summer veggies yet, just in case there is a frost. The ‘ole farmer’s almanac says this year April 15 is the last risk of frost, so I would wait until then just in case.
But that doesn’t mean there isn’t stuff to do. This weekend I am going to prep my beds.
1)Going to get some more topsoil–I get the bags for this sort of project. They are easier for me to pick up without killing my back.
2) Going to use my compost, but will probably need to get some too. I get the cheapest and my veggies still grow. I tried that black cow stuff for $5 a bag–didn’t really notice a difference, so decided to stick with the cheapo stuff. It is just poo anyway.
3)Get some slow release fertilizer too.
4) Get mulch for later…remember mulch is key!
Then I will put the soil and compost in the wheel barrow and add some slow release fertilizer, mix and then dump it all in my beds. I just layer on top of what I already have left over from last year. I also always have the mixture ready to fill in when I transplant new plants.
So if you are itching to get outside this week…I say prep work should be on the to do list!
I have this dream. In it I weed the whole garden, work organic Plantone fertilizer around every plant, then top it all off with beautiful new mulch. And while all this work is going on in my dream–time stands still. No weeds regrow. Nothing else demands my attention. No bad weather, no setbacks or vacations as I check these March jobs off my list.
Yea right–in your dreams for sure. I have never completed these spring garden jobs and I never will. So a big thanks to blog-partner Melissa and her wake up call comment to my post about weeding. I should never weed with out a big load of mulch standing by. Otherwise the weeds will regrow before I get back to them. And the cycle starts all over again.
So I went to my favorite mulch source, American Soil and Much on Highway 55 in Cary and filled up the truck bed with triple shredded pine bark. This mulch is light, looks good, easy to move and spread. In two afternoons, my truck was empty and the gardens looked so much better.
Is the whole yard done? No. Will it every be? Probably not. But Melissa’s wise comment forced me to do another important garden chore–prioritize. Too many years of multi-tasking have made me really bad at this. But with a truck load of mulch in the drive, I made some tough choices–
- I started closest to the house. It’s my most viewed bed. It should get the best treatment.
- Next I weeded, fertilized and mulched the spring and summer perennial bed. They have the most growing to do now.
- Then, I mulched new plantings. Newly turned soil is a weed factory. I will save myself lots of work by piling on the mulch early. I’m going to buy some more mulch and set it aside for the spring plantings to come.
- And I’m going to let some stuff go. Hard for me–but I’m not worrying about the woods this year. Plantings should become less formal and labor intensive as you move away from the house. Shredded leaves are ok for the shrubs and wildflowers in the woods.
- And finally, it’s better to have two or three finished beds, than half a dozen unfinished ones. Looks better, feels better, grows better. Thanks for the reality check, Melissa. You made my flowers happy.
This is a tragic incident that has been featured in several local news outlets, and I thought I would share. Although there is no warning on the packaging….Cocoa Mulch is produced by Hershey and can harm dogs or cats. And it has been stated that 50% of dogs that have eaten the mulch have suffered harm from the mulch, some even death.
Cocoa Mulch is sold by Home Depot, Foreman’s Garden Supply, Target, and other garden supply stores and contains an ingredient called Theobromine (lethal to dogs and cats). It smells like chocolate and really attracts dogs. Theobromine is in all chocolate.
Go to this web site for more info:
As for me, I go with the old reliable…triple shredded hardwood mulch…and you can never have enough. Mulch insulates plants from the heat, retains moisture and, most importantly, keeps weeds at bay.
Sp please garden safely and if you have pets, don’t opt for the Cocoa Mulch.