Mulching the Not-So-Easy Way
Saturday…and it’s raining…again. Everything is gray and green. The sky is a light, wet gray; the tree trunks are a dark, wet, gray; the lichen on the tree trunks is a light gray-green; pond is a muddy green; the moss on the forest floor is a bright, almost luminescent green. It’s early spring in southern Indiana.
There must be some unwritten law that it must rain every weekend. As if we gardeners haven’t been tortured and tantalized enough…we made it through the winter, but now? Mother Nature should be more kind to us! We’re on Her side, after all!
I did take off work early one day last week to enjoy the warmth and sunshine of a rare 70+ degree day. Wonderful Husband and I moved a pile of mulch that had been sitting and quietly decomposing since last fall. It is wonderful stuff now.
We hitched our cart to our new John Deere yard tractor and journeyed down the hill to the pile of mulch. After shoveling the mulch into tubs, we hefted the tubs up into the cart and the Deere moved it up the hill for us (thank goodness for horsepower!).
Then, of course, we had to man-handle the heavy tubs out of the cart and empty the mulch into the garden beds. Wonderful Husband got slightly enthusiastic when it came to emptying the tubs…in other words, he dumped it. No regard to whether a plant was going to be smothered by 10 to 15 pounds of mulch. It was up to me to carefully brush away the extra mulch and locate the poor, lost little plant underneath. Certain muscles that I generally use to sit upon were screaming the next day.
Living out in the country, we get our mulch the easy way. We contact a tree trimming service and let them know that they can dump a load (or two or three) of wood chips on the back of our lot. We can’t use the fresh wood chips as mulch in our garden beds – the natural decomposition process would rob the beds of the nitrogen the plants need to grow and be green. When it’s fresh, we just use it on pathways.
But, after a winter’s worth of decomposition (sometimes, you can see the steam rising from the wood chip pile as the decomposition process heats it up), the wood chips have become mulch and are ready for the garden beds. The annual application of mulch is helping turn what was nasty clay into decent garden soil. A new layer of 3 inches of mulch also makes weed control easier and conserves moisture in the soil during dry spells.
Before we spread the mulch, I removed any early weeds and cleaned up fallen branches and dead stalks. I made a dent in the billions of gum balls which fell during the winter, but any time there’s a good wind, a billion more appear. For now, at least, the beds look neat and clean and ready for Real Spring…. if it ever arrives!
Stay Green, Good Friends!