May 27th, 2011
It’s almost time for my long-suffering husband to complain about the mountain of mulch clogging our driveway. How long is it going to be there? How much did it cost? Like any crafty gardener, my answer is straightforward:
I don’t know, dear, but think how beautiful the flower beds will be!
The debris in the driveway testifies to the fact that I’ve outgrown the torture and expense of lugging bags of mulch home from the nurseries. Seven years ago I toured the local sawmill and ordered five yards of Sweet Peet. Two days later a rumbling truck deposited a glorious stack of organic goodness onto my driveway.
Such riches! Soft, warm, dark in color and smelling faintly of the horse bedding from which it’s derived, I finally had enough material to do my entire garden. The wheelbarrows, five- gallon buckets and teenagers were busy for weeks.
Why is mulch so important? Several reasons. It keeps soil moisture in and weeds out; it looks good, it prevents erosion, and maintains soil temperature. And if all that weren’t enough, mulching organically adds soil fertility to garden beds.
Many types of material can be used as mulch, but should they? For my taste, pine nuggets are too big, stone chips are too reflective, and colored mulch just doesn’t look natural. I don’t use landscape fabric, either, because it tends to uglify the neighborhood by peeking up at inopportune times. Never use peat moss; it’s too dry.
Nope, I like natural-looking organic mulches, dark brown in color. I prefer Sweet Peet and its cousin, Agrimix. These products look at home in the New England garden, are lightweight and easy to apply. If you don’t have a large enough garden to warrant the dump truck in your driveway, Cooper’s sells Sweet Peet in 1 ½ cubic bags, for $10. And there are many other types of bagged mulch available at nurseries.
Whatever product you use, apply it roughly 2” deep, and snug it right up to, but not on top of your plants. Remember, however, that an application of mulch may well smother any garden seedlings you’re anticipating, such as spider flower or love-in-a-mist. It might be best to apply mulch after these self-sowers have emerged in May.
I like to get my mulch right about now and start using it immediately. After the beds are done, a small pile remains, which I’ll need to replenish a few areas after transplant chores are completed later in the season. These leftovers, innocently blocking only one bay of the garage, are additional cause for spousal complaint.
But no matter, get out the wheelbarrows, shovels, pitchforks and buckets. Tote those bags; put your shoulder to the wheel. Enlist the teenagers, bribe the neighbor kid, and shanghai the ‘tweens. It’s time to mulch!
And if there are still objections, sweetly tell your mate that the sooner he pitches in, the sooner the driveway will return to its original use