Text 18 Mar MULCH!

So, this is the time of year I like to mulch beds… and this year I’ve taken it to an extreme. I’m no fan of turf. It’s a monoculture. It must be kept at a well-manicured height. It’s boring. It provides very little habitat or food for bugs, birds, and animals… including me!

In order to remedy my plethora of turf I purchased about twenty cubic yards of mulch from the Raleigh Yard Waste Facility (the place where they collect and compost all the leaves people rake to the curb, and where they shred all the branches and trees the city must clean up after storms and around power lines, etc).

This adventure began by driving my poor little, 23 year old truck out there and having a bulldozer drop a bucket of wood mulch in the bed.

This load of mulch cost me $15. Not bad for about 2-2.5 yards of mulch! I was pleased with the value and the level of decomposition of the mulch, so I went back for another round (after I had spent about an hour or so spreading this mulch around).

Obviously, the bulldozer operator for the second load was a bit heavier handed… maybe there was a bet going to see if I would actually drive off with my truck fishtailing under the crushing load. If so, anyone betting against me lost.

After limping home, waiting for the impending blue lights to pop up any second, I decided I should investigate an alternate method for transporting cheap mulch from the city. (P.S. I had a tarp ratchet-strapped over both of these loads… I wasn’t just driving down the highway with mulch spraying off the back!)

I talked with a friend who owns a landscape design company and she suggested I hire a dump truck to go out to the Yard Waste Center and do my heavy lifting for me. I took her advice and this is what landed in my driveway a day later.

Beautiful, isn’t it? Not only did I take my friend’s advice about hiring the truck, but I also took her advice about what type of mulch to buy from they city. Her opinion is that the leaf mulch is better than the wood mulch because it will break down faster and looks better. And she was right. This mulch is great!

Not only that, but this pile of about 15-16 cubic yards of mulch, plus delivery, cost me only $135!

So, what does one do with 15 cubic yards of rotted leaf mulch? My answer is… kill grass! Since I love food, flowers, herbs, and wildlife I decided to establish a bunch of new garden beds while eradicating as much turf as possible. But first, let me explain the initial step in this turf/garden exchange.

This past fall, instead of raking my leaves to the curb to have them collected by the city or raking them back into my forested area, I left most of them where they lay (which was in the yard). I sculpted the edges where I was pretty sure I wanted the gardens to stop and then left the leaves sitting there for a couple of months. If you’re familiar with the Permaculture practice of sheet mulching you might find this step akin to laying down cardboard beneath the thick layer of mulch. Four inches of dead leaves does almost as good a job as 3/16” of cardboad.

Here you can see the basic arch of the garden edge. I’m not a huge fan of turf, but for the time being I will keep a bit of it.

And here is a shot of the same area as the previous picture, but taken from a different angle (standing on my front steps)… and taken after spreading a 6-8” layer of rotted leaf mulch over the 4” of dried leaves! I left walkways blank as I mulched, and went back later to fill in with fresh wood chips…

Here is the “final” product. Of course, a ton of plants will be living in these beds soon so it’s not really final yet, but as far as mulching goes, this is complete. The wood chips were delivered by a local stump grinding business which usually has to pay to dispose of their “debris” at the Yard Waste Facility (where I would later go to buy it). By saving them the trip out there and the fee for dumping, I got all the wood chips I could handle for FREE. Free delivery as well. Can’t beat that price, right?

And the front yard wasn’t the only spot that got mulched. Those big piles went pretty far.

There are a few more little spots here and there I mulched around established plants and added to established beds… but you get the picture!

And while I was giving my yard a facelift, I decided it was time to replace the old, clunky kiwi trellis I built a couple of years ago. My brother came into town one weekend and I put him to work helping to assemble a bamboo structure to be the new home for my vines. (There is a family in my neighborhood who is “plagued” by rampant growth of bamboo in their yard… so I obliged by cutting some of it down to use for building projects. Score!)

Before…

After!

Now that I have the infrastructure in place for these new garden beds, the enjoyable task of filling them with plants is next on the docket. I’ll update with those pictures soon….


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