Monday, July 4, 2011

What Color Mulch To Use? Free Mulch and a Cuppa Joe

Free wood chips
Where to find free mulch or woodchips?

Alongside our first home, with little cash, my husband and I landscaped the street side with cast off railroad ties and clearance junipers.  The tiered garden remains, but now the tiny twigs of shrubs nearly overwhelm the small brick home. 

Green gardening doesn't mean less green in the wallet.  There are creative ways to reuse materials meant for the landfill.

Lugging heavy bags of mulch home from the nursery is costly and hard on the back.  And those bags don't spread very far, do they? 

Ford Field

Each spring cities make mountains of recycled and chipped wood mulch available to gardeners in public parks.  This mulch can be used on gardens or to define pathways, and the pile is replenished weekly, through fall.  Starting in April, fill every available container and cart with this nicely shredded mulch. 

It's easy to distribute from gallon sized containers or a rolling garden cart and far less back breaking than shouldering heavy plastic bags.

Pre-puppy days, there was the occasional splurge on coco mulch.  The bags were light, and the contents easily distributed.  The deep brown mulch was expensive, but for a few days the garden smelled like chocolate!

 Lovely indulgence. 

The finished look of natural wood is far more authentic than brightly dyed chips. 

Unlike a purse and shoes, it's not fashionable to match the bricks to the mulch.

There's no bright red mulch in nature, unless one lives in central Georgia, perhaps.  For the rest of us, mulch should be subdued, framing the plants, suppressing weeds and keeping moisture in the soil.

Don't heap mulch up around the base of a tree, it's terribly unhealthy.  Leave at least a foot around the trunk.  The roots should taper outward like clawed feet
Love coffee?  So do evergreens, hydrangeas, ferns, azaleas, and other "acid loving" shrubs, trees and plants.  Starbucks offers a free grounds recycling program called "Grounds for the Garden."  Used coffee grounds are packaged in recycled silver packets and sealed with a flowery sticker.  On a daily basis the used grounds are found packaged and piled in a brass bucket near the entrance of the coffee shop.  If the bucket is empty, ask the barista for a bag of grounds.  Or, ask if you can call ahead for grounds. The car will smell extraordinary during the ride home.

Sprinkle the (cooled) grounds around the base of  each plant or shrub, water, or let just the rain slowly dissolve the compost.

Otherwise, fill a watering can with warm water and toss some grounds into the mix, for a quick approach.

Either way, the garden, and the gardener, will enjoy a well deserved coffee break.

More Articles of Interest:

Container Gardens -- Pots on the Spot

The Four "C's" of Curb Appeal

Turn Over An Old Leaf -- How to Compost