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Sunday, November 1, 2015

Free Mulch from the City

There is some debate about whether or not mulch created from the city's tree trimming and yard waste pickup program should be used for food production gardeners (or by anyone at all).  Tree trimmings and such may have been subject to pesticide and herbicide spray or over spray.  Perhaps some of the materials carry disease that can contaminate your own plants.  All valid concerns; however, it appears that the mulch created by our municipality is harmless in those regards: 
  • Beans, a particularly sensitive crop, thrived with this mulch
  • Various fungus bloomed and faded throughout the summer season
  • Earthworms are loving it under the mulch - we dug nearly 3 tree holes and saw less than half a dozen worms.  Where I have mulched, they are now proliferating.
One mostly full pickup truck bed of mulch = 54 five gallon buckets.

I think a contributing factor to the quality of the mulch is that it is regularly turned when it gets to the city's mulch yard. It gets steamy hot in many places, as evidenced by the steam rising from the various piles, and that contributes to the killing of pathogens and weed seeds and the breakdown of harmful chemicals.  They don't mix a younger pile into an older pile.

So after much consideration, I am now using the city's free mulch "everywhere."
  • In the paths between garden beds
  • Around young trees, and eventually about the larger trees in our pasture
  • On garden beds to "winterize" them
  • As the bottom layer of my compost pile
Future uses
  • Sifted to incorporate the finer pieces into my garden beds
  • As the "litter" layer to my chicken run
  • In conjunction with cardboard and landscape fabric to deter weeds around the part of my home that we would like to keep looking "suburban" and along fence lines that I want to keep weed free so I can grow what I want along the fence lines
Speaking of cardboard, there are also debates about chemicals in cardboard.  The rain and the elements seem to be decomposing the cardboard with no ill effects, and it also actually seems to be quite beneficial.  Instead of hauling my boxes off to a recycle center, I used them as the underlay for various mulching projects.  After a few months of Southern heat and humidity, they are well broken down.  I imagine by next year I will not see any bits at all.  I've been retrieving the remnants of tape and labels, but even a lot of that appears to be decomposing.
Decomposing cardboard lifted from under mulch.
(Placed on winter killed grass for viewing purposes.)

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