A Gardener’s Dream: Free Compost & Mulch

Wood Bark Mulch
Wood Bark Mulch

Where would a gardener or landscaper be without compost and mulch?  What better way to build up the soil and smother the weeds?  Adding mulch of any kind to your garden or landscape helps keep moisture content in the soil, dresses up the landscape and helps control weeds.

By definition, mulch can consist of anything that is placed on the ground to prevent evaporation of moisture, the freezing of roots, and the growth of weeds. Common materials used for mulch include rock, wood chips, plastic, pine needles, and shredded leaves.  However, there are many materials that work well including recycled rubber, sawdust, and oyster shells.

When considering what materials to use for mulching landscape and gardens, it is helpful to consider the purpose of the mulch and what the area will be used for long term.  Landscape rock is attractive and doesn’t break down like organic mulch, but it is more difficult to work with because of the volume and weight.  It also needs to be cleaned periodically to keep seedlings from overtaking the area.  An application of a corn gluten product such as St. Gabriel Laboratories Premerge All Natural Weed Control is an effective way to prevent growth of weeds in mulched areas.

Organic materials such as bark chips, shredded leaves, and pine needles are an excellent choice for mulching gardens and around walkways.  The material breaks down over a period of time and creates a rich, organic addition to the garden.  Turning the mulch periodically helps it break down and reduces the growth of molds and fungus, which can be an issue in areas that are very moist.   The decomposed bottom layer of mulch can be removed and added to gardens for an organic boost, and a top layer of fresh mulch can be added each season to freshen up the look.

Many communities offer residents access to organic mulch that can be picked up from a designated site, usually for little or no cost.  Lawn and garden centers offer packaged bags of mulch which is an affordable way to obtain it.  Bagged mulch is often easier to handle since the bags can be transported in the trunk of a vehicle and moved to the location to be covered one or two bags at a time.

If you have a large area to cover and don’t have a truck or trailer to haul mulch, you’ll probably want to check with a local landscape supply center and have it delivered by the  truck.  Mulch in bulk is sold by the “yard.”  To determine how much mulch you will need to cover an area, Click Here.

We are fortunate to live just a few blocks from the community mulch pile, and added bonus – free compost!  Truly a gardener’s dream come true.  Even better is the 15 bags of shredded oak leaf mulch that the gorgeous oak trees in the front and back yard produce each fall.  Last year I emptied the shredder bag right onto a tarp and dragged the tarp to the landscape area and unloaded, so I didn’t even bother with lawn bags.  It’s a scramble to get the leaves mulched before the snow falls, especially if it’s a very wet fall, but once the leaves dry out enough, I can shred both the front and back lawns in a few hours.  It’s not necessary to shred the leaves, but they seem to stay put better and break down faster when they’re reduced to dime-sized pieces.

By using mulch to maintain moisture and reduce weed growth, a gardener can spend more time tending gardens and less time fighting the growth of unwanted vegetation.

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