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Old 12-19-2003, 08:48 PM
yardmonkey yardmonkey is offline
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Organic Mulch

I just posted in a thread in the Landscaping Forum and thought it might be useful to post it here also. The subject is favorite mulches (for applying to shrub/flower beds). There were 20 or 30 posts before I got there and everyone is talking about bark mulch (or even rubber mulch!). So maybe we need an Organic Landscaping forum? Well, since the organicly oriented are over here and since this has to do with taking care of yards (and what to do with "lawn waste"), I decided to repeat the post here:


OK - my favorite mulch? I have three:

Shredded Leaves -
Instead of bagging and hauling off leaves, I prefer to shred them (I use my mower, but a chipper/shredder, blower/vac or Billy Goat might be even better) and use them on site as mulch. Sometimes I even bag the extra and leave it there to use later or take it away to use elsewhere. One of the best things you can do for the soil and earthworms love it. Many people just leave the leaves in beds as mulch but this is not so attractive and unshredded leaves take a while to break down plus they can mat up and kind of seal the ground up. Shredded leaves can be applied pretty thick and they can be attractive. Best of all - no cost.

Grass Clippings -
Another freebie. I usually mulch-mow, but it doesn't hurt to bag some now and then if needed for mulch. They say you need to dry the clippings first. A way around that is just don't put them on too thick. You can always add more. Another great soil builder and worm food. Excellent for keeping weeds down.

Compost -
Often said to be prohibitively expensive. Maybe, but where I live its free - from the municipal compost facility. But they don't screen it or grind it fine enough so there is a lot of wood chunks in it. So I have to screen it myself. Takes me an hour to screen a truckload. I made a screen to fit over the back of the truckbed (leftover 2"x4"s and a roll of 1/2" hardware cloth). I throw about 15 shovels onto it, then push it around with gloved hands, then flip the wood chunks over the side. Nice and black. Very attractive. Good for the soil.

Yes I use the standard cypress mulch (or cedar if requested) and that is quick and easy. And quite appropriate for a permanent shrub installation. But for really nice gardening/landscaping, I like to use the stuff that builds the soil. (yeah I'm one of those "organic" types)
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Old 04-24-2007, 07:54 AM
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LONEMAN LONEMAN is offline
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Hey yardmonkey- I am going organic as well and one of my customers asked me about leaf mulch. Does the stuff hold well or does it wash away easily? I would be using it as the actual mulch and wanted to see what your experience is with that. I'll send you a PM since this thread is old.
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Old 04-24-2007, 08:23 AM
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LONEMAN LONEMAN is offline
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For some reason, I thought I found this thread in the commercial landscaping forum then I saw my post in the organic lawn care forum, so never mind that comment on the organic lawn care forum.
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Old 04-24-2007, 12:55 PM
yardmonkey yardmonkey is offline
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In general I would say shredded leaf mulch "holds well". It can kind of form a mat like any mulch so that it doesn't just blow away in the wind. But it probably doesn't do as well with washing away if its under a roof or a downspout with water running right onto it. Its a good idea to water it down when it is applied.

I did a huge leaf cleanup at a yard last fall where I chopped up a couple of truckloads worth of leaves and applied them liberally to lots of the beds around the house. Just mowed there yesterday (4 months later) and the beds look really nice. These people are fanatic gardeners and they really appreciated it. Probably these beds would otherwise not be mulched, even though they take good care of their yard. Lots of shade, so not a huge weed problem in the beds anyway.

On some other properties, I just can't stand to see unmulched beds with shrubs drying out and weeds getting out of control. Some customers don't care what I do, so I can improve the property and get paid for it, and not have to haul off leaves. At one property, I totally turned around a bed of vinca minor that was full of weeds and very thin with vinca for a long time (they said they had been trying to get it under control for 20 years). After fighting weeds and planting more vinca for several years, I finally piled on leaf mulch and now there is no more weeding and the vinca has thickened up. I also use shredded leaves as a base for my own compost piles.

I sometimes take home bags of shredded leaves and I will charge other customers $5 a bag if I use them at their properties.

Its good stuff! I usually say its better than any mulch you can buy.

If you or a customer is wondering about it, just try it. Nothing to lose, eh?
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Old 05-15-2007, 08:19 AM
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LONEMAN LONEMAN is offline
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Thanks for the reply. Sorry it took so long to follow up on your post. I'm about to get leaf mulch for a customer of mine, and since they bed areas are fairly small, it should be an easy job. It sounds like you actually put down shredded leaves so I'm assuming all I have to do is chop them up and then use it as mulch? I actually thought they had to be decomposing before mulching. I guess I'll go ahead and start cutting up some leaves?
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Old 05-15-2007, 10:51 AM
yardmonkey yardmonkey is offline
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yeah - just chop em up and put em down. I just pile them up in the street and shred them with my mower. this year I started to use the side discharge chute to speed that up. but its good to go over it in mulching mode also. leaves can be used anytime. grass clippings need to be dried out before applying too thick. the leaves will decompose on the beds and be gone within a year. the plants and the worms and everything in the soil should be happy.
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Old 05-15-2007, 01:09 PM
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LONEMAN LONEMAN is offline
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That sounds great. I'll have to take before/after pics of the job. Looking forward to doing something totally different from what I usually do and enjoying it while I'm at it cuz I know it's for the better.
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