Friday, June 10, 2011

mulch per se

Though I've mentioned mulch in 13 out of 96 postings (well, OK, today's venture will make it 14 out of 98!), I've never designated mulch as a topic, nor have I included it, until now, in my list of searchable labels.

I've thought many times about describing the typical components of our mulch, with its range of color variations, or about how it's collected and applied. I've also thought about comparing our 'free' mulch to the packaged stuff that's purchased by neighbors who regularly throw away the kind of thing I like to spread on the narcissus bed.

Impetus to focus on mulch today came at last from a recent UC Davis blog post citing mulch's legal status as part of the 1990 Water Conservation in Landscaping Act (AB325). Further Googling of this ordinance reveals that it was refined into AB1881 (2006) and implemented locally at the end of 2009. Besides mulching, this body of legislation encourages the use of recycled water and discourages planting of invasive species. Right up my alley, eh?

It's nice to know that Steve and I are in full compliance with state and local laws on water conservation (like, no lavishing of potable water on plants between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., no watering for more than 15 minutes at a time, no water running into the street, etc.), but I started out to talk about mulch. Mulch is required by law in large and/or public and/or newly developed spaces because it saves a significant amount of water. We fall outside these categories but mulch anyway.

The bulk of our mulch consists of leaves, twigs, and seed pods from our street trees, the venerable Chinese evergreen elms. The leaves are small, so they break down quickly into a fine leaf mold. Other tree leaves include eugenia and bottlebrush, plus a huge supply of pine needles. The oily bottlebrush leaves stay green and pliable longer than the elm leaves, but the waxy eugenia leaves curl and turn crunchy as they dry to an orange-y brown. The eugenia produces an ornamental cherry, so that our weeds include an occasional seedling of eugenia or elm. All of these trees are evergreens. There's no glut of fall leaves here, and this is good since we need mulch year-round.

Red flowers from the bottlebrush tree and our neighbors' bouganvilleas lend a seasonal topping to our mulch. Being very light, they rise to the surface and keep their color for a long time.

Steve sweeps up this mix of leaves and blossoms from our driveway, sidewalk, and garden paths, and puts it in boxes for me to spread as needed. Recently I bought a large grey plastic trash can especially for this purpose.

Since our rampant nasturtiums have mostly faded, I've been heaping them, with their mature seeds, on bare spots where foliage from bulbs has dried out. A large infusion of sweet pea vines will complete these piles, which I'll stomp down  a bit before topping them off with leafy sweepings. In accordance with permaculture practrice, this covering will not be disturbed or removed. Volunteer nasturtiums and sweet peas will start popping through it as soon as the fall rains come. Freesias and hyacinths will burst forth on their secret schedules. Mulch is an investment in future beauty, but not all that bad looking in itself.

Mulch per se.


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POSToccupations by Frances Talbott-White is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License