Unmulched ground does look naked and unhealthy, yet many of my neighbors fail to put a stitch on their perennials and then wonder why they don’t do well. Like Ruth, I’ve got a trickle-down theory of the soil. That everything good comes from the top in nature. So, the best way to enrich a garden bed, too, is from the top.
The Royal Horticultural Society may recommend double-digging instead (is this information for people with servants?), but I barely stuck my first shovel into the rocky ground of Washington County, NY in 1992 before concluding that no double-digging would occur on my watch. And I really like to dig, but sheesh, life is short and the art is long! And besides, you’re messing with the soil structure and Amy Stewart’s beloved worms that way. Can double-digging possibly be as good as a more laissez-faire approach? My gardener’s gut says it can’t, though the science of no-till versus excavate-the-place-to-bits really seems to depend on where you’re gardening and when.
I’ve always used straw to mulch my vegetable garden, but that practice has come to an abrupt end. Last year, I made a new garden at a weekend place in the country with particularly rich, wet clay soil, and the straw yielded scary fountains of grass. This year, I’m trying mowed-up leaves.
I do my ornamental gardening in the city, where I’ve been trying to alternate years of pine bark mulch with years of nice city-produced compost in order to improve the fertility of the sandy ground. My problem here is getting mass quantities delivered and deposited in an urban neighborhood.
For the past two seasons, I’ve argued my husband into giving up his parking space on the alley, on the theory that it’s so much cheaper and more convenient and more ecologically sound to buy a truckload of locally-produced mulch than dozens of bags shipped from forests far away.
You wouldn’t want to be married to me, either…
Of course, once he parks on the street, we inevitably forget to move his car to the alternate side at 7:59 every morning, and it winds up taking me all season to wheelbarrow away 7 yards of mulch. So I generally harvest $200 worth of parking tickets for the $100 I save by buying in bulk.
I don’t even want to take up the argument this year, my performance was so miserable last year. Instead, this week I made my first trip of the season to Wal-Mart.
Now I don’t go to Wal-Mart for anything, having read approximately 150 completely indecent news stories over the last few years about the company as an employer: locking employees in at night to prevent pilfering and who cares if they can’t get out in an emergency, sex discrimination, attempts to drive away more expensive long-time employees by taking set schedules away from them, attempts to drive away the less healthy employees by forcing them to do laborious tasks, spying on employees, telling the world your employees were having an affair, need I go on?
But I’m this much of a hypocrite: I will buy pine bark mulch there, since they charge at least a dollar less a bag than anybody else. And I need loads of it. I’m not sure 50 bags even will do the job.