Tell “Hippie Mulch” what you think of it


There’s a new product in the works, and the makers have asked students at the University of St. Thomas  (“one of the most highly renowned business schools in the globe,” they tell me) to research “the best way to get into our consumers minds and figure out what their priorities are.”  Toward that end, they’re asking us to take a quick survey about the product – a spray-on mulch colerant called Hippie Mulch.  Yes, I did ask if this was a joke and was told they’re “EXTREMELY SERIOUS” about this, and they really want our feedback about it, so let’s give ’em some.

First, the product itself is one that many of us disapprove of on aesthetic grounds, and I’m in that camp myself.  The Hippie Mulch website describes faded mulch as a problem that must be fixed, either by adding more mulch or using a colorant, but of course I disagree.  From that mistaken assumption, they derive the whole tree-saving pitch – “One jar can save up to 8 trees” – because without their product, we’d be buying more mulch, and “New mulch involves cutting down trees, and burning diesel fuel during the grinding and transportation process. We felt that a hippie would probably choose to save a few trees, and avoid the additional exhaust from the diesel fuel.”

But actual gardeners know that mulch is about much more than aesthetics – we want the stuff to break down and improve the soil.  Replacing mulch every year is the one big thing I do for my garden, besides water.  I asked the Hippie Mulch team about this and was told that “Many horticulturists are proud of their gardens and keeping them looking “fresh” (in addition to healthy) is of the utmost importance.”  Right.

Next, what’s in the stuff? Don’t look to the website for that answer, beyond the marketing language that it’s a “a unique blend of environmentally friendly additives and binders allow the color to penetrate the wood surface, lock on to the fibers, and adhere for long lasting beauty”.

Wouldn’t a good hippie want to see the ingredient list?  This hippie sure would.

Yes, I happen to have been a ’60s hippie in good standing myself and have actual memories of using some of the language used on the Hippie Mulch website – “blow my mind,”  “chill time,”  “Peace, man.”  Oh, yes, I did!  And how about the colors this stuff comes in:  beatnik brown, dig-it dark brown, bellbottom black, groovy gold, ringo red, and rush red.

Okay, I’ll admit it – the language is really annoying.

Take the Survey, or Leave a Comment

Again if you’re wondering if this is a late April Fool’s joke, I was told that that question is “slightly offensive” and that “The company we are working with has paid St. Thomas U. and the Small Business Institute for our consulting work and this is the equivalent of a Thesis for our major. We have poured countless hours into serving our client and the only thing we get out of this (other than real world experience) is a final college credit. Thus far, every single blog that we have reached out to has taken this seriously, as I believe you should too.”

So I guess I should just chill.  Peace, man!


  1. I feel like I’m on a bad trip. Maybe Ron Popeil is behind this: it’s like spray Hair In A Can for your mulch. And I’m sure the results are just as valuable.

  2. Wow, man, that’s some weird shit you’ve been smokin’ at the University!

    Another lame and unnecessary garden product/marketing idea from those who have never actually had their hands in the soil. Come on, brilliant young people, stop thinking about a quick buck/fad and come up with something to make the world a better place!

  3. They just want us to say, “Cool, Baby!” But the real deal is that we’re not spraying anything on our gardens until we know what’s in it. Because what’s in it is going to end up in our rivers and lakes, or in my case the Chesapeake Bay. And I’m a bit protective there.

  4. Wow man, like this is some bad sh*t someone has been smokin’. Clearly they’re going for some sort of niche market of which I am not. Took the survey.

  5. No comment on the mulch paint.

    However, if they are serious about “serving their client” they should take your question about whether this is an April’s Fool joke as a serious caution flag. Ideas like this often emerge out of an echo chamber of the “yes man” variety, and that serves neither the (potential) consumer nor the marketing folks.

  6. That was a very poorly designed questionnaire! The results will be misleading as it does not permit you to disagree with concept of spray-on mulch color. heck, I don’t even use colored mulch. I buy, in bulk, partially decomposed fine hardwood mulch, which is a rich color and breaks down easily. It is in demand by horticulturists as the local source delivers it to public gardens hundreds of miles away.

  7. We just don’t see any interest in colored mulch in these parts. I guess it’s for dying those mulch volcanoes that are apparently so popular back east. I like the part where they greenwash their product by saying it will help postpone using more mulch from trees that have to be cut down.

  8. Is the hippie in the above photo going to spray her groovy color right onto the weeds that are behind her? Imagine the buckets of ringo red she’d have to go through to smother those babies.

  9. Landscape Design with groundcovers.


    Shall we go into how bad purchased mulch is for the environment?

    Wing Haven & Elizabeth Lawrence’s gardens use historically correct leaf litter mulch. Nothing to buy, fabulous for soil.

    Garden & Be Well, XO Tara

  10. There’s definitely a market for it. Plenty of people ask me about mulch and their main concerns are how long does it last and does the color fade out. I think the students will learn a valuable lesson about market segmentation. The “gardeners” they are looking for are more the “yard maintenance” type than the horticulture hobbyists here. Plenty of people would probably happily paint their 5″ deep, rot-resistant cypress mulch around their little row of clipped balls and boxes and that thing with the flowers in the spring rather than topping it off again to renew the basketball orange color. That type of gardener outnumbers the Garden Rant type 100 to 1. They’re just at Home Depot, not Garden Rant. Put it near the pallets of Scott’s 30 step fertilizer sales system and it’ll probably do pretty well. Use the words “safe” and “natural” in the packaging.

  11. OK, just took the survey. Here’s what I think. The smartass students at St. Thomas University (which apparently is a real place) are secretly having a good laugh on us gardening dinosaurs. This survey is not about colored mulch — it is about the answers to the last few questions, about social media use & income. Nobody could possibly be in earnest about naming a product ‘hippie’ anything — could they?!

    One nice thing about the survey, dumb as it was …. (no place for my answer to the question about ‘how often do you replace your mulch?’ which is ‘I don’t replace my mulch, dude (or dodo), I add to it gradually as it breaks down’) …. it did allow for a couple of ‘fill in the blank’ answers. So I was at least able to use the word ‘hideous’. Though possibly that was a trick question too, to see what we gardeners/dinosaurs would say.

  12. This is so wrong. And I agree with the other posters about spraying the weeds to blend in. The survey was completely useless too. Really? This survey was made by business students? Wow, the standards are pretty low there.

    They should make a green spray, for people that want to hide their dandelion flowers.

  13. Maybe I’m nuts, but I prefer people to notice the color of my plants, not of the stuff around them. And when I can find it – finally becoming more common here in NOLA – I use pine straw, because those Formosan termites eat cypress mulch or any hardwood mulch and then move on the the old wood in houses.

  14. I’m a grad of St. Thomas (MA, English) and it is a good regional university here in Minnesota. The business program is particularly well-regarded. I’ve seen this product at a couple of garden shows (so it is real) and, like you, Susan, thought it missed the point of mulch. I’ve already responded to the survey with a comment to that effect, and encourage others to do the same.

  15. Y’all thought you were joking about spraying the weeds green, right? I used to live in a place where the mow & blow guy suggested spray-painting the dead areas of the boxwood green. He said he used to work at a very high-end estate where they did that! And he looked at me kind of strangely when I suggested carefully pruning out the dead (from dog pee) branches so that live foliage could grow into the spot.

    Calling it Hippie Mulch, they’re missing their demographic by not offering the hippiest color of all: tie-dye.

    Their next product: Punk Garden graffiti decals for your windows.

    Oh, and then Baby Boomer lounge chairs, extra wide, with an attached mini fridge so that you can, according to the marketing materials, “enjoy your garden without taking a step.”

    And this just in from the Clueless About Gardening ™ Company: tie-dye is available in roll-out carpeting for your garden. Now you can walk around your garden without getting a speck of dirt on you. And it’s saturated with insect repellent, so you’re surrounded in a protective halo as you walk on it. You never have to mow or weed it, and if you want a different color, get a can of Hippie Color tie-dye spray paint.

  16. Mulch is not about color. Mulch is about preserving soil tilth, preventing weeds and conserving moisture. If you are that worried about your huge expanses of bleached out mulch, then plant some more plants.

  17. We need Mike Meyers Coffe Talk from SNL for this one.

    Hippie mulch is neither made by hippies nor mulch. Discuss!

  18. Spray on the mulch. Roll out the green outdoor carpeting. Stick in some plastic flowers.


    Instant low maintenance gardening.

    Seriously, I won’t even waste my time taking the survey. Anyone that could come up with an idea like this wouldn’t want to know my opinion.

  19. The company does green lawn coloring too (that makes a little more sense than this)…I actually prefer the look of weathered mulch. What a weird product.

  20. I agree with Liz. I’m always a little embarrassed to have too much fresh mulch showing…it looks too brand spankin’ new, sort of like going around in new white sneakers.

  21. Until I moved to the East from MI, I don’t ever remember seeing a mulched tree. I call my neighbors mulch gardeners, not flower gardeners. I bet they’ll buy it.

  22. I’m in a new place and waiting for my plants to fill in and I do get grouchy about the way my mulch fades to a dun color. So theoretically I’d be interested in this stuff.

    Maybe, MAYBE, I’d spray with some kind of henna thing to make it less grey. Just to make sure the HOA doesn’t get mad at me*. But some random unknown chemical dye? No. I’d rather buy those disposable plants they sell at Home Depot and the grocery store.

    *My HOA board members are very, very nice people, but they are mostly real estate agents and, as such, have very conservative ideas of what a front yard should look like.

  23. I’m in the minority…I’d like to see what is in it, but since I mostly mulch with grass clippings (leaving a little aesthetically to be desired), I wouldn’t mind having this available at times….as long as it biodegrades, environmentally friendly, etc. It’s certainly no worse than a painted plastic gnome (you know who you are!)

  24. Still laughting, even after taking the survey which was pathetic. These guys haven’t a clue what questions to ask. As to the product, who would want to waste time and money spraying their mulch, let alone “replacing” it. Here mulch is made from scrap wood, another way of added value for the sawmills. Surely nobody cuts down trees especially to make them into mulch? Or maybe in a crackpot world that sells colorant for mulch, they do so help us.

  25. There have been a variety of sprayer-applied mulch dyes available to the landscape industry for at least twenty years – e.g., LESCO “Nu-Mulch.” In fact, a number of years ago a large property manager in Ohio told me the product saved his company $100,000 per year in the cost of mulch, transportation, and the labor to apply the mulch! (Potentially very environmentally friendly considering the amount of fuel saved?) Also, the various “colored” mulches available in bulk at garden centers across the country are dyed with the same type of material as the wood material is being ground – so, again, there’s nothing new about this product – other than it’s now being marketed directly to the consumer. There’s no question in my mind – for better or worse – that there is absolutely a market for this stuff!

  26. I have a client that would go for this. He bought the colored mulch aka ground pallets until he took a walk in the neighborhood and found a color of mulch (that looked better with his siding)some sort of fir mulch for $40/yd! Crazy man!!! Hey it must be safe she isn’t wearing any protective gear. I could save a commercial client a chunk of change by spraying on a color vs reapplying it all the time-at least its not stone. Hmmm maybe we could spray stone “mulch” to look like bark mulch. Must pursue this….peace out.

  27. Thanks for the laugh Susan!

    I took the survey only to be able to rank ‘dye-free’ as my priority for mulch.

  28. I hope everyone reading and commenting about this who writes a blog or a newspaper column will use it as fodder for educating the public about mulch, how valuable it is and why gardens need it.

    Ranting about this to each other is great fun, and some of your responses — well, I wish I had written them. But, I think we have to take this kind of crap seriously and keep preaching the gospel of good, sound environmental practices.

  29. Do they have color swatches available? I want to hold the samples next to my astro-turf lawn, vinyl picket fence and faux boulders to see what color looks the best.

  30. Sorry kids, but you are actually a little late on the whole idea of spray-on color. Down in Florida (naturally) maintenance companies have been using spray-on color for several years now. Duh, dudes.

  31. Spray on mulch color has been around for quite a while. Many years ago I worked for a “landscaper” who sprayed it on the cigarette butts and other trash in the mulched beds. Also sprayed anything overhanging the pathways to make the edges look neat…

  32. I agree with Jemma….why no tie dye?

    This is all rather ridiculous. I don’t understand why the’re trying to market this in such a way. It’s too forced of a connection and it just doesn’t work.

  33. I thought this had to be an Onion ad — you know, like the USB toaster and the underwater cell phone case. But then I read the response of the St. Thomas students to your inquiry about an April Fool’s joke and I realized that even the Onion writers could not assume the kind of guileless idiocy reflected in that response.

  34. Maybe it’s made from 100% real hippies (a la Soylent Green), and that’s why they won’t tell you what’s in it.

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