Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Making my own Mulch

The last few days I've felt like I looked so silly out in the garden. I'm trying something new this year, and its very out of the box for me. See, normally, every fall I leave most of the garden in tact, blow and/or rake some leaves over the beds, and wait for a blanket of snow. Some years we put a layer of compost in over the beds, but not every fall. Winter lays heavy over the remnants of last years garden, and often creates some fun structural images, like the dead heads of Echinacea flowers with snow topping them like ice cream cones. I do this for several reasons. First, in a zone 4 garden you should never prune a rose after September 1st- and if I'm not out there pruning roses, I tend to not want to take cutters to anything else. Second, the seed heads of many flowers (including rose hips) feed the birds through fall and into winter- watch and you can see the finches hoping from flower to flower eating. Third, the natural progression of things has always resulted in fun reseeding, and I love that--- finding where Verbena Bonariensis, Nicotiana, Lamb's Ear, Rudbeckia, alyssum and Penstemon would like to grow the following year is an adventure- and helps create the natural look to the garden that I love. Also, I simply poop out on heavy garden chores by fall- I've got my mind on knitting, and baking. I let the garden sort of "be" and by spring I am watching the snow melt drip by drip so I can run out there and joyously clean up the garden. In years past I've gone through each bed, and clipped all the dead matter, loaded up loads and loads of wheel barrels full, and hauled it into the compost, or worse even to the city compost by the truck load. Suddenly, it occurs to me how silly this is. So much added work... for what? A clean bed for a few weeks this time of year before everything grows back over it again? All of the matter, if broken up small enough, will decompose no matter where I've put it.

This year I'm taking on the tedious task of clipping all of last years dead matter into smaller bits like mulch, with my hand pruners, and dropping it where it be. The result isn't a nicely manicured bed with the bags load of cedar mulch from the hardware store... instead its a natural, chaotic, quilt of many colors. The pale hollow stems of last years lilies and mallow, the seed heads of every imaginable shape and size, and decaying leaves of all hues, left to lay. So picture me, standing gingerly among the newly sprouting perennial tops, carefully avoiding the long wispy branches of roses that I have yet to hard prune, holding 5 feet of stem and chopping, clipping, cutting and occasionally breaking with my hands, pieces flying in every direction. Its awful silly. I'm sure the neighbors think- what on earth is she doing? Well naturally, I'm making my own mulch.

I'm almost done- finished about 75% of the beds, and plan on completing the rest in the next day or two. So much less work than hauling it all away, and I'm just sure its somehow a better choice. Eventually this spring I may top some of the roses and clematis with blanket of fresh compost from our pile.

Now if I can just hold tight while the plants cover it all up. I must resist the urge to go buy uniform cedar mulch. I have got to remind myself this is a better, more economically and eco-friendly option. After all, it won't be long before the lysimachia, ferns, and daylily foliage is all you see-- and the before the leafy perennials cover all of last years matter turned mulch, the tulips and daffodils will serve as a nice distraction.

Happy gardening!

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