• Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic
permaculture forums growies critters building homesteading energy monies kitchen purity ungarbage community wilderness fiber arts art permaculture artisans regional education skip experiences global resources the cider press projects digital market permies.com private forums all forums
this forum made possible by our volunteer staff, including ...
master stewards:
  • Nicole Alderman
  • Anne Miller
  • Pearl Sutton
  • r ranson
  • Mike Haasl
  • James Freyr
stewards:
  • paul wheaton
  • Joylynn Hardesty
  • Burra Maluca
garden masters:
  • Steve Thorn
  • Greg Martin
gardeners:
  • Kate Downham
  • Jay Angler
  • thomas rubino

Please Critique my Mulch Recipe

 
Posts: 65
Location: Central NJ, Zone 6b
20
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

When I put in the borders at my new house, I used arborist wood chip mulch. The load I received had a wide variety of size chips in it, and it looked terribly messy, even after I picked out the biggest chips and stringy stuff.  It just didn't go with the character of the house.  

These were my criteria for an ideal mulch:
- Had to function well as a mulch (obviously)
- Had to look neat and tidy, which required it to be fairly homogeneous - but not too homogeneous, because then it would look unnatural and any stray leaf or stick would make it look awful.
- Not too light color-wise
- Cheap, and involving a minimum of store-bought material


I came up with mixture of materials that seems to be working out very well for me, but I wanted to get your opinions on any potential pitfalls.  I can't seem to find any info anywhere on using microshredded corrugated as mulch, and I am wondering if I am missing some major problem with it.

Recipe:
1 part sifted wood chips. These have been sifted through a 1-inch screen out of the arborist wood chips I originally received, and as the load contained leafy  materials, they are pretty nice. I also sometimes have chips from ramial wood I've put through my own shredder in the mix.
1 part micro-shredded corrugated cardboard
1 part bagged shredded hardwood mulch.  This comes from a reputable source - no recycled wood or coloring agents and aged 8-12 mos. Purchased at a local place and produced in eastern PA, so it's at least semi-local.

These three materials together create a nice naturalistic look and hold moisture like crazy - especially the micro-shredded corrugated.  Once it is saturated the first time, it acts like a sponge.  It has some downsides, including that it is pretty labor-intensive.  

I'd be happy to share more details and answer any questions.   Thank you.
 
gardener
Posts: 1618
Location: Los Angeles, CA
423
hugelkultur forest garden books urban chicken food preservation
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Sounds great, albeit, it's a bit of extra work.

If you mulch with this for any length of time, the fungal community will grow quickly and extensively.  Which then means that your mulch will disappear in about 6 months and you'll need to drop another 6 inches of wood chips down again.  That's GOOD.  But if your concern is with the appearance, you'll be doing all that work all over again.  And again.

Sometimes I'll get a load of wood chips that are absolutely perfect.  Small, consistent color, no junk in them . . . and that stuff looks so lovely when you put it down and rake it out.  Those loads are maybe once every 10 truck loads.  But even with really junky looking mulch, within 2 months, it all looks the same.  Stuff breaks down so quickly.

There are some on these forums (including the founder, Paul Wheaton) who have misgivings about using cardboard.  While I use it in my garden, I'm aware of the possibility that there may be chemicals used in the making of cardboard that I am importing into my garden.  So be aware of that.  I usually only use cardboard when I'm trying to smother something (like grass or one too many comfrey plants).

Best of luck.
 
Elizabeth Geller
Posts: 65
Location: Central NJ, Zone 6b
20
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Thanks, Marco.

It is more than a "bit" of extra work, to be honest.  It's a lot of extra work, but I tend to enjoy a certain amount of mindless repetitive labor.   It's a nice change from my real job.  If I ever do get a perfect gorgeous load of wood chips, I'll definitely use them directly, though!

I've read Paul's and others comments on both using cardboard and on "importing material," and I've taken those into consideration.  I've decided that for me, right now, the pros outweigh the cons, however.

I did have quite a number of moving boxes to shred, but they go quick.  Since then, I've been bringing in cardboard.  I try to be careful not to use anything that seems obviously contaminated, and I don't use anything too heavily printed.  On the question of whether it's better to recycle or use the cardboard - well, these days, more recyclables than ever are going into landfills, and I get the majority of my cardboard from work.  It's an office building, and unfortunately, I know that the cardboard doesn't even get pulled out of the waste stream.  Most of what I use is inevitably landfill-bound, so my conscience is clear on that front.

Oh, for what it's worth, I'm using the regular arborist wood chip mulch in the back.   I think it was someone on this forum who described their property as a "mullet," as in "business in the front, party in the back."  Yep, that sounds about right for me too. :)


 
Marco Banks
gardener
Posts: 1618
Location: Los Angeles, CA
423
hugelkultur forest garden books urban chicken food preservation
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
LOVE the mullet philosophy.

I used to be that way, until one summer I "accidentley" planted some watermelon seeds in the front yard.  And so it begins.

Now I regularly plant things like beets or peppers in the front.  I've got a couple of artichokes up there now as well.  They look like ornamentals, but they taste like yummy.

As for "bringing things in", I consider keeping the wood chips that are generated in my neighborhood in my yard as a kind of carbon sequestration.  I'd much rather they dump them in my driveway than have them drive them 40 miles out to Fontana or somewhere far away, only to dump them in a landfill.  It's clean mulch.  It goes from tree, through the chipper, to my driveway, to the orchard, bing, bang, boom.  

If you don't mind that extra work, more power to ya.  (Which reminds me of a joke my dad used to say when we were working on home projects: "If you want to play with electricity, more power to ya."

Rock on.
 
pollinator
Posts: 1734
Location: Big Island, Hawaii (2300' elevation, 60" avg. annual rainfall, temp range 55-80 degrees F)
634
forest garden rabbit tiny house books solar woodworking
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I don't see anything wrong with your formula except that's it's a lot of work and time. If you don't mind putting in the effort, then it's just fine.
 
Elizabeth Geller
Posts: 65
Location: Central NJ, Zone 6b
20
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

Marco Banks wrote:LOVE the mullet philosophy.

I used to be that way, until one summer I "accidentley" planted some watermelon seeds in the front yard.  And so it begins.

Now I regularly plant things like beets or peppers in the front.  I've got a couple of artichokes up there now as well.  They look like ornamentals, but they taste like yummy.


Oh, don’t get me wrong.  I will have edibles in the front, both on a temporary basis next summer and permanently thereafter.  It’s more about keeping the tidy look than about growing ornamentals. The house is a cute little navy blue bungalow with white trim, and it has a very New England/ship-shape kind of feel.  I think a cottage-garden feel with well-defined edging and geometric-ish borders will be the best look.

Right now, I don’t have enough sun in the back for most vegetables, but there is an overhanging trunk/branch from my neighbor’s tree that I am going to have taken down because the whole thing seems unhealthy and all too likely to split off and squash my house in a storm. That should also mitigate the sun problem, and I will put in a raised bed after I observe the new sun patterns.   I might do a free-form bed just for fun.

So next summer, a side bed in the front will have tomatoes and things.  I’ll just make sure the trellises are attractive.  Thereafter, that bed will probably get some perennial vegetables mixed with other plants. The house has no foundation plantings to speak of, and I’m thinking of making and acid bed with blueberries and lingonberries.  

Of course I will also have a fig tree and put in an herb spiral-type thing at some point.
 
pollinator
Posts: 270
Location: Haiti
27
forest garden rabbit greening the desert
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Your much recipe is much nicer than mine! In my case, I use what I can get. It looks like a mess. Hubs keeps asking me questions that basically come down to "do you have any idea what you're doing?" But starting with COMPLETELY infertile soil (solid clay basically), I had to do something. I just shred any organic matter or just throw it in. Paper cardboard, chicken guts (they get buried), sawdust and shavings (over and under food waste that gets buried directly in the garden), chopped local weeds and plants, lake weed dead papaya trees, sugarcane scraps . . . Yeah. I think your recipe is fine! :)
 
Now I am super curious what sports would be like if we allowed drugs and tiny ads.
5 Ways to Transform Your Garden into a Low Water Garden
https://permies.com/t/97045/Reduce-garden-watering
  • Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic
Boost this thread!