Just watched "an evening with Paul Wheaton" on youtube. I hadn't heard Paul's thoughts on the toxicity of newspaper and cardboard before in horticultural use. Really great points, especially about unknown carcinogenics in these types of materials and I am now completely halting any use of this material in my own permaculture endeavors.
Lets talk substitutes for mulching. Where are people getting safe materials for their compost/sheet mulch/cover material? I've been a fan of getting bags of leaves from around town before they can be picked up, but with that comes the risk of chemically sprayed products. I have also found a few great resources from tree trimming services. Straw is always a great one too, but still costs money. Once established it seems pretty effective for producing your own biomass, but what about before you have enough to slash and drop?
Check out the thread on leaf mold. I obtain leaves, in a rural area, by going to the local county cemetery, which has many oaks growing in it. The county does not maintain this place and it is left to volunteers to clean it up once a year.
If you could find a public place where deciduous trees grow and your city or county has pretty much abandoned it (or else seldom do clean up) there's no reason why you couldn't take your bags and rake and collect the leaves yourself. It is unlikely that any sort of 'cides are used in a place like that. And who's going to run you off?
This is one of those "the more you know about your area the better" situations.
In many areas there will be some people who use commercial services to keep up their yards including trees and shrubs. Those that do are most likely to have their plants sprayed.
I used to (when I lived in cities) go driving around for a few weeks and take notes on who used these services and who didn't.
When I found a whole area (street or block or on one occasion almost a whole neighborhood) that had no "Lawn service trucks" show up, I would go back and volunteer to remove their bagged up yard wastes.
I was pretty certain that there would be no huge amounts of sprays used since most of the time I could observe the folks mowing and trimming their yards on weekends.
If you can talk to trimming service people, they usually can give you some idea of what might have been sprayed, if there was anything sprayed.
At the same time you might be able to get them to dump some wood chips and or leaves at your property.
I have started to use old, natural fibre bed sheets at the bottom of raised beds and other beds where I want to lay a weed prevention layer on the bottom. It lasts longer than layered newspaper or cardboard, but still breaks down over time.
Most places have professional gardeners who refuse to use any sprays. They are more common here than are the poison types. There's a lady one block from me, who regularly dumps her lawn clippings and leaves at a public garden, for use by all. As long as you aren't too far off the beaten path, this is a simple way to access large quantities of clean material.
I know a guy who heats his house, almost exclusively with wood dropped off for free, by landscapers and a few selected handymen, who won't dump him painted or poisoned stuff.
I have 20 full grown oaks on site, so I am never out of leaf mold. I used to think it was a pain in the butt, but now I know better!
I like the idea of using old natural fiber sheets! What a brilliant idea! If you are near a place that uses large sacks of grain, see if they still use burlap. Most places that roast their own coffee beans generally have these big burlap bags and if you ask nicely, they make great foundations for paths or sheet mulch.
The real world is bizarre enough for me...Blue Oyster Cult
knowledge is the difference between drudgery and strategic action -- tiny ad
BWB second printing, pre-order dealio maybe (poor man's poll)