Thursday, July 1, 2010

Free Mulch to Heal and Create Healthy Soil

Freshly delivered oak mulch

A mulch produced by chipping vs. shredding

Pine needle pathways and oak leaf and oak mulch for the beds.

I think many organic gardeners would agree that deep, Ruth Stout-style mulching of soil is a central principal we all rely on. Hay and straw are wonderful mulch formers, but can be pricey unless bought cheap as "spoiled hay". Autumn leaves do a fine job and are free, though some folks feel that compounds in black walnut leaves called juglans can suppress the growth of certain plants. Plus they are a seasonal mulch source. All things considered, my favorite FREE mulch for years has been the chipped up branches that tree trimmers will deliver to your home to avoid landfill restrictions I am thankful for. I prefer to get mine in summer, when the branches are laden with nitrogen-and-enzyme rich green leaves, vs. the dry leafless twigs and branches of autumn and winter. A 4-6 inch thick layer of the shredded green leaves and actively growing branches, applied to your gardens, will do wonders to boost the activity of beneficial macro and micro organisms, and leach with each heavy rain sugars and enzymes into the soil beneath while trapping moisture, and providing by default, humus formers.
Some folks worry if the trees might have been sprayed.....I don't, as tree spraying is generally uncommon, plus as a survivor the 70s when we idealistic hippies often got paralyzed trying to do EVERYTHING just exactly right, I years ago stopped insisting on black-and-white absolutes. I like to think that attitude is the result of learning over time, and a nice residual from those glorious experiences I had back then with Magic Mushrooms ( and they CAN be sheer magic if ingested with reverence).

Just call a local tree trimmer and ask to get on their list of addresses where they can drop off loads of freshly chipped mulch.

Tree mulches are also the only free way I know of to indulge your soil with the natural wood products that, once partially decomposed, become the invaluable substance 'lignin', which can be argued to be the essence of the wonderful soils in old growth forests. Lignin holds many times its weight in water, fosters beneficial organisms like the various symbiotic mycorrhizae and actinomycetes. Prehistoric lignin is the basis of lignite coal.

By using various free mulches, say pine needles for pathways, and autumn leaves and tree trimmers' chipped mulch for the gardens, you can also achieve wonderful esthetic effects and avoid wasting money on bagged mulches that are often toxic to soil and plants and people (Google the heavy metals content of many of those "perky" red mulches) and that often are by-products of either deforestation or monocultural tree farms euphemistically referred to by that industry as "reforestation".
I'd love to hear from folks what trees in their region of the world yield the best leaves and wood mulches to heal their soil with.


  1. John,
    Your place looks great! I read your blog everyday and really enjoy it! Is that the front yard that has the swing in it? I've planted the velvet beans and they are coming along slowly. This week is supposed to be in the 90's ,so they should get some of the heat they need! Keep up the great posts! Eddie

  2. Hey as another local organic grower here in tampa I enjoy reading your blog and have one of my own! Http:// .... What company do you get your mulch from I'm removing grass for more veggie beds and pathways and need lots of mulch!!! Thanks a ton -brit