Once a year, Helen’s Haven gets blanketed with a thick layer of composted leaf mulch. I giggle with delight when the City of Raleigh leaf suckers comb the neighborhoods to removed the fallen leaves from the curb where, hopefully, savvy homeowners racked their leaves to the street. I do it, for I know those leaves will become composted. After a good hard freeze and available time, I order up a bunch.
While I do have a compost pile where I put most of my garden waste, it would never be enough to provide me what I need. I keep the pile for convenience sake and for a place to harbor wildlife. When I do put out garden waste, it is in cans or bags for that purpose. On the occasion, and it has happened, the collectors were in a hurry, I found they co-mingled the trash with the garden waste. Upon witnessing this, I did as any good citizen of the world would do, I tattled. Yep, I did. We have the mechanism to process garden waste into compost, so let’s do it. After a few times, it has never happened again. Before this service of separate pick ups for trash and garden waste, I had a pile in my garden where I threw my garden waste. It never made sense to me to put it in the landfill.
Some may view a compost pile in a pretty garden as untidy, but I don’t. However, when my garden is open for guests or tours, I do cover it with pine straw. It really does look better and seems to make everyone happy.
Depending on the time of year I order the mulch, and the demand, will depend on how composted it is. Last year (2007), with the worst drought in 100 years, it was difficult to get my regular supplier to deliver me this composted black gold. All our area’s composted leaf mulch comes form the City of Raleigh. Problem is, the City does not delivery. And when you need 20 cu. yds, it has to be delivered.
The City of Raleigh has a monopoly on composted leaf mulch, thus my supplier has to buy it from the City, it cost my supplier more than what he can make himself. So when demand for mulch is up, as it was in 2007 due to the drought and with folks learning the benefits of mulch, his trucks were so busy delivering more profitable mulch, he declined servicing us composted leaf mulchers. In the end, I called the owner and asked if he would pleeeeeese make an exception for me since I have been doing business with him since 2001 and he said yes, but only because it was for my garden. In other words, don’t keep calling on my client’s behalf. That seemed far.
Last year’s mulch, delivered on February 17th, was sour. With the demand so high, the City started to sell compost before it’s time. I was OK with that; not so much my neighbors. This year, it was prime stuff.
My husband and I debated why it so good. One theory was that it was still early in the year. Then my husband offered the economy as the reason, suggesting people weren’t buying as much. I offered it due to the over abundance of rainfall in 2008. We had as much in abundance of rain fall in 2008 as we did a deficit in 2007. As such, those concerned about conserving moisture, didn’t have this fear any longer. Short term thinking, but probably true just the same.
Of course there are other benefits of mulching in addition to moisture conservation, but this is the biggy and in the middle of a drought, sales were high. Not so now; I received several letters from suppliers offering discounts on mulch – all, that is, except composted leaf mulch.
Helen’s Haven is a half acre garden – more garden areas than grass. Even with 20 cubic yards and laying the mulch 3 inches thick, I could have used more. I suspected this, so I went about prioritizing the areas to receive it. As such, I’m OK in the areas that didn’t get it. Without this planning, I would have just ran out and, no doubt, would have needed some more in important areas just to finish up.
I hired two teenagers to help me lay the mulch. A doe and a buck. The doe worked as the advance team, pruning, deadheading, deadleafing, spreading and such, while the buck and I hauled to her, one wheel barrel at a time. Nine hours – 27 man-hours latter, we were done.
Composted leaf mulch breaks down faster than many other mulches. However, unlike others, when it does break down, it adds nutrients to the ground. This is good stuff. I tell my clients, if they prefer the look of triple shredded hardwood mulch, let’s still first lay composted leaf mulch and then top dress with their preferred mulch. I consider it a blessing when they agree to this since these are my clients, and as a result the gardens I tend. I want to work in great garden soil, thus increasing my odds of a great garden season.
Why do I add mulch? Simple:
- Water retention
- Soil temperature moderator
- Improves soil texture
- Adds nutrients
- Suppresses weeds
- And it looks terrific
So, don’t forget to mulch in the new year!