Monday, February 23, 2009

Fetching Wood Chip Mulch

A sunny cold day of melt was a perfect time to go fetch some wood chips. While the cozy cabin de-ices and dries out, I could turn my attention to thoughts of a bountiful vegetable garden.

There is a place down by the Pigeon River where the tree trimmers dump their chips. They always disappear eventually. There are enough smart gardeners in these parts to use up this steady supply. I could use this entire pile.

The river below the bridge is running pretty full with all the rain and snow there has been of late.

On a hill across the highway, an old farm house still stands.

Instead of loading the bed of the truck with chips, I used saved plastic bags of cypress mulch. These are way tougher than most plastic garbage bags and save me the process of having to unload the wood chips into the wheelbarrow to get them to where they need to go. I wonder if anyone makes and sells tough reusable plastic bags like this? I always saved my 3 cubic feet Sunshine Mix potting soil bags for chores like this in Hawaii. There are plenty of occasions, particularly with steep terrain, where a wheelbarrow just isn't practical and carrying bags is much easier.

The gold standard of mulch in my opinion is fresh from the trimmer's truck wood chips. It does amazing things for the soil and the plants that will grow in it. If you need more convincing there is an article on arborist wood chips by Dr. Linda Chalker-Scott at Sustainable Gardening. I have been doing what she recommends in this article for twenty years with excellent results. I even ignore her advice about not using it in vegetable gardens or annual beds and have seen no ill effects.

The vegetable garden is getting a new layer of wood chips for the upcoming growing season. Two trips to the river got almost a third of the vegetable garden covered. I need more bags. It would take fewer trips.

The mulch will act as an insulating blanket and moderate the soil's temperature swings. That means as much as it will keep the soil warmer later in the season and cooler during the summer, the mulch can keep the soil cooler in the spring when it is time to plant. I will rake an opening in the mulch when I am ready to sow seed. If we have a cool or cold spring I may do that a few days before I sow the seed to help warm the soil a bit.

You can see the scenic highway is the de facto melt line on the north facing side of this mountain. Location becomes an even more crucial consideration for planting of all kinds up here in these mountains.


Les said...

I am all for free mulch. I usually wait for my neighbors to go to all the trouble of putting pine straw in bags by the curb. Early in the morning I make them disappear.

Frances said...

Oooh, the veggie garden is looking all sunny and fresh. The wood chips are wonderful. I will start saving my mulch bags too. The mushroom factory allows you to fill bags yourself but the black garbage bags are not strong enough. I have to remember not to cut them lengthwise to dump out the contents or all is lost. Warm weather, for a while in the forecast, hooray!

Christopher C. NC said...

Les, I was fetching pine straw from the curb as a toddler. It goes way back. That's what we had in the piney woods of North Florida.

Frances, I think I might get two whole warm sunny days before the next rain. You can't beat a lot of the mulch and potting soil bags for toting things in the garden. I'd use them until they were completely worn out.

As a maintenance gardener, the big Sunshine Mix bags is what I carried with me in client's gardens for all the greenwaste. Then I would just empty those bags into my greenwaste dumpster. Those bags lasted forever.

Siria said...

Hi Christopher! Uncle Ernie looks lonely in that big empty spruced up space. Pretty soon it will be all green again with yummy vegetables growing. That's a great idea for re-using the mulch bags. I'll have to start doing that.

EAL said...

What a lovely pile of mulch.

lola said...

It all looks great. I need to check here to see if they have anything like that. Free mulch is great.
Uncle Ernie looks as if he is in agreement with what is going on.
Yes, in the mtns you have to be sure of where you plant. Need all that sun.

chuck b. said...

This post gave me an orgasm.

Christopher C. NC said...

Siria, Uncle Ernie is ready to get back to work.

Elizabeth, it was a gorgeous pile of mulch. Maybe I'll get back before that pile is all gone.

Lola, you can call the local tree trimmers and see if they will deliver it. A very good chance they will.

Chuck, vegetable foreplay gets you hot eh?

Layanee said...

I am excited about the mulch but not so much as Chuck but I did LOL :) The things that turn on gardeners are really pretty simple aren't they!

Christopher C. NC said...

Layanee, I will admit to a little bit of an after glow when I had finished mulching that section of the vegetable garden. Gardeners do find satisfaction in accomplishing many of the simple things.

lola said...

That's why gardeners are the best. Satisfaction from the simplest things. Getting over joyed to see a seed popping through the ground.
Aaawwwww nothing like it, eh, Christopher.

Annie in Austin said...

It's nice to see the river running, Christopher, and your tidy mulched garden getting ready for the spring crops.

I've seen the kind of bags you want but your recycled ones might be more cost-effective.
We like the Natural Gardener in far SW Austin, but it's quite a drive so only get there once in awhile. One thing we like is the dig-it-yourself soil/gravel/mulch yard. The nursery sells heavy plastic bags for 50 cents each. We fill them and use them over and over. The bags hold up when filled with mulches or soil, but eventually wear out from hauling decomposed granite.

Should I snag some for you the next time we drive down?

Annie at the Transplantable Rose

Christopher C. NC said...

That is a sweet offer Annie, but I think we can make do with the collection of bags we have now. They also get used to spread the pile of double ground hardwood mulch Bulbarella bought last year for the ridge top garden.

Like my water bottles, when they get icky I buy another store bought water just for the plastic bottle to refill from the tap.

Lisa at Greenbow said...

I have been lucky enough in the past to have the mulchers dump several loads in our side lot. Didn't have to go far with the wheelbarrow. If we had hills I would appreciate your reusing those bags. A good idea. I have used them for trash.