The mulch experiment
Photo credit: KRT
I am experimenting with NOT mulching this season, and so far it has all the earmarks of just that - an experiment. With unexpected results and really bad smells.
I have been mulching with shredded pine bark for more years than I like to remember. Mostly because those memories are painful. That's me, in pain, after gently spreading 3 or 4 cubic yards of mulch.
I thought perhaps I would give my gardens, and my back, a rest this season. I know mulch is good for holding down weeds and keeping the ground temperature and moisture levels even.
But I had been hearing things about arsenic or other carcinogens in mulch and about how mulch might actually draw nutrients out of the soil. Unable to come to a decision, I decided not to decide to mulch.
Then I noticed the mountain of grass clippings my husband was generating.
He'd fed the grass this spring and the result was predictable. The lawn now required two cuttings a week, even though DH cuts it pretty high.
I thought perhaps I would use the clippings to mulch. Seemed like a good use of nature's resources, right? So I asked my husband to collect the grass clippings in a garbage can, and I would spread them as soon as I could.
Having mulched a small bed with those grass clippings, I have to say this might be where the experiment ends.
Grass clippings decompose very quickly and when I shoved my GLOVED hands into the garbage can to pull up a handful of clippings, I could feel the heat in my palms and it was uncomfortably hot!
I was putting the clippings around tender new plants and, though it was early spring and the ground was cold, I immediately worried that I was cooking those little babies.
Grass clippings smell terrible as they decompose. The stench was so bad from that little spot by the front porch that my daughter wouldn't let me open windows.
There are other issues with grass mulch, too. Though there were no harmful chemicals in the grass, I was probably transferring weed seeds, if not grass seed, to my bed.
The grass mulch is an unattractive yellow-brown. And though all that nitrogen is a good thing, flowering plants need other nutrients.
So much for the idea of using all those grass clippings as mulch.
But composting those grass clippings can be tricky, too. They tend to form an impenetrable mat in the compost pile and have to be worked in carefully. It is almost like making an oil and vinegar emulsion.
The growth spurt in the lawn is nearly over for this season and my DH can return to leaving the clippings on the ground, where they will do no harm and plenty of good.
The plants in my gardens have grown, too, and they cover much of the same ground that mulch would mask.
But if I can find a few bags of mulch on sale, I might buy them for those bald spots.
And next year, it will be back to mulching.