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Like most of humanity, I am a largely inexplicable and highly individual mixture of profligacy and frugality.  I think I should only wear the nicest Italian shoes, which are no longer affordable for the middle class.  So I wait like a cat in the bushes watching a bird, until they are discounted to the point that they are at least reachable.  Kinda profligate, I know, though the  shoes do tend to last 10 years and look extremely pretty all the way.  What it is that I am totally cheap about?  Mulch. God makes it, in the form of fall leaves and grass clippings.  And I DO NOT think I should pay much for it when it surrounds me everywhere.

Here’s another confession: I don’t always recycle my yogurt containers.  The individual packaging is wasteful to begin with, and then sometimes I don’t feel like washing them out and just throw them in the trash.  On the other hand, there is one ecologically perverse form of commerce that drives me completely crazy: Bagged mulch trucked into the Lowe’s and Home Depot of my tree-lined city from God knows where. This makes zero sense to me when taking down struggling sugar maples and spruces that have outgrown their yards keeps numerous small business owners, the power company, and the city busy for much of the year.  There is a nice tree guy in town who will deliver ten yards of chipped trees for $70.  Ten yards is an intimidating mountain.

My problem, however, is that I don’t have a parking space for that mountain of sweet-smelling spruce and maple. I’ve worn out the patience of my neighbors, too, by suggesting that we “share” a pile dumped in their yard that I don’t get around to moving for a year or so.  Of course, fall represents a bounty of unearned riches, as my neighbors assiduously rake the fall leaves OUT of their flower beds and place them in neat paper sacks, which I then collect in my wheel barrow and dump ON my, not coincidentally, much more vigorous and healthy flower beds.

Last fall, however, I was distracted and only managed to collect a dozen bags, when I probably needed 40.  What to do?  Well, I just noticed sacks of shredded paper at my new office.  Free carbon!  Looks like mulch, albeit BRITE WHITE mulch. Research suggests that the inks will cause no one to expire, especially not on the flower beds.  So I’ve been loading up my car with them–now not just the town eccentric, but the office eccentric, too–and spreading them around.

It’s quite a striking look.  The only challenge is keeping the shredded streamers off the perennials, where they hang around and blow in the breeze, like the dissipated aftermath of one very peculiar party.


Posted by

Michele Owens
on July 23, 2013 at 6:20 am, in the category Gardening on the Planet, Real Gardens, Taking Your Gardening Dollar.


  1. Oh, I do it too. I do find if I do it a bit thickly it can mat down and if rained upon forma barrier, which is more weed-proof, but of which I worry may also prevent oxygen flow in the soil.

  2. The world needs more eccentric people. I gather the leaves, half-assedly try to shred them and leave them in great piles atop my veggie beds and between my trees. In order to prevent them from becoming airborne and annoying the neighbors, I put some chicken wire and big pieces of concrete from an old sidewalk (see wife, I told you we needed to keep those and that they’d come in handy) to weigh them down. Come Spring the soil is awesome.

  3. Great going….anything goes, so long as it makes sense to you.
    I am doing my saving by making note pads for grocery lists out of all the envelopes I get in the mail: the back are always white and clean…it relaxes to sit there and cut out tidy strips of old envelope (with an old letter opener) & staple a few together…instant tiny notepads…at no cost to anyone!
    Yes, it’sbecome an obsession….hate to waste all that white paper…the mulch idea is also good!

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