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Archives for June 1, 2013

Tweet digest – 05/25 to 05/31

    1. 11:00 am

      Free Jam @ Fort Collins Museum of Discovery – Music Garage

      Free Jam

      @ Fort Collins Museum of Discovery – Music Garage

      Stop by the Music Garage and rock out! Jam with a friend or two, and try your chops out on a variety of instruments. Museum […]

    2. 11:00 am

      NanoDays @ Fort Collins Museum of Discovery – Innovation Lab


      @ Fort Collins Museum of Discovery – Innovation Lab

      When things get really small, nano small, they behave differently than we expect. Join us in the InnoLab to discover some fun ways nano sized […]

    3. 11:00 am

      Take Apart Day @ Fort Collins Museum of Discovery, Learning Labs A B

      Take Apart Day

      @ Fort Collins Museum of Discovery, Learning Labs A B

      Roll up your sleeves and take apart computers, VCR’s, telephones, and more. See electronics from the inside out! You’ll learn a thing or two about […]

    4. 7:30 pm

      “For The Beauty Of The Earth” Concert

      “For The Beauty Of The Ear…

      A concert to benefit the Red Feather Lakes Community Library will be presented by the Friends of the Red Feather Lakes Community Library on Saturday, […]

    1. 9:00 am

      Wellington United Methodist Worship Service @ Wellington United Methodist Fellowship

      Wellington United Methodist Wors…

      @ Wellington United Methodist Fellowship

      Sunday school for all ages at 9:00 a.m. followed by worship service at 10:00 a.m. All are welcome!

    2. 11:00 am

      Chapel in the Pines Service @ Chapel in the Pines Interdenominational Christian Church 2397 CR 74E RFL

    3. 11:00 am

      Free Jam @ Fort Collins Museum of Discovery – Music Garage

      Free Jam

      @ Fort Collins Museum of Discovery – Music Garage

      Stop by the Music Garage and rock out! Jam with a friend or two, and try your chops out on a variety of instruments. Museum […]

    4. 11:00 am

      NanoDays @ Fort Collins Museum of Discovery – Innovation Lab


      @ Fort Collins Museum of Discovery – Innovation Lab

      When things get really small, nano small, they behave differently than we expect. Join us in the InnoLab to discover some fun ways nano sized […]

    1. 11:00 am

      Bear Paw Quilters @ RFL Library Stenzel Rm

      Bear Paw Quilters

      @ RFL Library Stenzel Rm

      Bear Paw Quilters is open to everyone from the novice quilter to the expert who just wants a place to come to quilt and talk […]

    2. 4:15 pm

      Wellington Library Friends @ Wellington Public Library

View Calendar

How Mushrooms Can Save the World

How Mushrooms Can Save the World

By then, Stamets was obsessed with the possibilities of what he called “mycorestoration,” a nascent field encompassing his own and other researchers’ work in mycofiltration, mycoremediation, mycoforestry and mycopesticides (most of which are terms he coined). He began amassing a genetic library of hundreds of mushroom strains — gathered on hikes through the old-growth forests of the Northwest and on trips to Europe, Asia, South America and Australia — that could be used for environmental as well as medicinal healing.

The EPA asked Stamets to help the Coast Guard find ways to clean up waterborne oil spills. In response, he invented the mycoboom, a burlap tube filled with oyster mushrooms designed to break down petroleum while floating on a slick or barricading a beach. Battelle researchers tested his fungal strains against neurotoxins and found one potent variety of psilocybin mushroom highly effective at breaking down VX nerve gas. 

Stamets collaborated with the Washington State Department of Natural Resources on another successful field experiment, planting mushrooms on old logging roads to prevent silt and pollutants from clogging streams. He improved crop yields on farms and sped up reforestation in woodlands by adding mycorrhizal fungi to soil. In one case he planted broccoli together with elm oyster mushrooms; in another, he dipped Douglas fir seedlings into a slurry of puffball mushroom spores. 

He invented the Life Box, a cardboard carton impregnated with tree seeds and symbiotic fungi. After use (for shipping shoes bought online, for example), the box could be torn apart and planted to replace the trees used in its manufacture.

But the invention with the greatest immediate impact on Stamets’ own environment grew out of his relationship with herbal medicine practitioner Carolyn “Dusty” Yao, which began in 1997 after his first marriage fell apart. (Stamets and Yao were married, with Andrew Weil officiating, four years later.) When Yao moved in, she was dismayed to find that Stamets’ old farmhouse was infested with carpenter ants — attracted, ironically, by a white-rot fungus that was crumbling the floor joists. Stamets, who had ignored the problem for years, promised to take care of it. 

He wanted to use a natural pesticide that was nontoxic to humans; unsurprisingly, he began looking for one derived from fungi. He knew that a few mold species could infect insects with their spores, killing them in the process. (In some cases, a tiny mushroom pops through the corpse’s skull.) Yet existing mycopesticides worked poorly against social insects, which could smell the spores and stop workers carrying them from entering the nest. 

Stamets smelled a challenge. 

He sent away for a sample of Metarhizium anisopliae mold, known to kill termites and carpenter ants when its spores are sprayed on them directly. His idea was to train the fungus, which normally produces spores nonstop, to hold off until the ants had carried it into the nest. In its pre-sporulating form, he thought, the insects might be attracted to Metarhizium as a source of nutrition. Once they ate it, the mycelium would consume them in return.

When Stamets cultured the mold in his lab, a white circle of mycelium spread over the petri dish from the point of inoculation; it was soon covered with green spores. He transferred bits of the mold to other dishes, where they reproduced for several generations. Eventually, white stripes emerged amid the green in one dish, where the mycelium (perhaps due to a damaged gene) was lagging in its spore production. He then took some of the white material and cultured it over many more generations, breeding a mutant strain of Metarhizium whose sporulation cycle was delayed for days or longer.

Stamets grew his developmentally delayed mycelium on rice. When it was ready, he put a teaspoon of the spawn on a dollhouse dish belonging to his then-teenage daughter, LaDena, and placed it on the kitchen floor. That night, she ran to his bedroom yelling, “Wake up! You’ve got to see this!” The dish was swarming with ants, which were carrying grains of myceliated rice back inside the walls. Two weeks later, the house was ant-free, and remained that way from then on. After the insects died, Stamets hypothesized, the smell of their moldy bodies warned others away.

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Rethinking the lawn: Class will educate homeowners about drought-tolerant …

The city of Mesquite will go under Stage 3 water restrictions on June 1. The water restrictions are being implemented to comply with the North Texas Municipal Water District’s water management plan.

As part of the new restrictions, lawn watering will only be permitted once a week on a specific day assigned by your address. The city of Mesquite, in conjunction with Keep Mesquite Beautiful, will be hosting a drought-tolerant landscaping class from 10 to 11:30 a.m. on Saturday, June 1, at Rutherford Recreation Center, 900 Rutherford Drive.

“This is going to be a good class where people can learn what they can do to maintain their yards in drought conditions,” said Paige Swiney, executive director of Keep Mesquite Beautiful.

The class is part of the sustainable series that has been ongoing since the start of the year. This class will focus on sustainable landscape solutions that are beautiful, colorful, innovative, earth-friendly, cost-effective and drought tolerant. The workshop will include basic design, plant selection, proper watering techniques and other water-wise landscaping ideas. Attendees will receive free moisture meters and a plant selection guide.

The class will be taught by Lauren Miller, a landscape architect for the city of Mesquite. As part of the class, Miller will show before and after photos of a couple of yards that received makeovers to make them more appealing and drought tolerant.

“The use of native and water-wise plants in landscaping doesn’t mean your yard has to look like a desert hardscape. Learning to use irrigation wisely means you can have a beautiful landscape that will last through a hot summer,” Miller said.

Residents are invited to bring electronic photos of problem spots in their own yards to share as well. To preregister for the class contact Kathy Fonville at 972-329-8300 or by email at

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Free Mulch for Greener Yards and Gardens

Mulch pileBy John P Anderson

Address: Miramar Greenery / Landfill – 5180 Convoy Street, San Diego, CA 92111 (Miramar / Kearny Mesa)

Date and Time: Monday – Friday 7 AM to 4 PM, Saturday – Sunday 7 AM to 4:30 PM

Best For: Reducing water usage, increasing plant life, healthier neighborhoods

mulch SanDiego-Sunflower

San Diego Sunflower with mulch.

It’s officially spring on the calendar, although in San Diego the type of weather associated with spring can be found in any month of the year. Spring is known as a time of planting and renewal of life. If you’re adding tomatoes and peppers to your garden or planting shrubs or trees you may find the use of mulch to be a helpful tool to increase your success rate. In San Diego residents can pick up free mulch at the Miramar Greenery (part of the Miramar Landfill).

The Miramar Greenery is open 361 days a year and residents are welcome to 2 cubic yards of 4″ mulch or compost to take home. For an idea of size, 1 cubic yard is equal to the size of six 32-gallon trash cans.

mulch Ceanothus

A Ceanothus with mulch

The mulch is made from 100% recycled yard trimmings and is processed in a composting windrow for 15 days. The Greenery also has other types of mulch, wood chips, and compost available for sale if needed. Before heading out to pick up your mulch give them a call at (858) 492-6100 to confirm availability of product.

Why use mulch?

The Cochise County Extension in Arizona gives the following reasons:

  • Mulching prevents moisture loss, therefore extending periods of watering by days, sometimes even by weeks!
  • By shading the soil, mulches inhibit weed growth. What weeds do get through are easy to pull, and weeding will decrease as time goes by.
  • Keeps soil from splashing onto plant leaves, thereby reducing certain diseases.
  • Matching the right mulch to the type of plant or crop can enhance plant growth.
  • Gravel or rock mulches can prevent rainwater runoff.
  • Best of all, mulches reduce work and adds a finishing touch to the landscape.

Less water, less weeds, less work, healthier plants – does it get any better?

If you prefer to have mulch delivered there are many landscaping and tree trimming companies in town that take requests for free mulch. Most of them require acceptance of a larger amount of mulch (20 cubic yards is the amount I’ve most often seen) and to have access for a large truck to dump the product. A couple of examples of this service include the forestry group and San Diego Tree Care.

mulch Free-camellia-Craigslist

A free Camellia tree from Craigslist.

Another option is to look on Craigslist. I’ve received free fill dirt and many free trees and plants from Craigslist ads in the past and there is always a variety of free plants, dirt, mulch, rock, and other landscaping items in the Free section of San Diego Craigslist.

Happy gardening and here’s to a greener future (literally and figuratively) in San Diego!

Editor: This is from John P Anderson’s weekly column, “SD for Free” at the San Diego Free Press.  John describers his column:

A weekly column dedicated to sharing the best sights and activities in San Diego at the best price – free! We have a great city and you don’t need to break the bank to experience it.

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John Crowder and Mary Bacon bring beauty and balance back to their grounds

Celebrated socialite architect Ernest Flagg was a man well ahead of his time. Energy-efficient construction? Flagg was doing it in the early 1900s, with designs that featured thick masonry walls clad in granite and pitched roofs with dormers to capture cross breezes in the summer.

Socially responsible architecture? Flagg led the cause for zoning and height regulations in New York City and was active in the city’s urban housing reform.

But it’s Flagg’s iconic Beaux-Arts buildings — which include the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., the Scribner Building in New York, and many of the buildings on the campus of the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis — that earned him a spot in the annals of American architecture.
Toward the end of his career, however, Flagg began to focus more on residential design. And though he was primarily active in the Northeast, Richmond is lucky enough to lay claim to four Flagg houses — the only ones in the South. 

All of the homes are located near the University of Richmond, just off Three Chopt Road. One, a charming stone cottage built in 1926, was purchased in 2000 by John Crowder, a vice president for ValleyCrest Golf Course Maintenance, and his wife, Mary Bacon, a partner at investment company Ewing Bemiss Co.

Owning a piece of history carries responsibility, and for Crowder and Bacon, the first imperative was to free their home from the overgrowth that had engulfed it.

“The landscape was very overgrown, with 12- to 14-foot American boxwoods around and in the front of the house,” Bacon recalls. “[They were] completely obscuring the home from the street.” The couple got to work immediately, thus beginning a landscaping project that would span the next decade and restore beauty and balance to the grounds.

The overarching goal, says Bacon, was to give the yard a park-like appearance with “quiet plantings” that would complement the grays and browns of the house’s stone exterior. “We wanted an understated yet interesting landscape with ample lawns.”

After about two years of working on their own, removing trees and unwieldy shrubs, planting, maintaining and grooming, they recruited Meg Turner, of landscape design firm M. Turner Landscapes, to bring in hardscapes that would allow the couple to extend their entertaining outdoors. Turner tackled the front of the house first, designing and supervising construction of a charming slate courtyard entrance. Akebia, a vine that blooms briefly in the spring with small ivory flowers, was strung above the front door, with fragrant gardenias added to both sides. For shrubs, Turner brought in boxwoods, hollies and japonica. Natchez crape myrtle and gumpo azaleas were also added to provide a pop of color in warmer months. Bacon and Crowder were thrilled, not only with the results, but with the working relationship. “[Turner] is very creative and talented, really engaging, and a delight to work with,” Bacon enthuses.

Phase two for Turner was taking advantage of the newly acquired space in the backyard after all the overgrowth was removed. A slate terrace was constructed with a small dining area for the family to enjoy in warmer months. Because the area is shaded, Bacon says they chose lush, vibrant botanicals with varying shades of green and interesting foliage. Those plantings include hydrangeas, multiple varieties of hosta, unusual ferns, Japanese maples, boxwoods, coral bells, impatiens, astilbe and begonias.Original cedars and a crape myrtle provide a natural canopy to keep things cool in the summer.

Stroll the grounds of the couple’s home and you’ll discover different “rooms,” or defined areas where you can sit down, relax and enjoy your surroundings. An old dog pen became an enclosed, gravel-floored garden with espaliered apple trees, seating and a garden shed. Turner transformed the side garden into a showpiece — first grading the uneven grounds, then encircling the area with a low stone wall and bench seating. Boxwoods provide screening in the back, while a stand of beech trees, pruned regularly, acts as a elevated hedge. “We had seen this in several botanical gardens and it creates a very interesting effect,” says Bacon. To brighten the view of the side garden from a family room added in 2009, the couple chose peonies, Lenten roses, loropetalum, azaleas, hydrangeas, lilies, yarrow and coneflowers.

Completing these individual spaces has enabled Crowder and Bacon to live the outdoor lifestyle they so enjoy. “We use [the yard] constantly and entertain with small dinners when the weather is nice,” Bacon says. 

But with landscaping, there’s no such thing as resting on your laurels. “There’s always more to do,” Bacon admits. The couple’s unrelenting work ethic in maintaining their historic home is itself a form of social responsibility. And that’s something that Ernest Flagg could probably get behind.

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Win a chance to get your dream garden

Ever dreamed of a lush beautiful backyard landscape? Gardens and planter boxes skillfully lined with all of your favorite fruits and vegetables. Flowerbeds artfully designed and brimming with colorful flowers, magical garden lighting, and a cascading waterfall leading to a serene koi pond. Beautiful ornamental decorations peeking through your shade trees that border a perfectly trimmed, bright green lawn.

While this landscaped paradise sounds enchanting, it may also seem a bit out of reach for most homeowners and garden lovers.

The Daily Herald and have partnered up with Sunroc to help make that paradise landscape become a reality. Or at least bring you one step closer to achieving that backyard slice of heaven.

Through the Dream Garden Giveaway, four lucky people will receive $500 each to spend on all the trees, plants, embellishments, tools, furniture and other outdoor products to create the ultimate backyard escape.

Each Friday during the month of June, one lucky winner will have a $500 shopping spree at Sunroc. And one of those lucky winners just might have the chance to get a little shopping advice from The Garden’s Edge columnist Mark Van Wagoner.

Jumpstart your landscaping dreams by taking a shopping tour through Sunroc with Mark in his recent Garden’s Edge Shopping Spree video:

To enter the contest, log on to Re-enter each week to increase your chances of winning.

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Gardening jobs this month: June

From Country Living gardening editor Stephanie Donaldson:

Garden care

● Dig up any self-sown seedlings that might be useful elsewhere or would make good presents.
● Enjoy the roses; they’re at their best this month. Read all you need to know about growing roses
● Deadhead roses and border flowers regularly to encourage more blooms to grow during the summer.
● Take cuttings of sage and rosemary.
● Take cuttings from daphnes. Pot 7.5cm non-flowering shoot cuttings into free-draining gritty compost.
● Divide and repot auriculas into soil-based compost.
● Sprinkle fish, blood and bone feed over the surrounding soil after the last cut of the asparagus.
● Clear weeds and grasses from around fruit trees and mulch after rain.
● Towards the end of the month, pinch out the tips of dahlias.
● Keep the atmosphere in the greenhouse moist to avoid problems with red-spider mite.
● If the weather is dry, raise the blades of the lawnmower for a longer cut. This will help conserve moisture and keep the lawn looking green.
● In dry weather, water containers and young plants in the evening so they can absorb the moisture overnight.
● Stand houseplants outdoors in gentle summer rain to clean them.

In the greenhouse

Open the doors and windows wide for good air circulation, and use blinds or shading on sunny days to prevent scorching.

Fruit and veg

● Plant out runner beans, courgettes, squash and pumpkins.
● Harvest herbs before they flower to promote more leafy growth.
● Spray tomato flowers with water to encourage the fruit to set.
● Plant out pumpkins once frost risk has passed.
● Plant out Brussels sprouts and other winter brassicas, plus leeks.
● Plant out vegetables such as courgettes, squash and tomatoes.
● Plant main-crop carrots to avoid root fly, and erect a plastic barrier to protect them later in the season.
● Earth up potatoes.
● Scatter straw around strawberry plants and protect them from birds.
● Sow your final pea crop at the end of the month.
● Plant main-crop carrots and protect from root fly
● Plant tender vegetables, such as tomatoes and courgettes, in their final positions
● Pick gooseberries firstly as thinnings for stewing
● Feed asparagus with a mixture of fish, blood and bone after the final cut


● Prune established spring-flowering shrubs by removing one third of the oldest stems and trimming back the remaining branches to a neat shape
● Prune established cherry, almond and plum trees, removing dead, dying and diseased wood.
● Thin apples and pears if the trees have set a heavy crop, leaving well-positioned fruit to mature.
● Summer-prune figs by pinching out young shoots to six or seven leaves to encourage fruiting next year
● Cut back flowered stems from early flowering summer shrubs such as Deutzia and philadelphus.
● Prune non-fruiting laterals on grapevines to five leaves, and fruiting laterals to two leaves beyond the cluster

Planting and sowing

● Collect seeds from foxgloves, forget-me-nots, hellebores and aquilegia and sow while still fresh.
● Plant out morning glories, but try to avoid root disturbance, which they hate.
● Successional-sow salads and herbs
● Sow rocket, basil and coriander.
● Sow zinnias in fibre pots to avoid root disturbance when planting out.

From Prima gardening expert Ann-Marie Powell:

● Apply or top up mulches in your flowerbeds and containers.
● Water your plants in hot spells. A good soak every couple of days will be more beneficial than frequent quick sprinkles.
● Fill gaps in your borders.
● Tie in climbing and rambling roses as near to horizontal as possible. This will restrict sap flow, causing more side shoots to grow along the length of the stem. That way, more flowers will be produced.
● Sow French, broad and runner beans, peas, squash, sweetcorn and outdoor cucumbers directly into prepared beds outside.
● Hoe off weeds between crops in the vegetable garden.
● Pinch out the shoot tips on summer bedding to encourage strong, bushy plants.
● Thin out early sowings in the vegetable garden. 
● Clean out pond filters.
● A high-potash liquid fertiliser will feed annual bedding, tomatoes and perennials.
● Check regularly for pests and diseases. Look out for aphids on soft new growth, spraying them off with a strong jet of water, squashing or picking them by hand, or use a suitable insecticide (including soft soap).
● Net soft fruits.
● Put greenhouse and conservatory plants outside.
● Put straw around strawberries.
● Trim back early-flowering herbaceous geraniums to encourage a second flush of bloom.
● Plant up summer containers and hanging baskets.
● Sow calabrese, beetroot, carrot, kale, Swiss chard, lettuce, radish, kohlrabi, peas, spinach and turnip.
● Start deadheading summer bedding and perennials.
● Plant young tomato plants outside if you haven’t already.
● Water plants twice a day in hot weather.
● Fork over the compost heap.
● Wage war on weeds.
● Layer clematis to propagate

From House Beautiful’s Natalie Flaum:

● Enjoy the garden at its most exuberant. Roses are at their best so remember to deadhead when necessary to encourage flowers later.
● Hoe borders regularly. It’ll keep any weeds in check.
● Now the threat of frost has passed, put out baskets, containers and summer bedding plants. Keep an eye on tall plants and stake them before they grow too much.
● Cut the lawn once a week but not too closely so it can cope with a drought better.
● Shade greenhouses during prolonged periods of sunshine to prevent plants inside from scorching.
● Pinch out side shoots on your tomato plants to encourage a better crop.
● Harvest lettuces, radishes and other salads you’ve planted earlier, and early potatoes. Sow more of these and other fast-growing crops for a constant supply through summer.

You might also like…

Grow your own fruit, veg and herbs: A-Z guide

Get all of our gardening advice

See our gardening calendar for a month-by-month guide to what to sow and plant

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Huntingdon Valley Library Hosts Feeney’s Gardening Tips

The Huntingdon Valley Library will hold a Great Gardening Tips event on June 10, from 7 – 8 p.m.

The event will feature tips with Drew Carroll, a horticulturalist Feeney’s Nursery. According to Feeney’s website, its garden center has been recognized within the last five years as one of the “Best of Bucks.

All are welcome to the event and is free to the public. For more information, visit the Huntingdon Valley Library website.

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Gardening Tips: Growing your own strawberries

Posted: Friday, May 31, 2013 11:30 am

Gardening Tips: Growing your own strawberries

By Matthew Stevens

RR Daily Herald


Strawberries are perhaps the most popular of all small fruits and one that tastes much better when freshly picked.

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Friday, May 31, 2013 11:30 am.

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The Pecks: Mulch works better than bark dust in garden beds; tips for buying, use

hg.pecks.mulch.JPGView full size
There I was, staring at my own private Bandini Mountain,  2 units of garden mulch that extended from our driveway across the sidewalk and almost to the street.

I loaded the wheelbarrow a couple of times, dumping its contents in our garden.

About the third time, neighbor Mike stopped by, and for some reason “Tom Sawyer” came to mind. I mentioned how I reckoned that just by looking at the huge pile, I could feel my arms and back getting stronger.

Why, I said, it was like getting a quality workout at the gym at no price whatsoever.

So, enjoying a good workout as much as the next person, he asked, “Oh come on, lemme try a load or two” (only not in those exact words).

Aw, shucks. I hesitated. Just enough, I reckon, because before he dove in, he brought me a bottle of water as a payment of sorts for that free exercise.

And it wasn’t long after neighbor Mike, feeling a twinge in his back from all that free exercise, decided to call it a day, that neighbor Dwayne came by, wanting in on the action, too.

I have to admit, by day’s end, I felt a little (and apparently sounded a little, too) like Tom Sawyer  himself. Although I never got an apple or a kite (in good repair) or a dead rat and a string to swing it with, I did learn the same lesson he did in Mark Twain’s  classic book: “Work consists of whatever a body is obliged to do, and … Play consists of whatever a body is not obliged to do.”  

Neither Mike nor Dwayne was obliged to try to bring that huge pile of mulch down to manageable size, I reckon, but both did so, anyhow.

To which, I can only say, “Much obliged.”

And also, “What are you doing next weekend?” (Marcia: I reckon it’s going to be more like a month of weekends for us. Dennis: I’m afeared she’s right).


Tom, er, I mean Dennis, and I used to bark-dust our garden but switched to garden mulch about 15 to 20 years ago and haven’t looked back.

Because garden mulch is decomposed plant material, it doesn’t rob the soil of nitrogen as it breaks down, and instead builds the soil.

hg.pecks.mulch2.JPGView full sizeThere was an endless stream of smiles (OK, maybe not, but I’€™m smiling inside as I lead him down the garden path with the wheelbarrows) when very helpful neighbor Mike (Marchione) came by to help move mulch. A lot of mulch.
When I first ordered it instead of bark dust it was a little confusing. What I thought of as compost, some retailers (including the ones we have ordered from) called mulch or garden mulch, which is decomposed green waste that should be brought up to, according to various organizations, 160 degrees (Dennis: by the place you buy it from, not by you) to kill any existing seeds and pathogens. What some retailers call compost is manure-based and not what you’d want to mulch your beds with.

When you order, ask what you’re getting so there are no mistakes. Better yet, check it out in person. And before we hear from the bark dust lovers out there, I agree it’s a great product, and I know a lot of people use it as a mulch, but I prefer garden mulch because of all its added benefits.

Why garden mulch?

  •  You use less water because it holds in the moisture.
  •  You use less fertilizer, because the mulch’s nutrients leach into the soil.
  •  It helps keep out weeds.
  •  It builds the soil and helps break up clay soil.
  •  It insulates and moderates soil temperatures in weather extremes, keeping the roots cooler or warmer, depending on the season.
  •  It looks good and can really tidy up garden beds.
  •  It can be used on lawns, too. We mulch our lawns, where it acts as a fertilizer, builds the soil and helps retain moisture. (Dennis: And it helps even out the uneven spots caused by moles, which return to our backyard every year as sure as the swallows return to Capistrano, or the Vaux’s swifts to Chapman Elementary.) You would never want to use bark dust on a lawn, because it would kill the grass.
  •  It helps lessen soil erosion.


1. Weed first. Mulch helps control weeds but does not eliminate them.

2. Check out the website of the company you are ordering from, to see if it includes the following information:

  •  Has the mulch been heated up to 160 degrees to kill any seeds?
  •  Is it 100 percent decomposed green waste or is it blended with decomposed bark dust (which is nice, too). Make sure it’s decomposed, or it can rob the soil of nitrogen.

3. Buy it by the unit or the yard. A unit equals about 7 1/2 cubic yards and covers 1,200 square feet 2 inches deep.
hg.pecks.mulch3.JPGView full size 4. Since garden mulch can vary widely in quality, check it out in person. It should be fairly even in texture and broken down, shouldn’t have any scraps of garbage and, unlike fertilizer, shouldn’t smell, well, funky.

5. For those people sensitive to mulch, use garden gloves, a mask and long sleeves when handling. Or, you could have it blown in, but that costs quite a bit more.

6. Spread your garden mulch 2 to 3 inches thick by using a wheelbarrow and dispersing it with your hands, a small bucket or a shovel.

7. Keep mulch away from the stems and trunks of plants and trees to prevent pests, rot and fungus.

8. How often you apply varies. We apply every two to four years when the old mulch is almost gone. Don’t over-mulch, either. If mulch builds up year after year it can create an impenetrable layer that doesn’t break down and allow root growth, among many other problems.

9. As for when, we usually mulch in the spring after the plants have sprouted up.

10. And, take it from someone who has done this a lot of times, have some duct tape on hand to remove the inevitable splinters you get if you, like me, don’t wear gloves. Just stick it on the affected area, then rip it off. The splinter sticks to the adhesive and you’re good to go.

Marcia Westcott Peck is a landscape designer ( and Dennis Peck is not. He is the editor of The Oregonian’s Living section, which is a good thing for him, because if he actually had to use his hands for anything other than typing, it would not be pretty.

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