Thursday, February 26, 2009

Bad Mulch?

What happens to all that green waste we put out each week? What about all the debris from commercial tree trimming? Turns out that Santa Barbara County turns most of it into composted garden mulch and offers it for free back to the community. Check out the details here. I gathered some and put it around a couple of trees and they seem much happier, especially my semi-dwarf avocado. I'm sure y'all know the advantages to putting a layer of mulch on the ground... helps retain moisture, adds organic matter and improves soil structure, keeps the nearby roots cool, and suppresses weeds. Good stuff, that mulch.

So yesterday when I saw some city workers trimming the Brazilian Pepper trees on our street, and subsequently feeding them into the mother of all chipper/shredders, I asked if they could dump a bunch into my driveway. Sure thing, they said...

Thirty-seven wheelbarrow loads later, I had it spread around my yard on some bare spots and weedy areas. I was careful not to put this mulch too close to any plants because it was too fresh. As it begins to decay, it will suck nitrogen from the soil underneath, so it could harm the plants initially. It should be fine within a month or two.

Then later, on a whim, I googled "Mulching with Brazilian Pepper trees" and discovered that this particular species is hated in some places (especially Florida) because it's extremely invasive and hard to kill off. A couple sources recommended never making it into mulch. Seems it can propagate from the pieces and if you aren't careful, you'll end up with a forest growing from the mulch. Now you tell me!

Oh yeah, and on my ride yesterday a rabbit ran across the bike path and got decapitated in the spokes of the guy next to me, and blood and guts splashed up on me. It was gross.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

I've always been a bit wary of using the county stuff. Never know what's in there. I like to spread fallen leaves on the beds in the off season, then turn them in the spring; tried and true. --- one less rabbit on the bike path :{

Gina said...

I thought the forest of brazilian pepper trees that might grow in your backyard would be bad, but then to read about the bloody rabbit guts on your ride? AAHHHH! Caught me off guard and made me laugh. Thanks! :)

Marco Fanelli said...

Anony-
I'm a bit wary of the county mulch too. Who knows what goes into all those green cans when nobody's looking!? Plus, the batch I got recently has a bunch of gnats swarming around it now.

Gina-
Sorry, I added the bunny story to keep the blog on topic. Poor bunny... at least it was quick without any suffering.

TnA said...

Geez...everyone's so concerned about the rabbit. What about the poor guy who's bike was used as a guillotine??

Marco Fanelli said...

Yeah, he's probably suffering some post-traumatic-shock syndrome about now, but that's nothing compared to how he'll feel when PETA protests outside his house this weekend.

TnA said...

It's not his fault the bunny decided to commit suicide-by-bike...

He's just lucky it didn't result in the broken fork and endo results commonly seen with these type of bike/rodent interactions!

I forget, what's that PETA acronym stand for again?? Is it "People Eating Tasty Animals"? Bring 'em on.

Clark Lehigh said...

Here in SWFL, I flag down the crews mulching along the roadway, and tell 'em to bring me a load. I have received dozens(?) of loads, with all variety of local trees/shrubs. All good if I let the fresh load rest for a week or so. During the first couple of weeks, the bacteria, fungi, and mold heat the pile considerably, killing all plant and seed matter. Over time any toxicity (Brazilian pepper tree) breaks down as well?