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What do you use for mulch (if anything)?

BenT (NorCal 9B Sunset 14)
13 days ago
last modified: 12 days ago

What do you use for mulch around your rosebed, if anything at all. Also, how do you control weeds and keep from stepping on companion plants? Discuss please

Comments (47)

  • oursteelers 8B PNW
    12 days ago

    I use leaf mulch from both my big leaf maples and my japanese maples. Using the lawn mower to run over them, in addition to my leaf mulcher, allows them to be broken down enough that they don’t just become a matted mess.

    My homemade compost usually goes to the astilbes and whatever part of the garden seems to be struggling the most.

    Usually the mulch last until close to the middle of summer but this year it seems to be breaking down extra fast, not sure why. Maybe less leaves? I wasn’t able to spend as much time ”leafing” as I usually do so hopefully this year I stay on schedule better.

    As for stepping on companion plants, I assume you just mean now, when everything is starting to pop up? Once everything is out of the ground and awake it’s pretty easy to avoid them. This time of year though, it’s a crapshoot. And god forbid the dogs’ soccer balls or rings land near an upcoming baby…stuff gets smushed all the time. Just gotta laugh and move on

    BenT (NorCal 9B Sunset 14) thanked oursteelers 8B PNW
  • Soozie Q, zone 10b
    12 days ago

    I try to use living mulch if possible so I plant low growing plants like lobelia etc. also in my pots. Last year I bought a 4-pak of Santa Barbara Daisy(forget the botanical name) and it has exploded & taken over one rose bed. I spent an hour yesterday pulling some out to give the roses some breathing room. But I like how it looks & it keeps the ground cool & moist.

    BenT (NorCal 9B Sunset 14) thanked Soozie Q, zone 10b
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  • elenazone6
    12 days ago

    Ben, I am using Pine nuggets.






    BenT (NorCal 9B Sunset 14) thanked elenazone6
  • fig_insanity Z7b E TN
    12 days ago
    last modified: 12 days ago

    I use different mulches in different places. In the beds near the house, I use pine bark (mini-nuggets) and pine needles. But they're too expensive to use in the whole garden. In the less manicured beds and near the woods, I use semi-composted oak leaves.

    Control weeds? Hah! I have over two acres of garden, with roses interspersed with many other plants (in the thousands). I do well to keep the weeds in the wild spaces weedeat(-en?) to prevent seeding, lol. How I "control" weeds in beds is to plant desirables. Near the house, the "companion plants" are mostly groundcovers, which can take a little foot traffic, or else fairly robust plants that are vigorous enough to hold their own against the roses. The roses have to hold their own against the companion plants (I have one or two I do coddle and protect from rampaging neighbors of the vegetable kind).

    Mother Nature abhors a vacuum, and it's empty spaces where weeds grow. In other words, where a desired plant grows, a weed doesn't. Also, if you have enough flowers, you don't notice the weeds nearly as much, hehe.

    I don't have a rose garden, I have a garden with roses, even if they number almost 250. Imagine an English cottage garden, writ large, weeds and all.

    I do realize most gardeners don't have the luxury of my space, and in a smaller space, weeds are more noticeable. But laissez faire gardening suits me just fine.

    BenT (NorCal 9B Sunset 14) thanked fig_insanity Z7b E TN
  • librarian_gardner_8b_pnw
    12 days ago

    Most of the mulch I use is leaves I gather in fall. Some years I get a compost and wood chip mixture from a local compost company, but mostly I just do heavy fall leaf spreading. My approach is like yours, Fig, when it comes to weeds. I do pull some weeds otherwise they'd take over but my main weed control is planting companion plants. In my climate weeds will take over in any spot left open. I have a small urban garden.

    BenT (NorCal 9B Sunset 14) thanked librarian_gardner_8b_pnw
  • Moses, Pittsburgh, W. PA., zone 5/6, USA
    12 days ago
    last modified: 12 days ago

    Pine bark mini nuggets seem the most versatile, easily accessible, and durable for me. They decompose very slowly, are pretty easy to 'fluff up,' if any kind of amendment: dry fertilizer, osmocote, etc. needs to be applied to the soil surface after the mulch is topped off in spring. It looks nice, too.

    Wish I could get Fir bark, but it is not sold in reasonably priced packaging. Pine bark, Northern White Pine and Southern Pine are farmed in the East so are at hand close by.

    The only con of Pine bark is its sliding nature on less than level surface. My rose bed is raised about 4-6" above my garden walkway. I am forever sweeping mulch back up into the front sloped edge of the bed. I cannot use any kind of barrier to keep it back since I have to walk into my rose bed to care for it, it being 8' deep and my arms cannot reach to the back from the walkway. Trip and fall potential means nothing along the front edge to hold the mulch back. Better to sweep mulch periodically than nurse a broken pelvis or leg.

    I've thought of using cypress mulch which is equally available, durable, and relatively reasonably priced. It ages to a silvery tan, knits very well because of the resins in it, but the dark brown color of pine bark, aging to medium brown is more attractive to me.

    I steer clear of the colored wood mulches which decompose lightning fast, are from all sorts of sources, even old home demolition lumber, and except for black colored mulch, the others look gaudy to me.

    Hardwood mulches are also avoided. They decompose very fast, and could contain American Walnut wood which contains the toxic ingredient juglone, known to kill a wide range of plants. There are enough Am. walnut trees in these parts to cause me to pass on any hardwood mulches.

    I like to keep the mulch about 2.5-3" deep. Only topping off every spring after soil amendments and spring pruning is done to keep the 2.5-3" depth going at that depth.

    Moses

    BenT (NorCal 9B Sunset 14) thanked Moses, Pittsburgh, W. PA., zone 5/6, USA
  • Kristine LeGault 8a pnw
    12 days ago

    Sometimes bark but usually compost with lots of flowers packed in to the empty spots and weeds dont grow

    BenT (NorCal 9B Sunset 14) thanked Kristine LeGault 8a pnw
  • Melissa Northern Italy zone 8
    12 days ago
    last modified: 12 days ago

    My approach is similar to Fig's: I have a huge garden, too, and can't possibly keep it all weeded. Mostly I pull really obnoxious weeds, and some that are choking small plants, and let the others romp. In fact, wild plants have their uses. They protect ground that would otherwise be bare, and when they die, they enrich the soil, including their roots underground, which enrich the soil without my having to dig. Many wild plants are attractive. I also plant companion plants, nothing like as many as needed, just because I already have too much to do.

    I mulch a good deal, using old hay, which is free or very cheap for the hauling, as nobody wants it. It has to be broken up or put down in stripes, so that water can get through. Its primary purpose is soil improvement rather than looks. I would very willingly use fallen leaves, if we had any. All vegetable debris from the garden goes back into the garden: pulled weeds, plant detritus of all kinds, kitchen scraps. Our soil is extremely poor in organic matter, so I build it up any way I can. It's untidy, but we're out in the middle of the country, so it fits. The mature roses and shrubs around the house are spectacular enough that they submerge any untidiness.

    P.S. You were also asking about how to avoid treading on companion plants. You can place stepping stones in tightly planted beds, or put narrow paths in larger ones.

    More about mulch: when I lived in Washington, I used to get chipped wood from local wood mills, making sure to avoid kinds like cedar and walnut. Alder was excellent. I used this for my paths, too, and then when the mulch there was decayed enough that weeds began to sprout from it, I dug it up, replacing it with fresh mulch, then spread it on the beds, for looks and to feed the ground. (My soil there was poor, too. In fact, I have never in my life gardened in a place that started with good soil.)

    This may be worth repeating: mulch has multiple functions: to look good and suppress weeds, to protect the soil, keeping it cool and moist, and to feed the soil. So what kind of mulch you use depends somewhat on what you want it for. Mulch and the organic matter my garden generates are its chief, almost its only, fertilizer, and that matters to me more than what it looks like.

    BenT (NorCal 9B Sunset 14) thanked Melissa Northern Italy zone 8
  • jacqueline9CA
    12 days ago

    We have a lot of deciduous trees, and a lot of on-going plant debris (from weeding, pruning, etc). My Dh uses it to make compost, and by the time I use it on the beds it is usually 2 years old - wonderful. I use it for mulch on the flower beds. However, there are parts of our garden which are wilder, with old fruit trees and ancient garden plants and bulbs which have naturalized. There there is a "natural mulch" of English ivy, which gets mowed once a year to keep it from climbing up the trees. No weeds in sight at all.


    We cannot use wood chip mulch because of the fire danger. The Fire Dept does garden inspections about once every 2 years, and prefers rock/gravel mulch, but I have been able to convince them that well rotted compost is really dirt, and not flammable.


    Jackie

    BenT (NorCal 9B Sunset 14) thanked jacqueline9CA
  • PDXRobertZ8
    12 days ago
    last modified: 12 days ago

    Ben, I love this question and have tried so many mulches over the years. I did put in a bulk order of Magical Mulch with Garden Roses LLC, so we will see how that works.... (too soon? ;) )

    We are fortunate to have a sort of mill a few blocks from us that has several types of bark/bark dust, mulch, soil, amendments, and gravel and rocks. We will use get a yard or two of that in the spring and spread it over everything. It's fir bark since we have that in abundance up here. I prefer it over leaf mulch because it doesn't blow away and it seems to last a lot longer. The fir mulch also seems to harbor fewer pests than leaf mulch does which is a bonus for me. I lay it on 3" thick.

    Occasionally, I will go all out and use a manure/soil builder product instead and lay it on just as thick. However, our garden soil is very rich, and so I don't think I really need to do it anymore.

    For weed control, it's usually only an issue in early spring (now) and late fall. But I do have small, flat, stepping stones dropped about the beds that can catch one of my feet in order to weed. If I am really feeling punchy, I just go all in and rip everything out and if something gets stepped on, it's a big "oops" from me, and I move on. :) Once everything grows in, I don't really have a weed issue.

    BenT (NorCal 9B Sunset 14) thanked PDXRobertZ8
  • forever_a_newbie_VA8
    12 days ago

    Our county offers different ytpes of mulch at very reasonable price. We normally buy the fine and the coarse types at truck loads

    BenT (NorCal 9B Sunset 14) thanked forever_a_newbie_VA8
  • stillanntn6b
    12 days ago

    Let me be vague and mention that I know someone whose husband decided weed cloth was the answer. They are still married. The weedcloth lasted three months before weeds and grass moved into the mulch on the weed cloth. Two years before total removal

  • Ken Wilkinson
    12 days ago

    Over the years, I have used many different types of mulch. The beds around the house I've settled on large pine bark nuggets. It looks clean and my wife likes the look. Thus, any mulch around our house is the large pine bark nuggets. The roses do well in these beds. The beds around my property (1/2 acre) I've pretty much settled on leaf mulch. Sycamore and oak mix. They dry out very quickly and compost very easily. Lots of earth worms and any weeds get hand pulled. I hand water most of the time and twice a month I use a high pressure nozzle that breaks down the foliage very quickly. By mid July I pile on (about 6") more leaf mulch. My roses have really enjoyed this type of mulch. I feed the soil (along with Espoma Rose Tone and fish emulsion) and the soil feeds my roses. Win,win.

    BenT (NorCal 9B Sunset 14) thanked Ken Wilkinson
  • jim1961 / Central Pennsylvania / Zone 6
    12 days ago
    last modified: 12 days ago

    Manure compost & wood chips...

    lol stillanntn6b .... same result here...I tried to remove weed cloth put down by previous owner and it was like it was welded to the ground..weeds grew right through it...



    BenT (NorCal 9B Sunset 14) thanked jim1961 / Central Pennsylvania / Zone 6
  • judijunebugarizonazn8
    12 days ago

    I’m a country girl and use whatever I have on hand that I think will improve my soil. That is my ultimate goal. Personally, I despise using rocks/stones for mulch almost as much as I despise weed cloth. I have tried both in the course of my gardening journey. I can get bark mulch/Woodchips from the county as well as from local tree trimmers and I do use that a fair amount. A thick layer of that certainly helps with water retention, which is very important in my climate. I use that in large areas under trees especially where I don’t want to mow weeds down. I seldom buy mulch in the bags because I’d rather use my money to buy another plant I’m itching for, but it is pretty. My favorite this year is something I can’t recommend to everyone because it’s not available to everyone: my husband has a wood shop and sells bags full of shavings to neighbors for animal bedding purposes. I recently asked a neighbor with horses who buys large quantities of these shavings, what she does with the waste when she cleans out her horse stalls. Turns out she had been stockpiling it on her property for three years and didn’t know what to do with the monstrous pile. Long story short, that pile is now on my property and I’m using that to mulch all my beds this year, using only the oldest stuff that’s already broken down. I’m amazed at the way that stuff helps to hold moisture in my soil and so far I’m happy. It looks fine to me as well, though not as beautiful as pine nuggets, I’ll grant that.

    BenT (NorCal 9B Sunset 14) thanked judijunebugarizonazn8
  • ElfRosaPNW8b
    12 days ago

    My property is forested so I try to use almost everything on site - pinecones, woodchips, small branches, forest duff, moss, leaves and conifer needles. I bought a woodchipper for larger branches, and I have brought in an occasional load of woodchips as necessary. I use some cover crops and companion plants, and I also do some chop-and-drop of healthy foliage and seed-free weeds. I used to be big on cardboard but science has convinced me that this is no longer a good idea. I use a small amount of woven weedcloth for paths, the type that can be pulled up/reused for years. I also use silage tarps to clear weeds in crop-rotated annual beds.


    I'm really at a point now where I rarely need to bring anything in other than basic organic fertilizers - I blame compost and topsoil purchases for some of my weed issues, and eliminating that has helped a great deal.

    BenT (NorCal 9B Sunset 14) thanked ElfRosaPNW8b
  • sultry_jasmine_nights (Florida-9a-ish)
    12 days ago

    Do you guys initially lay down landscape fabric before the wood chips? In FL, the weeds will go right through landscape fabric unless there is a very thick kind I dont know about.


    I bought a propane torch that can take a small bottle and use that for some weeds that are not too close to my good plants. You barely burn the weed ..like a second and later that day its dead. Its kinda fun lol.


    On one one of my raised beds pathways I used several layers of cardboard pinned down with long garden staples. Then chips. The soil there is really great after a few years when everything breaks down. Earthworms are attracted to the cardboard. I have to keep up with the chips every year or weeds will still grow. Sometimes weed seeds blow in and start on top of the wood chips :/

    BenT (NorCal 9B Sunset 14) thanked sultry_jasmine_nights (Florida-9a-ish)
  • mad_gallica (z5 Eastern NY)
    12 days ago

    I should get one of those weed torches for the paver paths. Boiling water didn't work, and I'm tired of pulling up the pavers for a 'thorough weed'.

    I have a lot of leaves for leaf mulch, but the last time I used it I had serious vole problems. So now the only thing that covers ground in the bed are plants.

    BenT (NorCal 9B Sunset 14) thanked mad_gallica (z5 Eastern NY)
  • forever_a_newbie_VA8
    12 days ago

    Weed torch sounds a great idea!

    BenT (NorCal 9B Sunset 14) thanked forever_a_newbie_VA8
  • Markay MD-Zone 7A (8A on new map)
    12 days ago

    It’s been a wet spring so far and the weeds are taking over. I don’t like to use heavy mulch because I want my foxglove, columbine, poppies and larkdpur to reseed themselves. Also the voles love a thick layer of mulch. I encourage the violets to cover ground and serve as a green mulch and I try to plant things tightly so the weeds have less room.

    BenT (NorCal 9B Sunset 14) thanked Markay MD-Zone 7A (8A on new map)
  • ElfRosaPNW8b
    12 days ago

    @sultry_jasmine_nights (Florida-9a-ish) no, never anything on top of the landscape fabric, that quickly becomes a nightmare. I put it down for paths and greenhouse floors and it is easily removable. And I only use the heavy duty woven such as Sunbelt DeWitt.


    For weed suppression, a thick layer of woodchips is what's recommended, 4-6," no cardboard or other layers. The worm activity around the cardboard is likely due to suffocation/being trapped, which is just one of the many reasons I no longer use cardboard.

    BenT (NorCal 9B Sunset 14) thanked ElfRosaPNW8b
  • catspa_zone9sunset14
    11 days ago

    What ground I have that is mulched has that from the leaves of the big Valley oak I have at the back of the garden, of which there are giant mounds that break down only slowly in this climate. Everything else is groundcover plants. An especially nice and easy one isFragaria vesca, the shade-loving native strawberry, and also Geranium pyrenicum 'Bill Wallis'(you only need to buy one or two -- within a few years they'll be all over the place, in a nice way). Also, miniature irises, a bunch of different species thymes, teucriums, and oreganos, and, very anti-intuitively though I've now enjoyed it now for more than ten years growing under roses and can highly recommend it, Crithmum maritimum, aka Rock Samphire. As far as not walking on companion plants, basically I tiptoe or use stepping stones....luckily, most of these guys are sort of self-maintaining and only need occasional attention from me wading into a bed.

    BenT (NorCal 9B Sunset 14) thanked catspa_zone9sunset14
  • summersrhythm_z6a
    11 days ago
    last modified: 11 days ago

    I had two big construction truck loads of wood chips once, they’re pretty much gone since I started 16 rose beds at this new place. I need to contact tree companies again this spring, maybe I could have more loads of chips without having them trimming my trees again. I bought a small wood chipper, but it only takes in small branches, makes loud noise but doesn’t do a lot. I am looking for a used bigger wood chipper. I have plenty dead branches & trees in the woods (5 acres of woods). I have a lot of dry leaves in the woods, but I can’t use it in the garden, this place has tons of poison ivy. I won’t use ground covers again, it took over the rose bed in front of my previous home. it ’s also eating up the lawn. I am not sure if there is a way to kill it. Another mistake I did was using grass clippings in the rose garden. It contains grass seeds. I am not sure how to correct that at my weekend rose garden. I might just put down landscaping fabric with loose stones on top this year.

    BenT (NorCal 9B Sunset 14) thanked summersrhythm_z6a
  • Melissa Northern Italy zone 8
    11 days ago

    For the record, another vote here against landscape cloth. No, I NEVER used it myself! But at the house I had in Washington, the previous owner had laid down landscape cloth under mulch--in line with the rest of their "landscaping"--and it became my job to take it up again. What a mess.

    I understand the problem with paths, and it was one I never solved in my previous house. Here I have pavers in the propagating beds, and yes, the paths get messy all the same; in the garden it's just paths of whatever grows, grass mostly. Down in the shade garden yesterday, where I was checking DH's mowing job, one shaded path was a pretty mixture of grass, moss, English daisies, and veronica. In our yard, what little of it remains, we're lucky enough to have a native grass that's perennial, non-invasive, and good-looking, and that will take some wear. Along with that, attractive weeds--violets, plantain, clover, wild geranium--are always welcome.

  • summersrhythm_z6a
    11 days ago
    last modified: 11 days ago

    A thick layer of wood chips (4-6”) won’t work without landscaping fabric. I had tried that at my previous home, the weeds didn’t take long to fill the garden again. I ended up digging up most of roses and moved them to a new garden and mowed the weeds every weekend. Will put down grass seeds this spring. i have to dig out more roses this season, Ihave been doing that for the past 3 years. I couldn’t order mulch for the weekend garden in a countryside of PA. They saw my cell number from other state, they never answered and called back. So I used straw with news paper in the garden, and then grass clippings for the weeds, none of them worked. I used to have 70+ potted rose trees there, only watered them once a week, I couldn’t do that for the past 2 summers, the temp got too hot (85-90F) and we had less rain during the summer now., lost a few fruit trees too due to the dry and hot summers. We used to have 1-2 rain days per week by the Great Lakes.

  • BenT (NorCal 9B Sunset 14)
    Original Author
    11 days ago
    last modified: 11 days ago

    For those who plant groundcovers or other plants at the base of your roses, how do you fertilize?


    Here in my part of California you often see rose beds with landscape fabric and then gravel or stones on top. I hate the look, and I wonder how the roses get their fertilizer and their roots get adequate air. But the rose plants look pretty decent, maybe the good weather is enough for them to thrive.


    Summers,

    You may want to try Chip Drop, the arborist mulch is free, I usually add a tip of $20-40 to make them come faster. It can be a huge drop, like 15 yards (or ~300 bags equivalent) but seems like you can use it.

  • summersrhythm_z6a
    11 days ago

    Thanks Ben! I will try Chip Drop again.

  • summersrhythm_z6a
    11 days ago

    Here is a photo of the groundcovers in my rose bed.



  • ElfRosaPNW8b
    11 days ago

    @summersrhythm_z6a it does work, quite well, but the arborist chips must be replaced as they break down. Weed seeds can also establish within the chips, but this can happen even with materials such as gravel when debris fines accumulate and create a compost-like growing medium. Weeds are weeds because they don't need much to thrive. There is quite a bit of science starting to accumulate on the topic of mulch, mostly under the authorship of Dr. Linda Chalker-Scott, who is well known in the rose world.


    Landscape cloth under this is nothing but a huge mess. We just finished digging for replacing our water line, and the layers in the soil of past homeowners' landscape cloth and plastic is a crazy thing to see. And it's impossible to get out because it breaks down and tears.

  • Diane Brakefield
    11 days ago

    Composted voles make a good mulch/fertilizer. Snert. Diane

  • librarian_gardner_8b_pnw
    11 days ago
    last modified: 11 days ago

    From what I've observed in my climate, the only way to use landscape cloth to successfully avoid weeds is to do it the way they do on farms, put it down, cut holes for your plants and don't cover the cloth with anything. Eventually, the cloth gets some tiny holes and weeds manage to grow, but covering the cloth with any kind of mulch is just creating a clean new environment for new weed seeds to arrive and thrive in.

    BenT (NorCal 9B Sunset 14) thanked librarian_gardner_8b_pnw
  • BenT (NorCal 9B Sunset 14)
    Original Author
    11 days ago

    Librarian,

    I think you make a great point. At many trial gardens I see landscape fabric or plastic with no covering on top of it, and it keeps weeds out as long as it stays intact. Esthetically, I think it should stay in those trail gardens, or backyard vegetable plots.


    Diane,

    Eeeww. And once your cats bring those dead voles into your house as special presents or hunting trophies, I bet you’ll say ’Eeeww’, too.



  • Diane Brakefield
    11 days ago

    Ben, my kitty never brings trophies inside. I find them outside, minus their heads. I can deal with it. I'm not overly squeamish. Diane

  • ElfRosaPNW8b
    11 days ago

    @librarian_gardner_8b_pnw that's exactly right, but the fabric is pulled up annually and reused year after year, so it's not a method that works for perennials.

  • elenazone6
    11 days ago

    One part of my garden with roses has Creeping Jenny, no any weeds ever! Not sure how good it for roses …

  • summersrhythm_z6a
    11 days ago

    Creeping Jenny looks nice!

  • sultry_jasmine_nights (Florida-9a-ish)
    11 days ago

    My barn cats like to kill rats and leave them at the backdoor where I feed them as proof they are earning their keep. Yuck! Sometimes they eat the mice, sometimes they just play with them, then kill them. Cats are evil lol

  • Diane Brakefield
    11 days ago

    Sultry, no! Kitties are wonderful, and my Finn is the sweetest, most loving guy. He's a dear, and I like it that he keeps voles and mice under control. He's a house cat, too, so he's under supervision outside. We have a glut of coyotes out back in the gully who like kitties for breakfast, so he is never out after five or so. I love kitties as much as anyone could love their dogs. Diane


    Finn doing his roasted turkey imitation.


  • nippstress - zone 5 Nebraska
    10 days ago
    last modified: 10 days ago

    What an adorable picture Diane! Finn is a sweet boy and he can come visit any time and take some of my voles home with him! I've read that cats aren't necessarily dropping their catches to you as a present, they're trying to stash them for later in "their" house and you're just getting in the way. Human spoil sports that we are...

    For me, I'm both cheap and lazy so I use what's most readily available for free that takes the least amount of effort to use for mulch. Here in a well-established Midwestern suburban neighborhood, what we have in abundance is deciduous trees (with the occasional pine). Somehow the other suburbanites seem to think those leaves need to be removed and they put them in these handy-dandy paper leaf bags for me. I happily take them off their hands (after asking them if that's OK and getting funny looks back as they nod in disbelief) and use those to stack around the roses to winter protect them from the winds or keep existing leaves on the beds for a few inches of cane protection. Then in spring I don't have to order any mulch from anyone, or heaven forbid buy any, I just roll the leaf bags into the "back 40" after emptying what I need in the beds at present. Those stashed leaf bags get emptied from 20 steps away from any given rose bed through the rest of the season (i.e. cheap and lazy) as the leaf mulch breaks down. Oak leaves last longer than other leaves and don't mat down making them great for this purpose.

    I'm a fan of what leaves do to enrich the soil even though we start with pretty decent soil already. The earthworms love to break down those leaves and the only time I've actually had trouble with voles was when I put down organic fertilizer with lots of bone meal and alfalfa meal and such in it. Ideal mix of mulch from my neighborhood bags is a blend of pine needles and oak leaves, but not all my neighbors are equally accommodating in creating this mix for me. I'm working on training them better :), but at least they don't seem to ever need training to not include dog poop in the leaf bags. Gotta count that one for a win since I'm frequently nose to nose with the mulch in pruning season.

    I join the chorus of not being a fan at all of landscape fabric for the counter-productive encouragement of weeds once anything organic starts to break down on top of it, and how tenacious it is to remove or even plant into once it's there. Landscape fabric is meant to be impervious to shovels too yet looks just like soil when deeply buried enough.

    I agree with Junie that rock mulches are also evil (if used unnecessarily) though I realize why Jacqueline and other people in similar regions need to rely on them. I have one bed that was exclusively mulched with the dreaded red and black river rock which coincidentally also looks a lot like soil once it gets coated in the dirt. Even after scraping off every inch of rock I could find before planting in that bed, and adding all kinds of leaf mulch and good soil on top, I still can barely put a shovel into that bed without finding a sickening crunch of an impenetrable rock barrier. One of my neighbors had someone she was married to (still is) who shall remain nameless :) who mulched their entire front bed with those smooth round rocks the size of a fist. While those rocks are easier to identify, they are wickedly hard to remove. I have vivid pictures of that wife a few years later laboriously on her knees for months over two whole growing seasons removing those rocks by hand one by one, with her husband murmuring "sorry" every time he passed.

    Who knew that we'd need to discuss mulching in pre-marital counseling sessions, eh? My husband insisted I put landscape fabric for 6" from the base of the house after once we had ants in the house, and he didn't want other mulching touching the house base. While I agree in principle, it's impossible to maintain. I do happily scoop excess leaves from the top of that fabric when I need to bolster mulch in a bed so it more or less works. Landscape fabric is still there but I don't need to plant that close to the house, however much I cram plants everywhere, so it's a reasonable compromise.

    Cynthia

    BenT (NorCal 9B Sunset 14) thanked nippstress - zone 5 Nebraska
  • Diane Brakefield
    10 days ago

    Thanks, Cynthia. And Finn thanks you, too, for the vole offer.


    Leaves don't work well as mulch here because they don't break down in our normally dry weather. They stick around forever. This year is a wet exception. I think Deborah down Santa Barbara way sent us one of their atmospheric rivers. I don't worry about mulch much (that's poetic). We don't get a lot of weeds here, though we're surrounded by wild open areas with weeds and all kinds of brush. I like to use plants as both living mulch and an armor against weeds, and it seems to work. I do use a great organic compost around the roses, applied in November, but it's not a true mulch, and I don't need it for winter protection. Less work for old Diane. Diane

    BenT (NorCal 9B Sunset 14) thanked Diane Brakefield
  • Sheila z8a Rogue Valley OR
    10 days ago

    I too receive already bagged leaves from a neighbor who planned to have them hauled away. I don't rake them myself. I return the bags or garbage cans back to him.

  • summersrhythm_z6a
    10 days ago

    Sheila, do you dump the leaves right to the garden or compost pile?

  • sultry_jasmine_nights (Florida-9a-ish)
    10 days ago
    last modified: 10 days ago

    grrr I just typed a long reply (maybe too long lol) and I got the error message just like on a different thread yesterday..and my comment either didnt post or disappeared! So frustrating. I will try again later.

  • Sheila z8a Rogue Valley OR
    10 days ago

    I just dump them around a fence line and corner of my property. I do have a compost pile, but the neighbor gives me 25 large garbage bags of leaves.

  • Melissa Northern Italy zone 8
    9 days ago

    You folks are so lucky....neighbors giving you bags stuffed with leaves! Here in the big garden we started with no trees, no leaves, no neighbors. We've been pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps (helped by many tons of old hay) for two decades now while our plants grow. I'm still looking forward to the days to come, when the trees and large shrubs that we've planted and that are still growing will begin to make a noticeable difference to their surroundings.

    I've been enjoying all these tales.

  • bart bart
    9 days ago

    Me, too,Melissa, and I agree that those of you who have access to free or cheap mulch are lucky indeed.

    My garden is WAY too big for me to ever stay on top of weeding and mulching (and all the other jobs as well). I have a lot of neglected areas, that are completely overgrown with weeds and brambles. To try to get these somewhat under control, I use cardboard covered with organic matter -often just weeds that I've pulled out. Of course there are tons of weed seeds in this, but my main aim in these areas is to tame stuff like bindweed and brambles and their ilk-ya know, those garden bullies that want to take over everything. I do try to dig out dandelions and things like that.

    In the areas which I am trying to keep reasonably cultivated I try to use leaves as much as possible, but even in those I wind up using weeds that I pulled out. As the soil improves, more areas are now covered with lush grass; I'm going to have to use cardboard on them, I think.

    I hope eventually to plant more companions and groundcovers. I am very grateful that in some areas, volunteers are showing up-some plant that I think is a type of lamium is being a real hero. Vinca- covered areas are good, too, but bindweed does seem to be able to grow through that.Another large, wild area has now been taken over by lunaria, ivy, and arum italicum. This last one can be a pain in the bare bodkin, since it tries to invade areas where it is unwanted, but it is nice-looking. Once I tame the bramble-y area with cardboard, I hope to move some arum into that and let it take over.

    In other words, I use whatever I can get! but never, never , never landscape fabric. I tried that , and it was a mess.