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I'm going to pause here for a moment to consider the great mystery that is ... mulch.

OK, so, as beginnings go, it's not exactly "Call me Ishmael." But over the years, I've often thought, instead of adding to the landscaping, I was chasing a great white whale. And that I was going to wind up with the ship sunk, floating away on a coffin.

Which is kind of an odd thing to consider while you're standing in the middle of a flowerbed. It also means I've either completely spoiled "Moby Dick" for you or saved you having to read 585 pages. Either way, you're welcome.

I mention this because we're in the middle of Mulching Season, that time of year when those of us with flowerbeds ... mulch them. I mean, seriously, what did you think it meant?

It's also the time of year when we begin to realize we were, painfully, not quite correct when we said we'd never use all that geometry we had to take in high school. Also, that, while hauling two cubic feet of something repeatedly sounds like a lot less work than hauling 25-pound bags, in this case it's exactly the same thing.

Apparently, this is not a new phenomenon. People who study the history of mulch (OK, they actually study the history of farming, because really, who studies the history of mulch?) indicate that people have been using some kind of ground cover to retard the growth of weeds for roughly 2,000 years.

Which is worth considering when you watch the tiny shoots of weeds poke up through the mulch you so laboriously spread across your flowerbeds. I mean, 2,000 years and that's the best we could do?

Unfortunately, the answer to that seems to be, yes. Well, it's "sigh, yes." However, while we can't keep out the weeds, we can give you color! If, of course, the color you want is either brown, black or red. Basically, the flag of Germany.

So while you're in the process of adding chipped wood to your landscaping as an effort to bring a more natural feel to things, we'll like to offer you the option of having it dyed colors not actually found in nature. So ironic. However, we have determined, at least now, that the dyes are not harmful to humans or animals. Or, weeds, apparently.

There is also the matter of determining just how much mulch you actually need to get the job done. Now you can apply all that geometry you were convinced you would never use again, realizing pretty quickly why you determined you've never use it (short answer: you didn't really understand it at the time.).

Or you could apply my theory, established over years of study and hard yard work. Namely, measure the length and width of whatever you're trying to cover, multiple it by something, use Pi, get some pie, squint a lot, come up with some figure and then determine you need more.

How much more? I don't know. More. Just ... more. What do I look like here, Isaac Newton?

Mulch, it seems, is the reverse sponge. Instead of adding water and watching it expand, you apply a rake and watch it shrink.

You'll also need more because mulch goes away. Quickly, quietly, basically like the gardening equivalent of ice cream. I mean, the bag says something to the effect that mulch decomposes so you may need to reapply. However, it would be nice if it made it through the afternoon.

So, to summarize, if and when you decide to mulch, you're applying something that only sort of does what you want it to do, at great personal effort, in a quantity you're not really capable of determining with any degree of certainty.

You're going to apply this, content in the knowledge that whatever degree of effort and expense you're going to undertake, it's not going to last and you're going to have to do it all again.

Not only that, you won't remember or have learned anything about the process (other than it requires mulch and a rake) so whatever mistakes you made or quantities you under-estimated, you'll just do it all again next year.

And yet, there is a brief moment when you've just finished raking all the mulch into place (after two or three trips to the store, but that's another story) and you're tired and sore and pretty sure you're got some nasty blisters because you remembered mulch but forget gloves.

But it looks great. And you did it. And you can take pride in that, even if your math skills were a little shaky.

And that is the great mystery of mulch in specific and yard work in general. Solved.

Commentary on 04/26/2019

Print Headline: Don't know mulch


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