Totally Silly?

Totally Silly?

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.


    • Jenny Patterson
    • 10th April 2016

    I shred all my paper, and they end up in the garden, more as compost than mulch. Love it! I am not the only weird one!

    • Rachelle
    • 12th July 2016

    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.

    • Michele Owens
    • 5th October 2016

    I don’t shred the leaves, either. They are usually wet enough to stay put.

    • Chris Maciel
    • 17th November 2016

    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!

    • MSHDFred
    • 1st December 2016

    Oh, I’d be much more reassured if I saw the research pointing to the harmlessness of the ink micro-particles.

    • admin
    • 13th December 2016

    In St. Louis the electric company will deliver 10 yards of wood chippings to your driveway for free. Check with your local utilities for a similar program!

    • blair
    • 15th December 2016

    I think one of the reasons some people prefer the bagged mulch from stores is that it is composted & supposedly sterilized so that it doesn’t contain weed seeds and won’t attract termites. As opposed to fresh wood chips, which will attract termites, so it shouldn’t be used near a house, deck, garden structure, fence, etc. The fresh wood chips also aren’t great for kids because of the splinters.

    • blair
    • 16th December 2016

    Wow, your comment is incredibly insulting and mean. Please try to be a nicer person.

    • Greg
    • 17th December 2016

    I have a friend deliver 15+ cu yards of shredded trees in the Spring. Dumps it in my driveway. When he knows I need it, he makes sure the chipper is sharp, and waits until he gets a load of “nice” chips. Some of my neighbors rake their leaves into an old sheet in the Fall and dump in my yard. I grind them up somewhat with my lawn mower and pile them into beds, or just in the back yard where they get mixed with grass clippings from other neighbors in the Spring who won’t stop bagging their clippings. They are happy to donate as they all love seeing my flowers.

    • Christian
    • 17th December 2016

    That’s a great idea. I’m calling the local roaster right away. We are a commercial grower and we’re always looking for inexpensive non-chemical means of weed control in our plants. Cocoa shells and buckwheat hulls work well, but cheaper would be even better.

    • Rebecca Caley
    • 17th December 2016

    Oh! I have been a closet shred user for so long! It’s so good to have a support group! If you sprinkle grass clippings over them, they are camouflaged, they stay down and people don’t look at you funny. 😉

    • Anne too
    • 17th December 2016

    Hmm, mulch. I have been using my (cross-cut) shred to build up beds with my composted leaves.

    • Bejuwala
    • 17th December 2016

    I love the motivation here, but aren’t the bleaches in such white paper not-great for soil microbes? I know it varies widely on the type of bleach used- some promote dioxin levels, but others are not bad. Worth researching. As I understand it, brown paper (like grocery bags and untreated butcher paper) should be fine.

    • Twin Cities landscape supplies
    • 17th December 2016

    It is a great idea to share a truckload of delivered bulk supplies with neighbors, but of course your neighbors won’t always need mulch. I applaud your creativity with the office paper – but isn’t the aesthetic rather strange? I almost thought you were a bit tongue-in-cheek with this confession
    Many things can be used for mulch, to be sure. Our company delivers to customers’ houses but we also let people just pick up however much mulch (ha) they will be needing – so they don’t have to go buy bags from the store (which are convenient but overpriced in comparison).

    • Avo
    • 17th December 2016

    Funny how mulch is hotly contested in some quarters. I agree with Twin ^ here, brown paper sorta takes away from a lawns aesthetic don’t it 😉

    • Jon Paxton
    • 17th December 2016

    I like to use the single ground mulch myself just to avoid the splinters. I was using the double ground but it was ground so fine it seemed like I would have it all over me by the time I got done installing it.

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