Much ado about mulch

I am often ask for advice on various gardening issues, offline, so I’ve decided to post these questions and my responses for all to see, since gardeners often face the same issues at the same time.

Here’s a question about mulching your beds:

“What (and where) is an attractive, effective mulch. I have never used one, but I just can’t keep up!!! The guy at the store says compost, really deep, but I am suspicious, and I don’t want to do 4”.”

Here’s my latest experience with mulches:

4 inches is thick. Three would suffice but compost is good! Any time you add organic matter to a bed you are increasing its water holding capacity.

My husband is crazy about the Cascade compost (Hans Borbonus bought all the Cascade mill stuff). You can get it at Edwards, Cloverdale, etc. It’s really lovely and dark when you first put it on, then it fades. Anytime you add compost it is a good thing, and just toss it on top of the beds, don’t till it in. This has a bit of sand in it, which is good for clay soils.

I personally, have been on a binge for another compost: I’ve been liberally applying the Farmyard Blend organic compost to my flower beds and to my containers. It consists of sterilized manure from organically fed cows/chickens/etc. It is $5 a bag and doesn’t go very far. You might want to put this on beds that are in dire need of a boost. I put it on about 2-3 inches thick. EXPENSIVE. And don’t till it in. Available at independent garden centers in Boise.

Of course, there is always the soil aid/smallish bark which looks gorgeous, breaks down slowly but fades in two years. I just saw a new product in Gardener’s Supply catalog where you can spray paint/refresh the look of your bark with a liquid product, instead of removing the bark every three years and re-applying it. I know nothing about this, will see those folks in a week and ask them for more information.

I am opposed to the big bark chunks which look hideous next to plants and which never ever breaks down and harbors spiders.

Rock on!