Where does mulch go?

It’s that time of year; gardeners get itchy to play in dirt, and spouses of gardeners pull out lounge chairs. Planting flowers (or shrubs or exotic grasses) can be a solitary pursuit, one for which the lounging spouse need not suffer any guilt, but there are some gardening-related activities where the absence of a spouse is more notable, and therefore less acceptable. I am, of course, referring to spreading mulch.

When spreading mulch meant buying bags of the stuff from Mahoney’s, it too could be watched from a guilt-free zone on the porch, or in the living room, or even from behind closed eyelids in one’s bed. But when you graduate to having a pile of it dumped at the end of the driveway, it can no longer be ignored by even the most obtuse spouse.

A yard is a unit of measure used for mulch, and likely its companion element dirt and other things that can be dumped from the back of large trucks. Initially I thought a yard of mulch would cover all our grass as well as our flowerbeds, not unlike Steven Wright’s shell collection, which he keeps on all the beaches of the world. I was relieved to find out that was not the case.

For several years now we’ve had three yards of mulch delivered as soon as it’s available. This year, my husband was chomping at the bit to get it even though I insisted that it was still too early. Fortunately, the mulch purveyor agreed and we had to wait another two weeks. I should have had the pleasure of saying I told you so to my husband after we got several inches of snow, but he was in sunny California working at the time.

I like to ponder nature from my kitchen window. I wonder, for instance, where squirrels go in the winter, and where slugs go during the day. But more than anything I wonder, where did last year’s mulch go?

Our backyard has a raised garden bed with quite a slope. If the mulch was sliding off, wouldn’t it end up in the grass? Does it disintegrate and become one with the earth? If so, why is that slope eroding, instead of getting higher? Is there an after-market for mulch, the way there appears to be for anything metal you put out with the garbage? Do mulch scavengers drive around after we’ve gone to bed and take it away a little bit at a time? Or does the crew who delivered it in the first place sneak it away to ensure that we’ll have to buy it again next spring?

For now, I will enjoy the newly-strewn terra cotta-colored mulch. It signals the end of winter and the beginning of life outdoors. And it makes the house look lovely and well cared for. Maybe this fall I will face a webcam out the window to see if I can discover where the mulch goes. Maybe then I’ll also find out where slugs go during the day.

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9 responses to “Where does mulch go?

  1. You are too funny! Mulch apparently goes to the same place that socks do; it just disappears, requiring wholesale replacement every year!

  2. I’d like to have an Everywhere I Go book, with a page a day to read! Lovely post today.

  3. The world isn’t meant to have lawns. It causes erosion of the top layer of soil. So we take good stuff from other places and put it on top. Or so I learned in some class sometime. I guess it’s the same for flower beds and gardens. Once we “tame” the land, we do away with the efficient, old system. If you want to create your own mulch, don’t rake leaves. Leave them to erode and replace the good stuff back in the soil.

    It’s funny how we do it, isn’t it? We rake our leaves, put them in a landfill, then buy stuff that acts like leaves to put in those leaf-free places.

  4. I believe it just disintegrates… but maybe the birds carry it off to make nests or young hoodlums run through yards and steal it or I have no idea…. Evaporation?

  5. As my insomnia increases, I find myself spending nights exploring night things, thinking serious thoughts. and Googling. Your mulch article inspired me …
    disappearing mulch – that was easy; the neighbors take it. I’ve seen them. And that’s not all they do at night – especially the older ones. Senior citizens, indeed.
    disintegration – it does disintegrate but only partially. Then, with due diligence, I figured out the rest.
    slope erosion – I did some experiments (at night and on my neighbors’ lawns, of course). It turns out that the components of mulch experience a dramatic increase in mass weight with a corresponding decrease in volume – they become very dense and, therefore, sink under the surface.
    But, why this dramatic increase in density?
    slugs at night – that’s right, Judy, you must be amazingly intuitive to have included them in your article, Inspired by your insight, I spent several nights, unmoving, on my belly, with a UV Light, observing the slugs in action. Let’s put it this way – the mulch goes in one side and out the other; but, much, much denser.
    Incidentally, during the day, many of these same slugs digest their way through the dark, lower levels of the mulch paradise you’ve provided.
    Your fan, Shari, may be on to something when she writes “Mulch apparently goes to the same place that socks do; it just disappears”. During a past obsessive episode, my nighttime attention explored the correlation between mono-socks and disappearing wire shirt hangers. Turns out that the missing sock and one (or more) hanger(s) conjugate – that’s right, it’s all about sex. And transformation. But, into what I don’t know; maybe dust bunnies, or (I don’t want to think about it) SLUGS. Now I have to find out if there’s a connec-tion with mulch – or slugs.

  6. About a year ago, my cat and I were watching squirrels chase each other in the tree outside our living room window, and this thought came to me: I’ve never seen a squirrel pee–or poop either, for that matter. Isn’t that strange, I thought. I became obsessed with watching the critters so that I could catch one in the act, but no matter closely I watched them, I did. So I checked YouTube. Yep—multiple postings of squirrels doing their thing.

    Hey, Judy, want to have coffee sometime soon?

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