Friday, January 28, 2011

Too Much Mulch

As I sit around on my hiney this winter, staring out at the bleak Flint Hills landscape covered by snow and thinking about changes that I need to make in the garden next year, one change the I know that I need to make is to use less mulch in certain parts of my garden.

"WHAT?" the avid mulchers and composters scream, "BLASPHEMY"!  The xeriscapers dryly ask "What are you going to do about conserving water during the arid, hot Kansas summers?"  And the weeping organic gardeners query "What will happen to the soil structure?" 

Calm down everyone.  I said "in certain parts of my garden."   You see, it finally occurred to me that, by keeping the entire plethora of my garden beds heavily mulched, I've eliminated the self-seeding of many annuals and short-lived perennials that I've enjoyed in the past.  They are slowly disappearing from my garden over the years, or they survive up close to large roses and shrubs where the mulch isn't quite so deep.  My pink-salmon Poppies, descendants of a strain given to me by a friend years ago, are popping up less often to delight me with their surprise locations. My beloved blue and purple Columbines, that I have carefully monitored to weed out any pastel or pale interlopers, are dwindling away. My self-spread, unknown-origin Brown-eyed Susan's are fewer and farther between.  Beds with six inches of cypress or prairie hay mulch are now barren of these lovely flowers. 
So, I'm going to reinstitute some haphazardness into my garden.  A few areas of ground left bare here and there, scuffed up to improve the germination of the Papaver somniferum and Rudbeckia hirta clans.  Some shady, lighter-mulched areas to encourage the Columbines.  Perhaps an entire garden bed lightly raked and thinly mulched in the Spring to encourage the self-sowers to proliferate with Darwinian abandon.  And overall, less of the expensive, imported cypress mulch and correspondingly more quicker-degrading home-grown grass clippings that will allow sprouting annuals to reach both soil and the sunlight.

I'm already looking forward to the chaos.


  1. I wish I had more mulch! I never seem to put down enough to keep the weeds out. Send some this way!

  2. That's true. Many complain of their plants growing likes weeds. My Torenia is disappearing. It's the mulch and the dogs.

    Your pink flowers are beautiful!

  3. Would you please share the variety of columbine you feature in this post?
    Thank you!

  4. Sissy, I’m sorry, but that columbine isn’t a specific variety….it’s a combination of several I planted and then gradually let mix on their own and weeded out the colors I didn’t want. I’m sure that the Colorado wild blue columbine was in there somewhere, but the best I can do with the specific variety is to save seed and send you some.

  5. well that's very kind of you! I have a terrible time with columbine, mine don't reseed and the plants I do get, don't come back!


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