Yet More Reasons to Mulch

Image: Wikimedia.

Image: Wikimedia.

From a water conservation perspective alone, our trees need a good layer of mulch. But there are many more reasons to mulch, according to research by James Downer, Farm Advisor with the Cooperative Extension in Ventura County, California:

  • Mulch provides nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus.
  • A serendipitous accident in one of Downer’s studies revealed that mulch changes soil structure so that mulched soils are able to absorb more water than un-mulched soils.
  • And, most astonishingly, mulch provides habitat for beneficial fungi that repel the dreaded root rot organism Phytophthora cinnamomi.

Downer is also a mulch myth buster:

  • Adding a layer of mulch does not rob soil of nitrogen.
  • And Eucalyptus mulch? Not a problem.

His recommendation is to apply a layer of six inches of mulch made from chips approximately an inch in length. This application will settle to around 3 to 4 inches. Why is this the optimal amount? According to his research, more mulch risks leaching nitrogen into rivers, streams and oceans. Less mulch does not give you the benefits.

There are other caveats and subtleties to mulching. For those details check out Downer’s handy pdf, Mulch Effect on Trees.

Free Online Gardening Lectures from the University of California

I just got back from a combined Master Gardener/Master Food Preserver conference put on by the University of California Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources (I became a Master Food Preserver back in 2012 thanks to a truly awesome training program put on by our local Extension Service and taught by Ernest Miller, a guest on episode 14 of our podcast).

I’ll share some of what I learned at the conference in the coming weeks. In the meantime, I thought I’d link to a bunch of Master Gardener lectures from UCANR that you can watch online. There’s a lot of good advice here that will apply to backyard gardeners, even those outside of California. Time to cancel the Netflix:

UC Master Gardener Videos

Saturday Tweets: School Gardens, Artificial Turf and an Orwellian Sofa

Leaf Blower Lobbyists

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At the risk of becoming an anti-leaf blower blog, I wanted to follow up on one of Emily Green’s points in the podcast I posted yesterday. Leaf blowers do indeed have lobbyists who work out of a swanky office near Washington D.C.: the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute (OPEI).

If your city tries to enact a ban on leaf blowers the OPEI will orchestrate a campaign to stop the measure. I’m not against outdoor tools (chainsaws, in the right hands, are very useful). But landscapes that depend on and are shaped by machines need to go. And let’s sweep away the leaf blower lobbyists while we’re at it.

This reminds me of the work of an artist friend of mine, Steve Rowell, who has a project called Parallelograms that maps the physical landscape and architecture of lobbying that surrounds this nation’s capitol. So Steve, you can add the OPEI offices to your list . . .

020 Emily Green on the Mow and Blow Landscape Paradigm

Image: Emily Green, chanceofrain.com

Image: Emily Green, chanceofrain.com

In episode 20 of the Root Simple Podcast Kelly and I discuss the mow and blow landscape paradigm with writer and avid gardener Emily Green. During the discussion Emily also talks about the politics of lawn culture and the unholy alliance of politicians, the real estate industry and landscape maintenance tool manufacturers.

Emily has written for many newspapers including the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, The Guardian, The Daily Telegraph, and the Independent. She blogs at Chance of Rain.

Writing in the Los Angeles Times in 2011 Emily says,

What would you do if a neighbor came to you and asked, “For 20 minutes every week, may I turn on your vacuum cleaner, smoke detector and garbage disposal and run them all at once?”

Holding that thought, consider if the neighbor added, “Ah, may I also blow noxious dust your way for those same 20 minutes?”

Imagine that not just one neighbor on the street asked it, but eight. Imagine that each one just wanted their 20 minutes to blare noise and blow dust. It would be sometime between 7 a.m. and 9 p.m. Add up the minutes and they would equal about six straight days of noise a year. The dust would stay suspended longer, an element of smog.

Given the choice, most people would say “no” in terms unrepeatable here, so most Angelenos don’t ask for permission. They just blast noise and blow dust at their neighbors. They call it gardening.

If you want to leave a question for the Root Simple Podcast please call (213) 537-2591 or send an email to rootsimple@gmail.com. You can subscribe to our podcast in the iTunes store and on Stitcher. The theme music is by Dr. Frankenstein. Additional music by Rho. A downloadable version of this podcast is here.