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Mulch Magic: Tips From Our Readers
The Dirt on Mulch” revealed how using mulch can benefit old-growth forests (as well as your garden, of course!) and offered some novel ideas about what to use as mulch and where to get it. Here are some suggestions from our readers. Got your own great mulch ideas? Send them to and we’ll post it on our website (and tell us where you garden).


I am chairperson of our local Firewise Community. One of the top priorities for making private and public lands across the nation “firewise” is fuels reduction, which can result in mountains of wood chips. Disposing of the chips can be a problem. Why not contact the national firewise coordinator to explore possible ways to utilize the fuels reduction byproduct as mulch? Could be a win-win on a big scale. Check out
Katie Salwei

We have four horses and compost the manure by piling it into a heap. By the end of the year it is mostly composted, and we take that and apply it as mulch around all of our plants. The rest we let compost for another year and have virtually maintenance-free compost and all the mulch we can use. We also give the extra away to all our friends.
Jeanne Horsmann

I rarely pay for mulch. I use whatever is available, including weeds and neighbor’s shrub prunings. After my husband and I built our straw bale home, we had several straw bales left over. Straw flakes make a convenient mulch.

Other than compost from a local municipal composting facility, the only kind of mulch I occasionally buy is alfalfa. I buy a bale whenever I have problems with leaf cutting ants—they prefer dried alfalfa leaves to anything I grow. As it composts in the garden, it also serves as a source of organic nitrogen. I would be interested in a price per pound comparison between bags of purchased mulch and bales of alfalfa. The bales come without packaging except for easily reused twine. How many plastic bags go to the landfill for the equivalent of a bale of alfalfa?
Edna Weigel

Leaves don't leave my yard. In the front, I use a blower that has a vacuum shredder setting for a neater look, but in the back, I just rake them into the beds (which is the entire yard, sans pond—it’s a no-mow zone). After Halloween, when the decorative hay bales get put out for yard waste, I go bale bagging. A hay bale sliced into 4-inch chunks makes great mulch for the vegetable garden. In the spring, I just make a hole in the bale slice, and plant the seedling tomatoes and peppers right in it.
Jennifer Wilson-Pines

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