Ain’t no Party like a Free Mulch Party!

“May you live in interesting times”

-Ancient Chinese curse (but not really ancient, nor Chinese)

This is what awaited me when I got home last Thursday night after a twelve hour day. And like the fake ancient Chinese curse, it made for a very interesting logistical conundrum. The city dumps a truck-load of free mulch in the street in front of your house and then the city comes and sites you for having a large pile of mulch in the middle of the street.

At least that’s what I was worried about when I pulled in at 8:45 p.m. on Thursday knowing full well that I will have to be working all through the weekend! But never look a gift horse in the mouth. Where should one look a gift horse in anyways?

Perhaps a little perspective should come into play here. Hey reader! Did you know that the city you live in will provide you unlimited supplies of free mulch!? Well, they do if you know where to look. In this instance, here in San Diego, I signed up for Chipdrop. Here’s the deal with that; you get a free truck-load of freshly chipped mulch delivered to your house… whenever it’s convenient and a chipping project is underway in your general area.

In my case, it took about eight months to receive my mulch. You can opt to pay $20 to have them deliver it a bit sooner if you like as a way to grease the wheels. You can select if you want mostly logs, chips and logs, or mostly chips and you can let them know where they should dump it. Unless you’re like me and have a super skinny anorexic driveway, in which case they’ll have to drop it in the street in front of your house.

My security camera let me know while I was toiling away at work that this was occurring last Thursday. My surveillance is second to none by the way. The great eye sees all! So I was able to talk with the big boss man and let him know that I’d need to take Saturday off in order to deal with this hot pile in front of my house. I was one part concerned for getting a fine and two parts concerned about landscape thieves stealing my precious mulch. Not very realistic, I know, but landscape ninjas are everywhere! And this mulch is precious to me living in this drought-stricken SoCal inferno.

Pile with puppy.

A little aside regarding free city mulch and some misconceptions and concerns of gardeners: I’ve heard some people who are worried about disease or pest transfer. I can assure you that the benefits of this mulch in the garden far outweigh any potential risks. I’ve also heard people that are concerned about the amount of eucalyptus that is in these free deliveries. Another misconception.

Eucalyptus is all over SoCal. They brought it over in the 1800s for the building of the railroad. Which was plain stupid considering that the milled railroad ties cut from eucalyptus warp and twist as they dry making them completely unusable. Now we have countless eucalyptus all over the place. And their root system is far too shallow for our particular soil to hold them firmly in place. So every time we get any form of a wind storm, tons of these bastards fall over and crush cars, houses and people.  So it goes.

I won’t even mention the countless koala bears it attracts! Riddled with cute and fluffy rage bears!

The concern in gardening is that it retards the growth of plants because they contain allelochemicals. This concern is unfounded, especially with mature plants, and the benefits outweigh any risks in this regard as well. The only real danger, as it is with ALL forms of mulch, is when you bury the mulch into the soil. Mulch should ALWAYS be a top layer on the soil and NEVER be mixed into it. When non-composted organic material is buried into the soil, it robs the soil of nitrogen. Nitrogen is needed to break the material down so the surrounding plants begin to yellow and stunt as their food is stolen away.

So, always mix compost INTO the soil and always lay mulch ONTO the soil. Got it? Great!

So now where were we? Oh yes, my hot pile of burden. Saturday morning arrived and I began early in hopes of having the whole pile moved by days end. I very quickly began to realize that I’d never be able to do it all in one day by myself. Even with my huge P90X beefcake muscles and lightning speed. So I did what any smart SoCal resident will do when there’s more work than they can handle (and all their friends are “busy”). I went to the Home Depot parking lot. There are tons of hard-working fellas looking for a decent task to chew on. So I hired Sergio and Juan, my new saviors. After a bit of price haggling of course.

Juan and Sergio getting shit done!
Sergio skillfully navigates the labyrinth of paths.
Juan doesn’t mess around with the clean up!

These guys were heaven-sent! Between the three of us we were able to move the entire pile in about an hour and a half! They were also digging on the sweet old school reggae blasting from my garage. Jah.

I left a little bit up front so I could begin loading up the beds in the front of the house. I had to race to do this as these guys were like greased lightning! Moved faster than a fart on linoleum.

The Coastal Coral bed
Front porch beds
Curb Strip
Mini path and beds.

I put the last bit on up front as they were sweeping up the street. And as quickly has the arrived, they were off to bigger and better things. Thanks Juan and Sergio! And fuck you Donald Trump. Oops, how’d that sentence get in here? Damn hackers!

I had such a beautiful pile of precious mulch! Enough to really lay it on thick and nasty. usually about five inches deep but in some areas I went a full eight inches.

A thick layer.

This really helps so much to retain both temperature and moisture levels in the garden. It also introduces and maintains a healthy community of beneficial organisms which enriches the soil. As the mulch breaks down, it adds huge amounts of beneficial organic material as well. It’s a win/win/win.

Adding mulch to your garden is one of the best ways to battle drought. While the hot and dry sun beats down and bakes the surface of bare soil, a well mulched garden will retain cooler temps as well as precious moisture. Which means less water usage and healthier plants.

Here are the beds around the yard after I placed all the mulch. I had exactly enough to cover every single spot on my whole property. It was perfect!

The back berm bed
Lemon tree and lavender bed with curious chickens.
Coleus canina (Scaredy Cat Plant) flower.
Random purple daisy.
Went super thick here by adding some hardware cloth to hold it.
A blurry image of the cherry tree bed.
Chicken run bed with newly planted coastal coral tree, sage and lavender.

Now I thought it would be a good time to climb up onto the garage roof to take some birds-eye shots of the yard. Do you truly appreciate all the risks I take for you guys? Gardening and blogging with danger y’all!

The back nine.
The dry riverbed and flagstone patio.
the veggie garden.

Which brings me to my next and current dilemma. The makeshift and hurried construction of the chicken run is in need of repair! All this rain has caused the unprotected wood supports to rot and falter.  The added weight of the fat and rude guinea fowl has completed the damage as they flopped into the fencing trying to get in and out while stealing the chickens dinner. By the way, the cease fire was interrupted when the remaining guinea fowl began harassing little Piper the silkie. Humans-4, Guinea fowl-0. Four dead in Mountain View!

Time to tackle the chicken run!
Hastily constructed door to the chicken run as it flops about.

But that is a story for another time as the work needs to occur first. Until then, do look into your local city’s free mulch program and take advantage of this free resource! And watch out for ninjas. And never get guinea fowl. And come here and help me fix this chicken run! No rest for the wicked.

43 Replies to “Ain’t no Party like a Free Mulch Party!”

  1. I really enjoy reading about your adventures. Thank you for taking the time to share about the free mulch and good luck with the chicken run.

    1. That’s great news Donna! I’m so glad that you enjoy this drivel. I just began working on the run. There’s quite a bit of re-grading the dirt that I need to do before setting up fence posts. But it’ll look way better once it’s done. Stay tuned for updates and thanks again!

  2. Great idea! I have gotten free mulch from our utility company. I guess they must cut down a lot of trees for power lines. So they do the same thing. Also got some free shade trees for our rental house which was awesome but they were about ten inches tall so the shade won’t be coming for many years.

    1. I’m forever waiting on trees to grow for shade. The coastal coral up front has grown magnificently over the past few years so I’ve planted two more in the back. Soon. Soon my shade will come.

  3. Never thought to ask about this! Eric says he knows Seattle does it … will have to check on our town. Up in our corner of the country, mulch is usually cedar and fir. We pay about $20 for half a yard (all our trailer can hold), so free sounds a lot better to me. Can’t wait to get out and clean up the gardens–I’ve had it with winter! Glad to hear the guinea fowl got what was coming to them.

    1. Free and plenty more than a half yards worth! And they’ll keep coming if you stay signed up.

      Yeah, having the guinea fowl gone has allowed me to really clean up the beds without getting irritated or having a bastard bird destroy it afterwards. Peace has returned to my oasis.

    1. My pleasure! And the war is officially over as there are no more guinea fowl to participate in it. Peace via annihilation. Their sacrifice will not soon be forgotten. Nor their tasty gravy.

    1. Haha, please, steal away. I think I stole that from Kilgore Trout, a character from Kurt Vonnegut’s Breakfast of Champions. Everything that Vonnegut wrote is rather brilliant which is why I adore his work so.

  4. The garden beds look great with all that mulch down! I’m going to have to look into getting some delivered here and start tidying everything up 😊

    1. Thanks Emma! It’s always great to do the spring cleanup isn’t it? Same with fall. Oh, and winter pruning. Summer’s pretty neat as well. Hell, it’s all satisfying isn’t it?

      1. It really is! A thick layer of mulch smells great and looks fantabulous and just sets everything off nicely.

        I’m not a fan of the coloured stuff with synthetic dye pigments, especially around produce I’m going to eat. Finding natural non-dyed mulch has been a wee bit of a challenge but I did find that the landfill often has compost and mulch at pretty cheap prices, just the mulch is coloured red or black where I live.

        1. Oh, I see now. The eucalyptus smell goes away pretty quickly. Piper doesn’t seem to mind at all. And Mia dug down for a dust bath today while I was rebuilding the run. Hen Solo went straight for the veggie garden. Collard greens took a hit today. She then was incarcerated into the coop for a few hours.

  5. You inspire me! I haven’t had a big pile o’ mulch for over 5 years— and the weeds coming up after all this rain are a screaming reminder that it is time to get busy.

    1. Yes Robb! Go get those squirrely jerks! Mulch-tastic man. Just wait until you see the new chicken run I’m building too. I’m making it extra fancy and strong like bull.

      You should do a search for “weeds” here on MYD. I think you’ll appreciate what you discover…

  6. Just read about your mulch party. Good info. I live above the San Pasqual Valley so cant get city mulch but am always interested in local sources. Love your writing. Heavy mulching last year saved my baby olive trees, so Im a BIG fan. (Faster than a fart on linoleum???? Where did THAT come from?!!! classic.)

    1. Did you end up finding a local source other than the city?

      I’m glad you enjoy the writing! Trying to jazz up the content a bit to get more people into organic gardening.

      Another quote I “borrow” from Kilgore Trout is when I see something regarding poor environmental stewardship, like fracking or pipelines. It’s, “up your ass, man needs his gas!”

    1. Huge Vonnegut fan over here! I steal as many quotes as I can from that guy.

      Slaughterhouse Five was so fascinating, particularly when you think about how and why it was written. He set out to write about his experiences during the fire bombing of Dresden during WWII, but such a different story emerged as a form of avoidance therapy for the author. I can’t recall, but I also believe it was written entirely on bar napkins which would’ve been a treat for the editor!

      I think the fart on linoleum line is from Breakfast of Champions if memory serves. Any story with Kilgore Trout is significant to me as I feel like it’s Vonnegut writing himself into the story.

    1. Do you guys call it something else in South Africa? My only frame of reference for South African culture is the villain from Lethal Weapon 2.

      “diplomatic immunity!”
      “it’s just been revoked.”

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