Recycled Glass Mulch

Friday Followup

This is one in a series of followup posts. We bloggers often write hopefully about new garden projects; I always want to know, “So how did it turn out?”

Dateline: May 4, 2008

Last Friday Vertie invited me along on her first trip to pick up recycled glass that the City of Austin has made available free to customers who want to use it as decorative mulch, for lining French drains, or to create a drainage layer under a raised bed.

I had seen pelleted glass mulch at the Springs Preserve and on the Travis County Master Gardeners tour and was interested in trying it–especially for free. The City of Austin doesn’t separate the glass by color so what you get is a mosaic of brown, green, and clear glass with the occasional blue shard and a lot of sand mixed in.

recycled glass

When we first saw it, we were both a bit surprised and disappointed. It seemed to be more sand than glass. We were told that over time the larger pieces rise to the top and the sand to the bottom. The photo below is how it looks two months later.

recycled glass

Although the glass has been tumbled in sand, there are still sharp edges. I hesitate to use it anywhere I’d have to weed and dig later (especially since I don’t wear gloves). I think in the future I will use it primarily in places I need to create good drainage.

The decorative glass mulch smells like a stale garbage can. A good rain should wash the scent and sand away.

How long do you think this will stay weed and leaf-free? At least when the revelers walking up from concerts at Auditorium Shores throw their beer bottles in my yard, it will blend in with the landscaping.

recycled glass
2008-07-05. The morning after Fourth of July celebrations at Auditorium Shores.

Followup: October 29, 2010

2008-05-02. I decided to put this batch along the front walk where I tore out the Spanish bayonets last January. I weeded the area and then put down weed blocker cloth before pouring about 3 inches of glass mulch on top. The yard drops sharply at one end and I rearranged the chunks of concrete I recycled when we remodelled our kitchen on the slope.
recycled glass

2009-05-03. A year later. The sand has settled and the large glass pieces risen to the top. I’m happily surprised that it does not collect leaves as much as rock mulch does. Generally it stays much cleaner looking.
recycled glass

2009-12-22. The agave is one of the most beautifully shaped ones in my yard. In the background, some recently-planted opuntia is already getting out of hand and flopping. Bluebonnet seedlings are salad plate sized.
recycled glass

2010-03-21. We had so much rain this fall and winter that the bluebonnets were spectacular. However, the agave was heavily damaged by the massive freeze Austin had in January 2010. It looks terrible and I’m so disappointed.
recycled glass

2010-10-03. The agave has recovered from the freeze damage ten months ago far better than I expected. The opuntia has grown and I’m now struggling to weed around the plants, put weed barrier down, put glass mulch around them. I know it’s much easier to put the weed barrier down first (really!); I just didn’t think the opuntia would be a permanent planting.

recycled glass

To sum up my experience, I like recycled glass mulch a lot. I’m no longer afraid of cutting myself on it. I use it to top off a lot of my potted plants. It has worn well and looks good even after a couple of years–which I can’t say for any other mulch, not even granite sand or decorative rock mulch.

How to Get Glass Mulch in Austin

Note: The location has changed since my original post.

“Color-mixed processed glass aggregate. Generated from the sorting of commingled materials picked up from the City of Austin’s curbside recycling program. Contaminants: Approx. 5%; includes paper and caps.”

1. Check out the website.

The City of Austin has moved the glass mulch from the Burleson Road location to the FM 821 Resource Recovery Center (south of ABIA). The city will load the glass mulch into a pickup for $9.64 per ton (no cash or credit cards, checks only). You can load it yourself for free.

2. If you are self-loading, be prepared.

Vertie and I brought every bucket and plastic container we could load into her car, our own shovels, and gloves. We brought a couple of containers that were almost too large for us to lift out of her car together when they were filled. Wet sand and glass is heavy! Also, we both foolishly wore our gardening Crocs. Wear tough boots! There is lots of large pieces of sharp glass all over the loading area.

3. Check in on arrival.

You will be asked to sign a waiver before entering the landfill.

Organic Compost Tumbler

Chris from Organic Compost Tumbler sent me a UCT-9 compost tumbler to review.

April 3, 2009: The Results

About 2 1/2 months has passed since I loaded up the “World’s Best” Organic Compost Tumbler. At first the material in the tumbler was quite light and the tumbler was easy to turn. In the last couple of weeks, the material has become denser, reduced in mass to just the bottom half of the tumbler and so the tumbler has become more awkward to turn. I took these as signs that the compost was ready.

When I looked inside it looked very similar to my own open-pile compost. There were still some sticks in it but the oak leaves, kitchen scraps, and pine needles had broken down.
compost tumbler
In the case of compost tumblers, half empty is definitely half full.

I decided that the compost was ready. If I waited for the big sticks to break down that the other smaller stuff would rot away to almost nothing. Also, I needed compost for my vegetable garden and I needed the compost tumbler for all the trimmings from the spring garden cleanup.

My first question was how do I get the compost out? I wanted to dump it into a wheel barrow or bucket, not just on the ground but it’s impossible to put anything under the compost tumbler and turn the stuff out. I ended up dumping it on the ground but now I realized that if I’d found some plastic sheeting, that would have solved my problem.
compost tumbler
The compost filled the bottom half of the tumbler or two of these galvanized tubs…sorry that I don’t have a better way to measure the amount.

The compost apparently had not heated up as much as was expecting because avocado and mango pits had not broken down (and some were sprouting), nor did section of Turk’s cap stems (which I had cut into 3 to 4 inch pieces). However, there was no evidence of smaller seeds or garlic sprouting–which I have a problem with in my open pile. I do not interpret this as a fault of the Organic Compost Tumbler because (see below) successful composting depends a great deal on the mix of materials. Although I had chopped the larger pieces down and turned the tumbler almost every day, the mix was a bit on the brown side and initially too dry.

compost tumbler
A mix of fine compost and some larger chunks that I think need to break down more.

The result, then, was very similar to what I get out of my open compost pile–with one important exception. It wasn’t crawling with roaches, pill bugs, or earwigs. This made sifting it so much more pleasant. I use the fine compost on my vegetables when planting them or as top-dressing. I use the coarse compost as a mulch or throw it back on the pile as “starter” for the next batch.

Bottom Line

Do I like the Organic Compost Tumbler?
Yes. I don’t think the end product is much different than my open pile. But making the compost is a much more convenient. It’s so much easier to tumble the composter than it is to turn an open pile. And it looks nicer and it doesn’t attract pests (not only roaches, earwigs, and pillbugs but raccoons, rats, and opossums.)

Would I recommend it?
Yes. I think a compost tumbler is useful for people in urban or suburban neighborhoods who don’t have room or which there are restrictions on compost piles. It won’t produce all the compost you need nor will it be able to consume all the kitchen scraps and garden clippings that you produce. But it is a start.

Since receiving the Organic Compost Tumbler for review I’ve kept an eye out for other types. The prices are about the same but this is the sturdiest one I’ve seen. And it’s made out of recycled plastic.

Would I buy it myself?
I am considering buying one or two more…as budget permits. One is simply not enough to handle my composting needs. I used up the entire contents of my first batch in about two hours and wanted more. I have already filled the compost tumbler up: this time with chinaberry and hackberry tree sprouts. I’m looking forward to seeing whether a different mix will compost hotter and faster. I’ve learned my lesson about making sure it is damp (but not too wet). And I will probably “harvest” the mix as soon as the tumbler feels heavy and awkward to turn.

Read the rest of this entry »

Lightweight Gloves

Dear Mrs. Obama,

I’m so glad that you’ve taken spade in hand and started a vegetable garden in your new back yard. Whatever the reason–taste, economy, education, relaxation, health, exercise–a vegetable garden is a great thing to have. You’re setting a wonderful example for your daughters and the country. I hope that more people follow your lead and tear up a bit of lawn for some vegetables. That would be one way to raise our Gross Domestic Product. More produce. Wouldn’t it be great if we once again became a nation of producers instead of consumers?

But I digress. I’m really writing because after the initial burst of happiness and pride in seeing you and all those school children digging up the White House lawn, my second thought was, “Where are Mrs. O’s gloves?” (I wasn’t the only one.)

Now I hate to wear gloves and my hands show it. But you have important responsibilities hosting visiting dignitaries and the like and it wouldn’t do for your hands to look like mine, caked with black clay, the grubbiness embedded in my cuticles and under my fingernails. The dirt is as much a part of me as I am part of the dirt.

So may I suggest some gloves? I’ve found the perfect pair–perfect in that I can wear them and forget I have them on. I can dig around and pull out roots and rocks because I can actually feel them through the gloves. The touch is so delicate that I can transplant tiny larkspur and bluebonnets.

They are Cool Mud gloves by Little’s Good Gloves.

I don’t work for Little’s Good Gloves or PIP USA (who seem to be the manufacturer. No one sent me these gloves to review. I just walked into my locally-owned, independent nursery The Natural Gardener one day, tried them on and decided that they might do. I was so happy with them that I went back and bought a second pair after I wore out the first. For me, it’s these gloves or none at all and I’ve gardened too many years with no gloves at all.

These are, as the title indicates, lightweight gloves. I wore out the fingertips on my first pair clawing at rocks. They definitely are not made for that. They won’t protect your hands from nails in the ground or the pricks of rose thorns, agaves, or yuccas. But for all those more delicate garden chores when you might think “I won’t bother with gloves for this.” they are perfect. One of these days soon, my fingernails might be grub free. Then, I hope, you’ll let me shake your hand.


Garden Clogs

The one time my mother was able to visit me here at Zanthan Gardens, she wanted to buy me a present for the garden. Together we picked out some garden clogs from the Muck Boot Co. I liked them very much and wore them for six years until they cracked. When I went to buy some more, I couldn’t find them in Austin. I would have tried to buy them online but I couldn’t remember the size and I seemed to remember that it was larger than my street shoe size. I looked in the shoes, but if the size had been printed there it was worn. So, I gave up my quest for new garden clogs

AJM kept nagging me (in the friendliest, most loving and concerned way, of course) to get some new shoes. One day we saw some Crocs on sale at the Whole Earth Provision Co. They fit and were only $9.99 so I bought them. Problem solved.

Crocs are not garden clogs

Not. The Crocs are completely unsuitable for gardening. I’m not sure how that nail missed going through my heel; I’m just thankful it did. It went through the side of the shoe. And when Vertie and I went to get recycled glass mulch, I knew I’d made a mistake wearing them.

AJM continued to gently remind me that I needed to buy some new and appropriate garden shoes.

So when Kathy @ Cold Climate Gardening tweeted that Lee Valley was having a “no shipping charge” sale for four short days, I decided to see if they had any garden clogs. I had consulted with Carol @ May Dreams Gardens. She has Muck Boots, too. In the end, I just bought a pair that looked most like the ones I had.

Crocs are not garden clogs

These new Bogs are certainly sturdy shoes with a wonderful gripping sole. The label promises that they are “warm, comfortable, and waterproof”. I tried them on and they do feel warm and comfortable. I’m not sure that when it’s still in the 90s that warm is a good thing. However, they are also embedded with the “Aegis Microbe Shield™” to protect against “odor, staining, and deterioration”. Maybe that will guard against my sweaty feet.

Cactus Ball

Those of you familiar with my penchant for barrel cacti will not be surprised to learn that I could not resist this plastic ball in the shape of one. Although the “spines” are soft plastic, when it’s thrown to you, the instinctive reaction is NOT to catch it.

I bought it for my niece and nephews in England. (I like to play up our Texas stereotypes.)

From Play Visions. Made in China. Available in Austin at Whole Earth Provision Co. for $5.95.