January 28th, 2017
44 Bags of Mulch Later

Christmas tree mulch
I rake the leaves into the beds and put Christmas tree mulch on top to keep them from blowing around. I’m surprised these aloe vera haven’t frozen yet. I hope the blanket of mulch with keep them warm.

Update: 2017

In 2017, rains delayed the Christmas tree mulch by a week. However, waiting made the realization more sweet. In 13 trips made over two days, I scored an all time record haul of 61 bags. I can fit four in my Mini Cooper, so I’m a bit more efficient than in 2008 when I had the Miata. The weather was sunny and cool. The atmosphere one of camaraderie and glee. The scent, delightful.

Dateline: 2008

Saturday, Sunday, and Monday I hauled Christmas tree mulch from Zilker Park. I hauled 44 paper lawn and leaf bags in my Miata, two at a time. I figure I got at least a pickup truck load’s worth, maybe two. I worked hard to beat last year’s haul of 32 bags. A personal best. Some people with pickups gave me a wry smile. One lectured me at the expense of using paper lawn and leaf bags. (In fact, I only bought 15 at less than $1 apiece and will reuse them all when we begin pruning nandina and shrubs next week. This is a lot more economical than buying a pickup or paying for the gas to run it.)

As for those 22 trips. It is about 3.5 miles round trip and in the Miata I probably used less than 3 gallons of gas for the entire escapade. Nor was I the only person with a small car. I kept runnng into a couple with matching Honda Accords who stuffed their cars with every kind of container they could find and then lined the trunks and filled those up. Among the many people I talked to in those 22 trips to the mulch pile, there was a shared sense of glee.

Miata and 17 bags of Christmas tree mulch
Tuesday some much needed rain was in our forecast and so I spent all day hurrying to dump the final 17 bags of mulch where I needed it. If the bags get wet, they tear easily and I can’t reuse them. The last hour I was working it drizzled lightly. Austin got .09 of an inch, enough to make working in the cold miserable but not enough to do the garden any good.

The last trees (the red oaks) have finally shed their leaves. My strategy is to rake the leaves into future beds and pile the Christmas tree mulch on top. I think this is a type of sheet composting. Or in the case of the old winter vegetable garden, I raked the leaves out of the beds and used the Christmas tree mulch to make paths. I don’t have anything growing in the winter vegetable garden yet this year because it has been in the dark until just last week. Last week I finally planted some lettuce and salad greens. At least it’s all neat and ready now for me to start seeds.

Christmas tree mulch in the vegetable garden

Continuing west from the vegetable garden, I refreshed all the paths I’ve done in earlier years. I noticed that the Spanish bluebells are nosing up. This is a shot at the end of the path looking back toward the vegetable garden and front yard. I didn’t have time to spread the mulch in this section so there are mounds of it all along the path.

Christmas tree mulch and south border

If you turn around again and continue west, you come to the wildest section of my yard. I had made a stab at weeding it last August. But there was still a lot of bindweed and ragged turks cap along the west fence. I spent an afternoon and the next morning weeding it and still have more to do (as you can see at the far end of the bed in this photo). I filled one of the bags with all the vines I pulled out. Once I cleared the fence of vines, I could see my neighbor’s garden better. He has a landscape business and keeps a lot of plants in pots lined up against the fence. It’s my borrowed view.

Christmas tree mulch and west border

Along the front fence, I continued a project I started last year, trying to level the slope in my yard. I had put leaves and mulch from tree trimmings here last year. That was topped with some of the better dirt excavated when the foundation for the garden house was dug. This is another very dark corner ten months of the year where only bindweed and turks cap seem to thrive. I haven’t decide what to plant to replace the lawn. Probably the only thing that will survive in the hot dry shade is monkey grass or liriope.

Christmas tree mulch

After another successful year of gleaning, I’m feeling tired but happy. I can’t help but wish that I had made just one more trip. Or two.

by M Sinclair Stevens

15 Responses to post “44 Bags of Mulch Later”

  1. From Carol:

    44 bags 2 bags at a time is quite impressive. “Only a gardener” understands why you would do something like that. I feel your “glee”.

    I felt such a kinship with the people I met at the pile. Everyone was so delighted as they loaded up their vehicles. One guy, who spent the time to sift it before he put it in his truck so he’d get chips instead of needles, had been doing it for ten years and told, with unabashed satisfaction, how wonderful his soil had become over the years. Yep. “Only a gardener.” — mss

  2. From Steve Mudge(Fort Worth):

    As Carol said–only a gardener understands! Magnificent obsession. But if you lived near me I’d let you use my pickup… 🙂

    Are you replacing the lawn with something you want to walk on? One native grass that does great in the shade is Inland Sea Oats, but its not for walking on. We have some that is in deep shade except for a month in summer and it thrives, along with the native yellow columbine.

    Inland sea oats is a good suggestion. I’ve been meaning to plant them in the back “woods” for several years now. — mss

  3. From Kathy (New York):

    We recently bought a used Honda Accord and I have been impressed with how much groceries they can hold. I hadn’t thought to convert that to wood chips . . . [gardener’s brain gears whirring]

    That’s the spirit. My largest car was an RX-7 and I was never shy about hauling stuff in it. — mss

  4. From Mr. McGregor's Daughter (Chicagoland):

    And I thought I was the only 1 with reusable bags and a shovel making multiple trips to the big mulch pile. The pile I most frequent is at my township’s HQ, where I appeared to be the sole nut, I mean gardener, taking the wood chips. It sure beats paying for a truck load to be delivered.

    I never pass a pile of wood chips without regret. — mss

  5. From Pam/Digging:

    Your garden looks so neat and tidy. I admire your dedication to getting all that mulch via the Miata. Now you deserve to put your feet up for a couple of days.

    Yes. I’m looking forward to some inclement weather so I can take a break from gardening. I really need to go through this pile of seed catalogs and place some orders. — mss

  6. From Julie:

    Improving central Texas soil should be added to the labors of Hercules. Except I wouldn’t know where to get one and you probably wouldn’t wear it anyway, seems you should have a lion’s skin to wear after all this! (or, how about a shift made from one of those lawn/leaf bags?)

    Fabulous tale…

    Actually, my newest garden fashion are my men’s work pants that I snagged from Academy for $2.88. I love them. — mss

  7. From Annie in Austin:

    Julie’s comment summoned up an odd image of Spring Fling fashions- MSS wearing a lion’s skin and May Dreams Carol in the full-skirted dress worn by the gardening woman in her 1959 magazine.

    It’s wonderful to see what a finished look those 44 bags of mulch gave your garden, MSS. You amaze me!

    Annie at the Transplantable Rose

    Yes without the mulch it’s generally hard to tell that there is a garden among that growth. The mulch creates those defining lines the way hardscaping does in better gardens. — mss

  8. From Lori, Austin TX:

    I am sad report that yesterday I borrowed a friend and her pickup truck and we drove around Zilker Park looking for the mythical pile of Christmas tree mulch, and we couldn’t find it. There was still some left, right?

    And here I fail to resist the urge to make a “pining for mulch” joke. 😉

    Oh, no. It was pretty much gone by Monday (1/14) when I threw in my trowel. I drove by on Thursday (1/17) after lunch with the Spring Fling 2008 organizers and there wasn’t a scrap of mulch left. Blame the wonderful weather we had over the weekend they unveiled the mulch and the fact that they did a lot more advertising its availability this year via the local news. Gardeners were working away at the pile as industriously as ants on a lump of sugar. There’s always next year. Encourage all your friends to recycle their trees. — mss

  9. From Rachel:

    Inland sea oats are crazy re-seeders. They’re a nice grassy plant, but you have to put them in a place where you don’t mind them taking over the world! I got revenge on my last landlord (who took us to town for every last dollar he could) by planting inland sea oats in a bed there. He’ll never be rid of them completely now.

    Others have given me the same warning. I don’t think I’d mind inland sea oats in my woods but I hesitate to put them in the front yard. I love your idea of revenge. Sweet! It gives a new twist to the concept of guerilla gardening. — mss

  10. From Layanee:

    Stamina, that’s what gardeners’ have and you certainly proved it! Good tired, right?

    Very tired. And very happy. — mss

  11. From Dee/reddirtramblingsn:

    I am so impressed with how much you’ve gotten done. And, your wild area isn’t nearly as wild as some of mine. My fingers just started itching at the thought of gardening season. I’ve got at least a month before I start pruning roses. Love your rock wall.~~Dee

    Thanks. BTW I hauled all those rocks from a site in Steiner Ranch (west of Austin) where a friend was having a house built–hauled them in my RX-7 (see Dawn’s comment). — mss

  12. From Dawn:

    Whoa, Mulch Lady! I’m not worthy! Once upon a time I wanted a Miata and my dh gave every excuse in the world why it would be impractical. This was pre-child mind you. I’m going to print out your latest entry and gloat. Well done Madam! 🙂

    Over my son’s lifetime I’ve owned a Triumph Spitfire, two RX-7s and this Miata. Through this I was a single mom so these were my only cars. I always considered the RX-7s my “family” cars because they had the hatchback with all that room. 🙂 — mss

  13. From kate:

    Your final comment reminded me of my mum’s lament every fall – if only I had collected more bags of leaves.

    I guess we never have enough mulch or compost.

    Your beds look great and I like your Miata. It’s cool!

    Never enough! — mss

  14. From Angelina:

    If we had free mulch available here I would haul as much as I could on my scooter! Now that would be a funny sight!

    Maybe you can get a small trailer for your scooter like people attach to their bicycles. — mss

  15. From Yolanda Elizabet:

    44 bags of mulch sounds like a lot of bags and all that work to get them into your garden must have been pretty hard going. But, once you get to spreading all that mulch around the garden then you start thinking: it’s not nearly enough! Well, that’s what I always think. 😉

    Nope, it’s never enough. — mss