Greenbelt’s Free Mulch
One of my happiest discoveries upon moving to Greenbelt last winter was the inexhaustible supply of free mulch available for the taking at the east end of Northway. That’s because my organic practices depend on gobs and gobs of organic mulch, much more than I care to actually pay for. In fact, for decades I’d had 7 or 10 cubic yards of leafmold mulch (decayed leaves) dumped in the driveway of my Takoma Park home every spring and spend weeks applying it to what seemed like acres of garden beds (though really, the whole property was less than a half acre). I’d still run out before the season was done and have to make a dozen or so trips to the get more, this time for free (there was a $60 fee for the delivery).
So fortunately, my pitchfork and collection of containers came with me here to Greenbelt – the containers including flat cement-mixing pans, old kitty litter pans, many buckets, and a few containers that once held trees at the nursery. Over the years I’d seen lots of other systems being used at the old mulch pile and I’ll pass along a couple of tips: that plastic bags just aren’t strong enough. Use hard plastic containers. And nothing works as well as a pitchfork. Also, nothing works as poorly trowels and other small hand tools I’ve been surprised to see people using. I’m just saying.
Is the Mulch Okay? I’ve been warned off Greenbelt’s free mulch, as I was warned off Takoma Park’s free mulch many times over the years. “It’s full of weed seeds!” is the usual cry. I haven’t tested the stuff but I never found mulch-borne weeds to be a problem in my own garden, and I’ve asked around to see if others have had problems. Turns out Takoma’s city gardener swears by the stuff, as does GHI’s director of maintenance Matt Barres, and both have their crews use it on the lands they’re responsible for maintaining. Curious about its use in vegetable beds, I asked some Greenbelt community gardeners and they reminded me that those mulch piles are steaming with enough heat to kill off all weed seeds. So if you’re worried, just dig down a bit and use the hot stuff where the weed seeds have been cooked to death.
Now Open to the Public – Yard Waste Disposal!
I was equally happy to hear the news this past spring that the city was starting to issue permits to residents so they could dump their own yard waste in the next pile over from the fabulous mulch pile; all it would take is to apply for a permit at city hall and stick it on your car. Boy, did I jump on that opportunity pronto because having to bag up all my garden pickings and call the city to come pick it up one day a week was NOT a great system for me.
So as it turns out, my move here was timed perfectly and I’m a very happy
camper gardener. Spring mulching and fall clean-up and touch-up mulching are now pretty darn easy.
Category: Our Gardens