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<Andrew Wood-Gaines>
I have been extolling the virtues mulch especially wood chips(as i have a lot of them). I have a problem with one mulched bed. the following spring the whole bed turned black..It was pretty and undermined my mulching philosophy..any help here. Further how are people dressing up the mulch and keeping it stable on the surface....any superglueing fungus that can be added here
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<Bob Wulkowicz>
Reply to post by Andrew Wood-Gaines, on July 14, 2001 at 14:33:44:

Yup, reality does have a way of giving us a little slap upside the head once in a while. There are a million examples of things carried too far in the self-fulfilling prophecies of hype and a fear of dead air in our communications today.

Mulch always made sense and convincing people about the use of it took a long time. Once that finally occurred, we went on a binge of misinformation and excess that was remarkable. I have pictures of newly planted trees that are covered in a mound of mulch that was 3 feet deep apparently under the philosophy of some mulch good, a lot of mulch better. Add to that, not knowing what to do with all our shredded trees which are turned away at landfills, and we get over-mulched, over-zealoused trees and landscapes. Interestingly, to comment on those excesses or to raise a question as you did, runs the risk of getting painted as a green Luddite and out of step with politically correct thinking. That's a shame.

Wood chips, as we presently use them, are quite unnatural and serve a somewhat mechanical function rather than replicate the litter of the forest floor. I almost never read about the use of leaf litter; it is picked up in bags to be carried away with the stinkies and debris of our living and never given the credit of its usefulness to trees. I remember seeing a solitary maple on a hill surround by a circle of its leaves that had not yet blown away and thinking, how incredibly smart that recycling was in this year's leaves were to be elements for uptake 4 or 5 years from now.

In a forest sheltered from wind, the leaves would stay, decompose, and become the rather well-selected elements of choice used in the manufacture of new leaves in a few years again and again. Decomposing wood in a forest starts out in the long cylinders of fallen wood that decay slowly and "fertilize" the specific area immediately beneath them. As an informal observation, leaf and needle litter are the more common spread of decomposing material with pockets of trunk wood augmented by a thinner spread of fallen branches. In some generalized fashion, we have lost the awareness of those simple facts.

Why don't we recognize this and use leaves intermixed with wood for our mulches? Certainly, I'm not foolish about the technical issues, but the imperative is still there. I hope you expand the possibilities of answers beyond cosmetics, appearance, surface stability, and the need to just get rid of the stuff. Nature is the queen of complexity, and we keep trying to push simplistic philosophies down her maw. What you saw is what we get when our interventions are lopsided and overwhelming.

I'm not being disrespectful, but we must change the fundamentals and loosen up our thinking. Because we've got boxes filled with chips, perhaps unnecessary chips, we are compelled to do something with them. Conveniently, the new clichés about mulch lead to small mountains of the stuff spread everywhere on bewildered trees and landscapes.

The real tasks lie well beyond the scope and readership of this page, but I thought your questions deserved the beginnings of a responsive mumble. Good luck in the quest.

Bob Wulkowicz
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<Mark Goodwin>
Reply to post by Bob Wulkowicz, on July 14, 2001 at 14:33:44:

Bob, what you say makes all kinds of sense to me.
Here on campus we have gone from having all brush hauled away with trash,
to separating much of it to be diverted to green waste uses off site.
We also not chip up most of our tree brush and use it as mulch.
Because we save out wood 4 inches and larger for people's wood stoves, there is somewhat less wood in the mulch.
We are still without onsite leaf composting, however, and we do not re-import municiple leaf compost yet.
I would like to encourage that form of nutrient recycling here. We are very careful not to put down more than two or three inches of chipper mulch, and we keep it away from the stems and trunk bases.
One concern I have about moving mulch from site to site is the possibility of transmitting disease problems.
If we emulated nature, then the recycling of tree materials would be more localized.
Human activity and travel bring all sorts of problems from one area to another by overcoming natural barriers.
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<Russ Carlson>
Reply to post by Mark Goodwin, on July 19, 2001 at 04:41:29:

Mark wrote:
"If we emulated nature, then the recycling of tree materials would be more localized. "

If we truly emulated nature, there wouldn't be any lawns to mow, either! [Smile]
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Reply to post by Russ Carlson, on July 20, 2001 at 11:58:03:

One rpoblem with fresh chip is loss of N. I have heard recomendations to but down a layer of true compostunder the first instalation and each subseqent renual.

I have seen problems with the finely reground stuff, water runs right off.

Could the blackened plants been from the mulch, or too much water?
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