Fine Textured Mulch?

Garen Rees(6a)March 22, 2012

I know I probably should have posted this in another forum but I like everyone here and trust your opinions most especially since most of my garden is dedicated to conifers.

So while I was at work today I had a pile of regular brown mulch delivered from the local garden supply to my house. I arrived home all excited to start mulching my new beds and saw this giant pile of what looked to me like garden soil. Yeah, I said excited to mulch. I have actually been looking forward to it the whole week. Can't wait to see my new arrivals showcased in their freshly mulched beds. I'm sure normal people would think thats sad. Mulch and conifers arriving, I feel like a little kid on Christmas morning!

Oh yeah, back to the mulch. I ended up calling the garden supply people. They told me that it was not soil but fine textured mulch. I am a novice gardener and I am not familiar with all the different kinds of mulch but this clumpy stuff seems more like something that plants and weeds would love to grow in rather than be used to keep weeds out. It looks to me like decomposed mulch. Why would I want that? I'm a bit afraid that it will soak up too much water that should be going through to the roots below. Does anyone use fine textured mulch? Am I wrong for not wanting it. Maybe this is great stuff and I'm just uneducated. The manager is supposed to call me tomorrow morning and I wanted to get some advice before he calls. I was pretty mad especially since the guy that delivered it got his truck stuck and peeled out all over part of my yard. There was plenty of room for a big truck to turn around.

Here's a pic of the stuff. Thanks for the insight. =)

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gardener365(5b Illinois USA)

I agree with you. It looks to me like old mulch. Ask that they come pick it up because you're not happy with it. All those little round balls in a pile of mulch and snowball size balls etc-, I've never seen anything like that ever in my lifetime.


    Bookmark   March 22, 2012 at 5:46AM
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gardener365(5b Illinois USA)

Next time put down a tarp to unload it on. Dax

    Bookmark   March 22, 2012 at 5:50AM
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Cher(6 SW OH)

I would definitely make them pick that up. Looks like my 6 year old mulch that is broken down and I am slowly removing it and replacing. I've been using that stuff in my pots so far. Nothing but potting soil as far as I'm concerned.

    Bookmark   March 22, 2012 at 7:34AM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

in my world.. there is a big difference between mulch and compost ...

old mulch does become compost.. but before that happens.. it serves other purposes ... it is a barrier to weeds.. cools the soil.. and retains moisture ...

but compost is a soil additive ... which can be used as a mulch.. until it disappears into the soil ... and that stuff will not be much of a weed suppressant ... and will probably be gone by fall ...

that is NOT what you paid for .. IMHO ... but there is no reason i wouldnt use it.. for say half price.. or free ... there would be no downside to its use as a compost .. other than it is not mulch

i always go for the biggest sized mulch chips i can get.. as the smaller the mulch pieces .. the greater the given surface area to mass there is .. the faster it breaks, down and becomes useless as a mulch ... though it still acts as a compost ... [those words are bothering me.. but i cant come up with anything better]

depending on how the manager solves your problem.. you might want to find a better source ...

it still has value .. but its not what you wanted ...

look for chips or chunks.. rather than shredded mulches.. IMHO ... they last longer ... and PLEASE stay away from colored mulches.. it goes against nature [and black is the worst in trapped and retaining sun heat]... and if that is not painted black mulch.. its a good indication of just how decomposed it is ... frankly.. it looks like the bottom of last years pile ...

i thought that was a pretty wild blouse you had on.. lol ...


    Bookmark   March 22, 2012 at 7:45AM
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Fine textured mulch = mulch that has been sitting for a couple years because we haven't sold it. Look at the clumps... if it was new fine textured mulch it wouldn't have those. It almost looks like that mulch came from an already created mulch bed that they dug up.

I would tell them to send some guys to pick it up or you'll keep it to use on the bottom of your mulch beds if they deilver some 'good' mulch. That mulch couldn't have been to much, it would cost them more money to send a couple guys out to shovel it back into the dump truck.

Hopefully you charged it.... if so and they won't take it back call the credit card company and say you ordered a product and they delivered something else. The credit card company will probaby say you need to take it back... load it in a pickup and drop it off right on there doorstep lol.

Eitherway, you paid for a product that you didn't receive.

    Bookmark   March 22, 2012 at 8:29AM
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Looks the same as what most vendors around here sell for compost. Local arboretum buys a similar looking product which contains shredded leaves(which are free from the city), manure, old hardwood mulch, grass clippings, and who knows what else. Balls up the same as what's pictured above. I'd keep it and use it, but would insist they replace it with regular hardwood mulch.

    Bookmark   March 22, 2012 at 8:54AM
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coniferjoy(z7 The Netherlands)

Keep out of this dangerous stuff, it allready infected your forearm! ;0)

    Bookmark   March 22, 2012 at 9:28AM
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A - Before i bought a truck load of anything i would have gone to the suppier and checked out the product i was gonna purchase first.
B - I would have arranged to meet the truck at home to show him where to dump.
C - If they tore my yard up...and i didnt tell em it was ok Id be pi~~ed off and they would know it.
D - The term mulch can mean many things but that looks to me like one of those compost blends they keep turning over with a loader to mix up,creating those balls.

    Bookmark   March 22, 2012 at 12:20PM
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tsugajunkie z5 SE WI

Did you ask for a "fine textured mulch"? If not, tell them if you had wanted that, you'd have asked for shredded pine bark. What you have there is compost with too much carbon to use in the soil and too far along to use on the soil.


    Bookmark   March 22, 2012 at 4:04PM
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Ken's got it about right. That does appear to either be very old "mulch" or compost. Both are good things-good for the soil and the plants growing in that soil. But not good for weed suppression and not even very good at helping retain moisture.

Depending on that conversation you're going to have with the vendor, and option would be to go ahead and place a thin layer of that stuff over your beds, and then cover with some actual mulch.

BTW, somebody above said they are in the process of removing their old mulch and replacing it with new. And I know a guy at work that does the same thing. Personally, I would never remove old mulch. If your beds need a refresher, either use a garden cultivator to "fluff it up", or cover over with a thin layer of new stuff. One of the biggest benefits of mulch is exactly that it decomposes, yielding humus which most soils lack these days.


    Bookmark   March 22, 2012 at 6:06PM
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Garen Rees(6a)

Yipee! You folks never disappoint with the great advice. Thank you all! Everyones advice was very helpful and reassured me that It was okay to be angry about the delivery. That Mulch also got into my skin and covered my entire arm in some strange designs that looks like a Koi, a salamander, snails, a great blue heron, and a japanese maple. I'm sure you folks will see a picture of me posted sometime this summer with my tattooed arm, gardening in my conical asian hat. lol.

I asked for regular brown mulch and did not ask for fine textured. I personally would never go for the colored stuff. My poor wife bought some black mulch last year and fried her new flower bed with it. Wow, that stuff has crazy heat retention in full sun. You can cook yourself just walking over it. I'm all about the natural stuff.

I new I should have asked to see the stuff before I bought it. Melting Ben and Jerry's ice cream I had just bought for the little lady prevented me from taking the extra time to listen to the voice in my head.

That manager was going to get it when he called. Yeah! I was ready for battle. Well okay, more like a nice matter of fact battle. Who am a kidding. I rarely ever direct anger at anyone even if I am angry. I just let them know I'm disappointed and we have a problem to figure out.

He called about 11:00am and before I said anything he instantly told me that it was old mulch and that he wouldn't be able to pick it up but he was going to deliver a load of new mulch next week. So that's fine with me and now I have a huge pile of compost to break up my clay soil. Yay! new beds for more conifers.

I read in a recent thread that it is better to not amend the soil, but are there exceptions if I do it lightly to break up clay?

Thanks again.

    Bookmark   March 22, 2012 at 10:37PM
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gardener365(5b Illinois USA)

I gotta see this pointed Asian hat and your entire arm, please don't disappoint.

If you want to make a new bed I would till the area and simply cover it with that old mulch and let nature do the rest. You can always till it in, but, I think it would be best to wait a year.


    Bookmark   March 23, 2012 at 6:50AM
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Cher(6 SW OH)

Hi Tom. It was me that said something about removing old mulch. I have a couple areas I need to do this on. One is my Heather Hill. I affectionately call it that. It slopes to my neighbors and I have pavers at the bottom to help hold in water runoff so they are not sitting in water in extreme weather. If the mulch is too high then the water floats it up and over into their yard. So it's easiest to remove the old and put in new to keep it at the height I want it. Plus I hate to say that I landscape clothed everything years ago before I knew better. :) Now on this slope it's a bonus because the old is easy to get up, but wish I wouldn't have done it elsewhere.

garen it's nice that the company is working with you on your mulch and you have the added bonus of your current compost.

    Bookmark   March 23, 2012 at 7:16AM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

slide the manager a 6 pack.. B&Jerry or adult beverage ... he took care of you .. fer sure ...

a buddy of mine near cleveland.. in that famous battleship grey OH clay .. add lots of manure and compost ON TOP of the clay.. elevating and adding drainage ... and over the years.. has created raised beds .. ON TOP OF THE CLAY ...

even you should be planting 'high' in clay ... ask if you dont know what that means ...

so put that all together.. working amendments INTO the clay.. is not really in that equation ...

i would like to say i was right.. but that would be bragging.. but i was.. lol ...

personally .. i want to see pix of your garden .. not you .. lol

good luck


    Bookmark   March 23, 2012 at 7:27AM
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tsugajunkie z5 SE WI

Be aware that there is enough wood in that compost/mulch that if you put it into the soil it may tie up nitrogen for a while and you may need to compensate for that by adding a little extra N.


    Bookmark   March 23, 2012 at 3:53PM
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Regarding clay soil, I have some slightly different experiences than stated here previously. My garden started out as basically clay subsoil/contractor fill dirt. If you dug it wet, it stuck to your shovel. If you let it get too dry, the tiller would bounce off the clods without breaking them up. I tried adding shredded leaves one fall, but they retained so much spring moisture, it was late June before it became dry enough to work. So thereafter, every fall, I turned the soil over with a trenching spade and add compost over the top to let the winter due it's work, then till it up in the spring with a tiller. Done this every year since 1994. Today the soil is very loamy and easy to work, drains well, and plants grow exceptionally well with no additional fertilization. The soil level has become somewhat elevated, but not to the point of calling it a raised bed. Turning the soil over every fall was/is a lot of work, but it's paid off for me. Might not be doable for everyone that's for sure, but worked in my case.

    Bookmark   March 23, 2012 at 4:25PM
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Amending just the backfill soil when installing a new plant, especially a woody and long-lived plant, is a bad idea. But, amending an entire planting bed or even an entire yard is a great way to improve your soil. Compost is king for this purpose. Where I work, I began adding compost to flower beds twenty years ago. Now, there's simply not much need for additional. The breakdown of the woodchip mulch we use suffices. And that soil is simply marvelous. You can work it shortly after it rains, it has a crumbly, or what I sometimes call, a "crunchy" texture, and ah.., plants seem to like it too!

Chohio, got ya. Makes sense to me!


    Bookmark   March 23, 2012 at 6:07PM
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Garen Rees(6a)

Thank you, thank you! I highly value everyone sharing there knowledge with me. It has been a huge help. =)

    Bookmark   March 24, 2012 at 12:52PM
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