Conservation Efforts Enhanced by Using Available Mulch

Conservation Efforts Enhanced by Using Available Mulch

The Iowa City landfill, which also serves Johnson County, again has wood chip mulch available. In past years it was $10 dollars per ton, this year, temporarily, it is free. Stop at the scale and the operator will direct you to the mulch pile and will send over a big front-end loader to dump it into your pickup or trailer.

This is a very useful recycled product, shredded from discarded trees, brush, and scrap lumber, including lots of pallets. A magnetic separator on the shredder removes ferrous metal, and in about a decade of using this product I have never found a loose nail or screw, although on the rarest of occasions, a large chunk of wood will still contain one.

The coarseness of this mulch makes it very permeable and you can spread a 4-inch layer around your young trees and shrubs to retain moisture and suppress weeds, without cutting off oxygen supplies to the soil. It contains some oak and other durable wood so a 4-inch layer can last three or four years before needing renewal. To date, I’ve had no issues with strange insects in the mulch, but as a precaution I wouldn’t pile it against my house.

This year my rare butterfly/rare shrub plantation is still expanding a bit and the older parts need remulching. So I modified my heavy duty pickup by adding plywood sides and gate-type doors to double its capacity and reduce my trips to the landfill. This has proved to work well, and when filled to the top of the rear doors (three feet deep) it holds around 1 ½ tons of freshly chipped mulch. The tall box is assembled with bolts, and after the mulch season I’ll disassemble it and return to my regular truck.

The best tool for working with coarse woodchips is a stout 5 or 6 tined fork often called a manure fork. It is sometimes also called a pitchfork, but actually a pitchfork is a very lightweight, very long-handled delicate tool for scooping loose hay off the ground and pitching it way up on top of a haywagon. It usually only has four slender long tines, too far apart to contain mulch. The manure fork is more heavy duty and can take the jabbing and prying you sometimes need to do with compacted chips in a pile.

So this is a great, locally produced recycled resource, available for the effort to haul it. If you do not have a way to haul it, local truckers can be retained to do it for you.

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