I’m not gonna beat around the westringea here. You know that black mulch that costs more than any other? The stuff you see hastily piled into garden beds when a house goes on the market? Well, it’s crap.
Black mulchies will be taking on combat stances at this point. People don’t like having their assumptions challenged. Like, black mulch must be the best. It looks so dark and rich and fertile, and the pro gardeners use it, and the soil and garden centres recommend it, and it’s expensive.
That last point’s the clincher. Quality usually is directly proportional to price. You get what you pay for, right?
Right, but wrong in the case of mulch! Wrong wrong wrong!
In fact, the best all-purpose* mulch you can get is sourced from green street tree prunings – and it’s free! Or can be. Go directly to www.mulchnet.com. You don’t even have to tell them I sent you.
*Note: Green tree prunings mulch can be used on vegetable gardens, but not by itself. Put a layer of pea straw or similar down first.
So, WHY is black mulch bad and green tree prunings mulch good?
In answering that, it makes sense to first consider the purposes of mulch:
- To prevent evaporation of water from the soil underneath, thereby keeping moisture available for plants and minimising water waste.
- To insulate the soil surface from temperature extremes. In Perth, it’s especially important to keep soil cool in the withering heat of summer, so surface roots of plants are not damaged, earthworms are not driven away, and beneficial microbes and bacteria are preserved.
- To assist in maintaining water absorption properties of the soil (as any Perth gardener knows, our sandy soils are notoriously hydrophobic; hence the proliferation of wetting agent products on the market – Ezi-wet, Grosorb, Riversafe, Proganics etc).
Green tree prunings mulch, used properly – which means spread 10cm (4 inches) thick – gets a big tick for numbers 1, 2 and 3. I can vouch for that, having used it exclusively for almost 5 years now.
Green tree prunings mulch is coarse and the water runs straight through to the soil below. Scrape some away in the heat of a summer’s day and you’ll find the soil underneath moist and cool. You never need to treat the soil with a wetting agent.
By contrast, black mulch is soft and spongy and absorbs water. This runs contrary to its purpose as a mulch by denying water to the soil beneath! You need to saturate it to get water through to the plant roots, and as it dries out it soaks up water from wherever it can get it – that is, from the soil! The story gets worse. In time, black mulch becomes hydrophobic! Yes, it repels water. Further, since it’s black, it absorbs heat from the sun. That ain’t keeping your soil cool!
Aside from not fulfilling its basic functions as a mulch, black mulch is not eco-friendly. “Top quality” (ie: expensive) black mulch contains peat, a non-renewable resource that is mined from natural wetlands in Perth and the South-West. Extraction of peat on a commercial scale permanently degrades or even destroys these wetlands. Don’t take my word for it – consult the experts. There is plenty of info on this online. If you’re an advocate of sustainable gardening practices – which I am – peat is off the menu. Another strike against black mulch.
Finally, the cheaper black mulches are dyed black – occasionally a retailer will be honest enough to acknowledge this (see www.cfulton.com.au). In some instances, the dyes used are petroleum-based. BAD for your garden. BAD for the environment.
That leaves black mulch with one redeeming quality – it looks good. (Actually, I reckon it looks shite – I far prefer the natural look of green tree prunings mulch…but let’s go with the general consensus for now). But for how long does it stay dark and moist and rich-looking? Anyone who has used it will be aware that it becomes bleached and desiccated within a few short weeks of exposure to summer sun. How attractive is it then? Huh?
Green tree prunings mulch also weathers in the sun, but retains its natural look. Aesthetically, I think it’s very much in harmony with natives and waterwise gardens. If you’re stuck on the traditional Euro look – fastidiously manicured close-cut lawn, camelias, gardenias, azaleas, cottage garden annuals etc – you’ll probably struggle to tune in to my perspective. But there’s a remedy!
Book into your nearest Great Gardens seminar, and attend with an open mind. These guys are experts at the cutting edge of waterwise, sustainable gardening in WA. They have recognised that conditions in Perth and regional areas of WA are unique, and that gardening strategies that work in the Eastern States – and/or the northern hemisphere – do not necessarily work here. And the alternative strategies they advocate DO work!
The Great Gardens crew includes well-known identities such as Josh Byrne, Sabrina Hahn and John Colwill, but their credibility has nothing to do with celebrity. In fact, the GG speakers I find most rivetting and inspiring – Chris Ferreira and Peter Coppin (ex CSIRO horticulturalist, specialising in fruit, vine and nut crops) – do not have a media profile.
Quite simply, all the GG crew know their stuff, and put the theory into practice in their individual landscaping and gardening businesses and projects. They are part of a larger network of specialists like Peter Cundall and Jerry Coleby-Williams who are committed to sustainable gardening practices that are environmentally friendly AND mindful of aesthetics (if you like neat cottage gardens, the new breed of natives and waterwise plants will fill the bill at least as well as yer trad Euro plants).
And me? I’m no expert, but I’m now a lot better informed than many of the good but misguided folk whose hopelessly displaced, water-guzzling, fertiliser-dependent, Euro-style gardens I walk past daily. That is not a boast. I am merely well-educated in waterwise and sustainable gardening practices, largely thanks to the Great Gardens seminars. And I have learnt a lot through practising what the GG crew preach over the last 5 years.
This mulch stuff I’m banging on about is not just theory or opinion. It’s borne out in practice. Since I got on to green tree prunings mulch back in 2004, weeds have been minimal, the drip irrigation does its job silently under the mulch, delivering water directly to the roots of the plants without losing a drop to evaporation…and yes, our water bills are less. Dig under the mulch and you find that it has broken down into a lovely dark, rich, moist compost riddled with earthworms.
The only downer is that it is now – 5 years down the track – time to top it up. Too much of it has composted, and the weeds are starting to come back. Oh yeah, and the word is out about Mulchnet – you can wait a while for free mulch these days. Bummer. Then again, there is always the option to jump the queue and pay for it! And it’s a lot cheaper than that black crap (or “for sale mulch”, as I heard it referred to recently).
Economically, environmentally and horticultually, green tree prunings mulch is out on its own.
If you’re a black mulchie, now you know better. But if you’re still not convinced, get ye to a Great Gardens seminar. It takes a leap of faith to let go of your assumptions and traditional ‘wisdom’ and adopt a whole new approach, but I promise you, the rewards are great. And once you take the plunge, you find your perception permanently altered. There is no going back. Why on earth would you?
PS: I became aware some time after publishing this post that there is a small risk that mulch from green tree prunings can carry dieback. Responsible tree pruners minimise this risk by appropriately disposing of prunings from infected trees. However, human error must be factored into the equation, so be aware that the risk does exist. Realistically, though, the chances of copping a dieback infected load of green tree prunings mulch is very small, and can be easily managed. Sabrina Hahn, acclaimed Perth environmentalist, gardening educator, landscaper and horticulturalist specialising in native Australian and Mediterranean plants, neatly sums up the situation as follows:
UPDATE, August 4th 2011:
After 8 terrifically productive years of cutting edge seminars on Perth and WA-specific sustainable gardening, the Great Gardens team has split into two groups – Great Gardens and Beyond Gardens. Both are continuing with the free waterwise gardening seminars. Seminar dates and locales are now available on their respective websites. Booking essential.
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85 thoughts on “Mulch – The Good, The Bad and The Ugly”
A pleasure, Nicole – and may I say it is refreshing to get some acknowledging feedback! Thank you.
BTW, pea straw is good for vege gardens. The Great Gardens crew runs VERY informative seminars specifically on backyard vege growing using techniques adapted especially for Perth soil and climate conditions – highly recommended. They advocate using enviromulch on vege gardens as well as the rest of the garden, but my experience has been that pea straw is better for veges. I should add the proviso that they are experts and I am not.
One bummer with pea straw, though, is that it is relatively expensive. I get it from City Farmers – there are probably cheaper sources.
Good luck! Let us know how you go with Mulchnet and your enviromulch.
Hey thanks for this. There is so much information out there about mulch. I was just about to go down the pea straw root, but will try mulchnet.
Interesting reading on mulchm and agree, almost impossible to obtain ‘free mulch’, but having attended a GG seminar, no longer give the council my garden waste, as is recycled into the garden. A word of warning over pea straw as mulch . . . DO NOT, I REPEAT . . . DO NOT USE OAT/WHEAT STRAW also available from City Farmers, as the whole area muclched will produce masses of weeds from the seeds – ooh that rhymes!! Pea straw has no seed heads to keep you busy weeding.
Bottom line is black mulch is ugly and counter productive . Any coarse, natural and organic mulch is good. The question is where the hell in Perth can you buy mulch like this and get it delivered for a reasonable price? I don’t want a whole truckload of green street pruning’s which is full of eucalyptus leaves and giant chunks of palm fronds.
Feel your pain, Emilie. A good alternative to green tree prunings is pine bark mulch, but as far as I’m concerned it’s too expensive if you need to cover more than a small area.
Dunno if Tim (Mulchnet) is watching on, but if so, maybe there’s a market for a premium green tree prunings product comprising just woodchips, free of leaf matter and palm fronds?
Yep, Tim from MulchNet is watching. The premium mulch is the fresh green mulch on the truck, this is probably the cleanest garden product available and the best. Soil microbes couldn’t care less whether the mulch is from a palm, oleander, citrus or gum tree, all they want is organic material. Remember you should be feeding your soil not your plants.
The “pest & diseases” issue is really about spreading soil diseases so sourcing your mulch from a processing yard or council tip, then you may want to be careful, however Local Government is very relaxed about this (you can still get mulch from many tips), so that horse bolted years ago.
Back in the 1980’s we never heard a peep about spreading soil diseases even though Karri Bark & Peat was being brought up to Perth from the south west of WA (Manjimup and Bunbury) but in 1992 when I started the Mulch Network (selling mulch direct off of contractors trucks), locally produced and locally delivered, it suddenly became an issue. WE must have trodden on some Garden Supply Industry toes and the howling has never stopped since. Mulch produced and delivered in your local area, what will they think of next.
Hi Lynda and thanks for your comments.
Re Mulchnet: I can assure you it is not “almost impossible” to obtain free mulch. We just had a load delivered! And it was primo mulch! You can’t beat that for free.
The only possible drawback with the free mulch is that you can’t choose to have a small amount. A half-truckload is the smallest they’ll deliver for free, and that’s quite a lot.
However, you then simply advertise on mulchnet whatever excess you have left after you’ve done your spreading, and people who wish to take some contact you accordingly to arrange a mutually convenient time to pick it up. (Incidentally, that’s a way you can get smaller loads for free – just keep an eye on the mulchnet excess mulch notices for your area).
It is not always as quick as it once was to get free mulch because word has gotten around and the demand is higher, but we were offered several loads over a few weeks before we accepted the one we just had delivered. So, it’s still readily available and it’s still free!
Further, if you are prepared to pay a small delivery charge, you jump to the front of the queue.
I usually use pea straw for vege mulch, and that sprouts peas. No problem – either pick them off or wait for the peas to develop and eat them! The mulch still does its job in the meantime, uncompromised.
I’ve also used hay straw from City Farmers and had no issue with weeds. Maybe you were unlucky.
Hi Rolan, you can choose to purchase smaller loads from MulchNet, the guys do have problems sliding a set amount off the truck so it can be a generous amount but as you say, we have the “Excess Mulch” option available
Hi I really enjoyed reading this article. I’ve attended GG workshops as well as their synergy workshop – I was inspired by the GG crew and my garden is thriving and our water and energy bills are very low. I find it very hard to convince people that you don’t need the black mulch when you can have free mulch – they automatically assume anything free is usually a dud! So sad. But yes – I love my free enviromulch and I put my name down on the list every second year because i have a large garden and i love the stuff.
Hi Kam, you are correct the “Black Mulch” is just marketing and coloring. A good idea is see what the experts do, Kings Park doesn’t use black or colored mulch (they don’t know what’s in it), Challenger TAFE in Murdoch (the Horticulture College in WA), use tree mulch straight off the truck, Perth City Farm in East Perth get mulch from contractors (MulchNet) and have done for years, most University Campuses in WA use tree mulch, all Local Councils keep and use their own tree mulch, the Perth ZOO used to get mulch from MulchNet.
Hi Kam, and thanks for your comments.
Glad to hear you’re another enlightened GG convert!
Yeah, it’s a battle getting people to drop their assumptions and give you a listen on mulch. Many folk don’t want to contemplate that you know something they don’t, so I am usually quick to add that I’m no expert but have been educated by experts, and point them towards the GG seminars. Pathetic, really, that so many people are not open to new information or to the notion that there may be better ways they have not come across – but such is human nature!
Of course, another way you can influence people is by example. If your garden is looking great, maybe the lesson will rub off, at least occasionally.
Keep up the good gardening!
Many thanks for this. Have attended the workshops and they’re great (and free!!) Have ordered the mulch but was wondering what to do in the meantime to improve my sandy soil for planting. Have been buying loads of manure and potting mix, but it’s a big garden and wondered if there was some other bulk route to go?
(Do you read comments on such old posts?!!)
Hi Mags. Sorry for this delay in responding – have been a bit slack checking blog comments lately.
I find it most economical to only prepare soil where I intend to plant something, rather than generally conditioning the whole garden area. The GG guys will have covered this, but basically, just some compost, a bit of sheep manure mixed with soil in a planting hole, then treated with a wetting agent should suffice if you’re planting natives or waterwise stuff. Once the plant is in situ, sprinkle some Osmocote Native around it, give it some Seasol to give it a flying start, and that should be all that is needed. Don’t forget to keep the area around the plant stem free of mulch.
Thanks a million for this info, I was about to make the fatal mistake and get black mulch, thinking I will be giving my garden a healthy look at the same time fertilizing & saving water. Keep up the great tips and lets Expose the scammers out there…
Glad you came across the right info in time, Bern! Happy mulching and gardening, and pls spread the word on mulch! Many people are resistant to hearing stuff that challenges their assumptions, but with enough wised-up folk passing on the good word, things can surely change…
Thanks for comments re mulch. Mulchnet product seems like a fresh (as opposed to composted) product. Just wondering about your experience with toxins from fresh mulch. From gardening Australia website: “There are also a few pitfalls to watch out for with mulches. Fresh wood chips and barks can contains toxins such as tannins that will damage plants that they are applied around. The trick is to age such materials by leaving them in a pile for several months to allow the toxins to dissipate before they are used in the garden”. I am trying to organise mulch for my strata complex and mulchnet seems perfect. Just don’t want to become very unpopular with the other residents by killing the plants! 🙂
Thanks so much.
Hi “D”, I think you are referring to the process of “Allelopathy In Plants”, all plants have defence mechanisms to ward off animals and competition from other plants, apparently these chemical processors start to fade quite rapidly when the plant dies, some disappear in hours some take a few weeks but you are only putting your mulch on 75mm – 100mm on your soil so very minimal effect.
Green tree prunings mulch is, indeed, fresh rather than composted. However, it comprises green tree prunings, fed through a mulcher, so you’re getting not just wood chips and bark (which Gardening Australia is referring to), but all the leafy material as well.
I am not an expert and cannot issue any guarantees, but I can state with certainty that I’ve been using only enviromulch for a lot of years now, and have never had any issue with toxins or tannins that I am aware of. Combine this with the bona fide experts on WA-specific environmentally compatible gardening – like the Great Gardens crew and Josh Byrne etc – advocating the use of green tree prunings mulch, and I think the probabilities are high that you will be fine with Mulchnet’s mulch.
I’m not sure of the types of plants you have, though. My experience is limited to natives and hardy waterwise exotics…and even with these, there is an attrition rate. We have lost a fair few plants over the years, some of them with the cursed dieback I suspect, but the garden has generally flourished, with only the odd plant to replace here and there each autumn.
Sorry I can’t be more definite in my response, but really, I reckon you’ll be fine with green tree prunings mulch as long as your plants are appropriate for our environment.
I have roses in my garden. Is the Enviromulch okay to use on these? Does the green mulch draw away nutrients from the soil why breaking down? Should I put pea straw and/or animal manures on the garden first, then put the mulch on top of these?
Hi Suzanne, the fresh green mulch is full of nutrients (the ideal mulch for your roses is your rose prunings, straight back under the bush). Remember if you think a plant has a disease, putting the prunings(chopped up) back under the plant won’t be a problem, you can give it what it already has!!
I have a small electric mulcher and I got 9 wheelbarrow loads of excellent mulch from my neighbours palm fronds, went straight under my citrus trees.
We used to have roses in the front garden, and they thrived with green tree prunings mulch. We adhered to the usual fertilising regime appropriate for roses, and I saw no evidence of nutrient drawdown from the mulch.
This nutrient drawdown question was addressed by the Great Gardens crew at one of their seminars I attended. I can’t recall their reasoning, but they were adamant that it is not an issue with green tree prunings mulch. This equates with my experience, and I’ve been using only green tree prunings as mulch for a lot of years now. Remember, though, I’m referring to waterwise gardens of hardy plants, mostly native. I wouldn’t have a clue about the reaction to this kind of mulch of wimpy water-demanding traditional cottage garden plants. Hopefully, you’re not still gardening like that. Roses, BTW, are fine IMO – not water hungry (you can get away with way less than the usual recommended watering), and pretty darned hardy.
Not sure about the context of your question re pea straw and animal manures. Personally, I would only use pea straw on vege beds (and no green tree prunings mulch – although the GG guys maintain that green tree prunings mulch over the top of pea straw works well with veges). Any fertiliser on areas covered with green tree prunings mulch should be applied under the mulch.
OK, i am liking what i am reading, but am unsure now from the last couple of comments what to get?? green/fresh mulch or pay a little extra for the semi aged version.
I did have a look at mulch net, but i could land up with several times the amount i need and have spoken to others who have paid the delivery fee and are still waiting months later. I have no way of transporting the mulch green or other wise so am going to have to pay for what i need.
Thanks for the lesson on black mulch
Please advise soonest
What sort of garden are you intending to use the mulch on, Michelle? Veges, natives…?
BTW, I wouldn’t take any notice of what “others” say about long delays in receiving mulch from Mulchnet they’ve paid for – that sounds like rubbish to me.
I’ve never waited long even for free mulch, and did a design job for a pro gardener who ordered mulch from Mulchnet he paid for – he didn’t need it for a few days, and got it delivered on the day he’d specified.
Try contacting them yourself and ask them when you can have mulch delivered if you pay for it. I’d be amazed if they advise that you’ll be waiting more than a few days at most. I say this on the assumption that your place of residence is suburban Perth.
My garden mainly has natives plants and grasses. The Veges are in seperate pots for the kids to tend 😉
I will give them a call and see what they say.
Thanks for the quick reply
Hi again, Michelle.
We also have natives and grasses, and the green tree prunings I’ve used as mulch have been fine. I wouldn’t pay extra for semi-aged mulch.
Let’s hear how you go with Mulchnet.
Thanks for the useful info.Do you know anything about Lupin mulch? My friend uses it and thinks its fantastic. Is Mulchnet better?
Horses for courses. IMO, lupin mulch is better for vege gardens, but for a waterwise native garden, I would certainly go with green tree prunings mulch.
Rolan I am extremely concerned about the possibility and downright likelihood that the mulched green tree prunings could contain the Phytophthora dieback disease. Phytophthora literally means plant killer!
Well, dieback is already a big problem and has been sweeping through Perth gardens for some years now. I can’t see how green tree prunings could be implicated in that, since most people still use that black crap and other mulches.
On what basis are you concerned about green tree prunings being a source of this disease? I’ve never come across that theory until now, and as far as I know the Great Gardens guys – who I truly believe are leading edge experts in sustainable gardening for Perth conditions – have never mentioned dieback arising as a possible consequence of using green tree prunings mulch. On the contrary, they recommend it as the best mulch available for native-style gardens (and of course, particular natives are the plants most often affected by dieback).
So, interested in where you got your information on this.
I got my information from the nursery industry association who state that you should only buy mulch that is certified phytophthora free and in fact are concerned and are trying to induce laws that stop shire councils from using uncertified mulch in play grounds and medium strips to try and slow the spread of phytophthora. Non Native plants can also be affected from dieback. Give them a call Rolan they may be able to shed a little more light on the situation.
Hmm, well to be frank, I’m sceptical about the credibility of that source. They don’t even have a functioning website – at least, not when I just checked it.
Who are the NGIA exactly, and what is their agenda?
Why would you privilege the view of the NGIA over that of experts who have led the sustainable gardening movement in Perth for many years, such as the Great Gardens crew, Sabrina Hahn and Josh Byrne, who ALL advocate enviromulch as the best for native gardens?
These guys are right at the forefront of the movement, and dieback is one of their primary concerns. Why would they be recommending green tree prunings mulch if it is a likely source of dieback? That just doesn’t make sense.
Further, I have to give some weight to my own experience. I’ve been using green tree prunings mulch for close to a decade, have many varieties of native and non-native waterwise plants, and have a thriving garden. Sure, we’ve lost plants – the attrition rate for natives is quite high, and many of the new hybrid strains have quite a short lifespan, but if dieback was running rampant I think we’d know about it!
I’m not going to bother giving the NGIA a call, because I do not know anything about this organisation and am happy with my experience of green tree prunings mulch. I also have trust in the expertise of the folks I’ve mentioned.
For that reason, if I do investigate your claims it will be via one of those guys. If there is any relationship between green tree prunings mulch and dieback, I think it extremely likely that they will know of it.
I’m curious as to why you assign the NGIA claim such credibility? That’s not a rhetorical question, and I’m not having a go at you. I’m genuinely interested. You seem to be very confident that your dieback information is reliable. Why?
Interesting stuff – pls get back.
I am not privileging a view from the NGIA over CELEBRITY gardeners just trying to offer up more to your one sided and totally bias debate. Not being an NGIA member im not sure of their agenda but I would imagine as like most industry associations it would be to advance, promote and sustain their industry. Dieback is a problem that I believe is worthy of discussion.
Now come on, Bruce, keep your cool. No need to resort to cheap attempts to demean bona fide sustainable gardening experts with that ‘celebrity’ label.
And pray tell, why do you suddenly brand me ‘one-sided’ and accuse me of ‘total bias’, when all I have done is expand on my knowledge and experience in the service of providing relevant information to interested readers?
Seems that you’re reacting most defensively to my not accepting your unsubstantiated claim re a relationship between green tree prunings mulch and dieback. Sorry, mate, but we don’t actually have a debate here without you serving up some hard evidence, as I have in my post. Reason and evidence, please, not merely quoting hearsay from some source that as yet has no credibility at all as far as I’m concerned.
Of course dieback is an issue worthy of due consideration, and I’m open to reasoned genuine discussion, but this suddenly defensive stance you’ve adopted is not constructive.
I can confirm that I am making enquiries of sources I do trust about the claim you’ve made. These people are dogged campaigners for sustainable gardening and environmentally sound gardening principles, and experts in their field. I will report back on their responses.
In the meantime, if you can provide more information on the NGIA and the evidence behind their apparent claims, it would be possible to determine whether those claims have any real basis.
I was thinking about your comment that the NGIA is seeking to stop councils using green tree prunings mulch on median strips and public gardens, and to be honest, I find it hard to understand. Why? Because I have never seen any evidence of dieback affecting the plantings on median strips or council premises gardens! On the contrary, I often look at their plantings and wish mine were as impressive!
Remember, too, that the councils are planting die-back susceptible plants such as grevilleas. If green tree prunings mulch was any significant problem, surely we’d be seeing dead median strips and council gardens all over the place?
I’ll be continuing to advocate and use green tree prunings mulch based on what I have learnt from bona fide sustainable gardening experts and through my own experience until such time as I am presented with credible evidence supporting the claims you’re making. Don’t take that personally!
If you have a real argument, I’m open to it as long as you present it with accompanying evidence rather than simply quoting unsubstantiated claims from an unnamed person in an organisation I know nothing about. In other words, don’t get aggro – get some facts to back up your claim!
Well in case anyone is interested, i ended up with the semi aged mulch as there was no green mulch in stock and i had to get the garden done, whilst we had money & time to do it before the heat really gets going.
The garden looks fab, friends and neighbours are happy as they got what was left over (which was a lot!!!) but i did pay!
Re the above no-one can guarantee anything nowadays and IF it was so bad then it would be banned already…… It’s Christmas quit the arguing. Life is short, it’s just not worth it.
Best wishes for the festive season 😉
Good to hear things worked out with the mulch, Michelle.
Nothing wrong with an argument, as long as it is constructive and all about comparing facts, rather than asserting yourself as Right and dissing the other guy in the process. I went to quite a lot of effort and spent considerable time on this post, and it has received a lot of hits, and continues to do so. Naturally, it is of concern when someone happens along and starts making unsubstantiated assertions negating the information I have sought to disseminate via this blog.
I’m not going to let that go without challenge. However, I do take the point that argument as in aggro and silly point-scoring is futile and not worth the effort. Debate and a genuine exchange of views in the service of discovering the truth about a contentious issue is healthy. I’m open to discourse in that spirit and with that objective. If there really is a significant possibility of green tree prunings mulch being a source of dieback, it is important that that be made clear.
Equally, if Bruce’s claim is fallacy, as I currently suspect is the case, then his assertions need to be put to the test and measured against the facts.
Best wishes for the festive season to you, too, and all readers of this thread.
I can’t understand why you are taking the stance that my argument has any, perceived or actual, aggression attached to it. I am merely stating that The Nursery Gardeners Industry Association has concerns about the dangers of phytophthora using unsanitized and uncomposted green mulch from unknown sources. I haven’t started tis blog and am just a Gardner putting it out there. I am not challenging your enthusiasm for enviormulch just the validity of your bias (I’m not being nasty it’s OK to be bias but it is what it is). I am not having a crack at your celebrity gardeners in fact I religiously listen in on saturday mornings but I find it extremely arrogant of you to denounce the NGIA as being uncredible when it represents a “whole industry”. I am not an idiot Rolan and my point is not to denounce yourself or enviormulch and its benefits but to inform that there is a real and serious threat of unsanitized and uncomposted mulch containing the dieback disease, (A risk worth pointing out). As for substantiating my claim if you just google dieback WA and read through many of pages written on the spread of dieback.
http://www.dwg.org.au/files/dwg-flyer.pdf Such as The Dieback Working Group , A Govt sponsered organisation. Here is a quote cut from their page.
“The risk of spread is greatest during spring and autumn. Phytophthora Dieback can be easily introduced into your garden through the use of non-composted mulch, infested potting mix or soil, and infected nursery plants.”
Rolan, I’m sorry that you feel I am having a personal, angry or unsustanciated attack on your blog. I am just trying to inform the public of the dangers of using uncomposted mulch. The REAL not perceived dangers of potentially infecting and spreading Phytophthora Dieback.
I love gardening and I love the bush
Merry Christmas to all.
No aggro, huh, Bruce? I quote from your previous comment: “I am not privileging a view from the NGIA over CELEBRITY gardeners just trying to offer up more to your one sided and totally bias debate.”
Just a little bit of heat in that, no?
Let’s just review the progression here. You’ve gone from passing on a claim that apparently someone in the NGIA passed on to you, to getting bristly, simply because I didn’t accept your info on face value and do a complete about turn on a subject I have had expert advice on backed up by years of personal experience.
I reject your charge of bias. Bias implies blind, unreasoned prejudice. I contend that I have clearly set out in my post the reasons I believe green tree prunings mulch is better than any other for waterwise-style gardens. REASONS, not unsubstantiated personal bias. And my main target was black mulch, which is rubbish for all the reasons given. I do not backtrack an inch from that. You’re better using no mulch than that stuff.
Let’s get the point-scoring and “I’m right, you’re wrong” stuff out of the equation.
So, back to genuine debate. Your quote from The Dieback Working Group refers to non-composted mulch generally, not to green tree prunings specifically (which have been the sole focus of your cautionary comments on this thread). Their general caution about the possibility of ‘non-composted mulch’ carrying dieback is well-known. I recall Don Burke issuing similar warnings years ago.
I have no issue with the DWG’s statement as quoted. However, I would just like to point out that it amounts to a general objection to ALL vegetable mulch as a possible source of dieback, since composted ‘mulch’ is not mulch – it’s compost!
In the context of waterwise and general decorative gardening, mulch has a different purpose and function from compost, serving to provide a non-water-absorbing layer of protection for the soil beneath. It is not a fertiliser as such, although over time breaks down, essentially becoming compost (with enviromulch, this takes many months). Mulch can include gravel and broken rock – not my choice, but the fact that such materials qualify as mulch exemplifies the point I am making.
Compost, on the other hand, has a primary function as a fertilising and soil-balancing agent and is best dug into the soil, rather than layered on top like mulch. The danger in layering compost is, as with black mulch, that it will retain water and deprive the soil beneath of hydration. Further, it becomes hydrophobic over time. Good mulch does not.
Another take on mulch by Chris Ferreira of the Great Gardens team: it should be uncomfortable to stand on in bare feet! ie: coarse enough to allow water through to the soil beneath and not to absorb any itself.
As stated, I am awaiting the responses of sustainable gardening experts on the specific issue of the relationship between dieback and green tree prunings mulch. Will report back when I have anything to hand.
Yes Rolan, no aggro and no ego but yes I am guilty of a little sarcasm in relation to your favourite celebrity gardeners. For that I am sorry. Rolan you may have spent considerable time on this blog and had lots of hits and it is for this reason that your statements need to be challenged as it is a public forum broadcast. It’s not the information in your blog that I am challenging, it is the lack of or omitted information that should accompany your statements. Coarse mulch is indeed the mulch to be used as a ground covering mulch. Preferably ”composted” coarse mulch with all the fines removed. “Composted” Rolan means it has been pasteurised, therefore being free of disease and pathogens. “Composting” is done by heaping wetting and turning of the mulch therefor creating heat and killing all the bad stuff” The fines should be removed and ”that” compost is what becomes soil conditioner. Phytophthora is unlikely to survive in composted mulch. When you receive green waste from unknown source you risk importing disease into your garden, it’s as simple as that, no aggro, no ego, no who’s right or wrong, just facts Rolan, readily available from the net for anyone who is interested in doing the research.
Thankyou for your posts Rolan. I have enjoyed adding to this interesting topic.
Your tone has changed. You started off with an admission that your information was heresay and somewhat vague. eg: You advised me to give the NGIA a call in the hope that they “may be able to shed a little more light on the situation”.
Now, you have moved to a position of authority and certainty, with a bonus penny lecture on what composting “means” thrown in.
I do know a little about mulch and compost – but perhaps you were not being patronising or attempting to claim some position of superior knowledge. Perhaps you were magnanimously seeking to ‘educate’ other readers, in which case I thank you.
In the meantime, I have to say on the balance of the evidence I have seen in the research I’ve done on the web, I believe the risk of spreading dieback with green tree prunings mulch is minimal – about the same as with any other vegetable matter that has not undergone an extensive sterilisation/pasteurization process of some sort.
That hardly justifies the rather hysterical tone of caution that has crept into your posts as you’ve warmed to your subject. To wit, citing the alleged moves by the NGIA to have legislation put in place to ban councils from using green tree prunings on median strips and other waterwise garden areas! (I note you did not respond to my observation that there is no evidence of dieback ravaging council gardens, which on the contrary present very well indeed).
Re your comment: “It’s not the information in your blog that I am challenging, it is the lack of or omitted information that should accompany your statements.”
Omitted information? Should accompany my statements? There you go again with the personal stuff. Using the word “omitted” implies a deliberate withholding of information – I deny this emphatically. And I ask you, why should I have extended the parameters of my post? I am not writing a thesis! My purposes were to compare available mulches, to dispel the widely-held myth about the superiority of black mulch, and to point out the benefits of the usually much cheaper green tree prunings mulch alternative. A consideration of the possible risks in using vegetable-based mulch is another topic entirely – and one I am now very happy to consider in the comments thread, along with any other relevant topics that readers like you may bring up. That’s how blogs work, n’est pas?
I state again, I will await the advice of bona fide experts on the dieback/green tree prunings mulch issue, and report back when I have some clear information to hand.
Calm down Rolan, your lengthy diatribe is becoming a bore. Once again, All I am saying…yes upon further and confounding research available freely on the web I think it is still worthy and responsable to inform the reader that uncomposted mulch is a disease risk…. ok i am happy to wait for the bona fide experts to confirm how high… but in the mean time readers should be aware of this before potentially diseasing their garden.
You just can’t help yourself getting personal, can you old boy? Sad, really. If you’d been able to take your ego out of the equation and resist the silly attempted putdown at the beginning, your comment would have been quite reasonable. Still, you’re slowly getting there.
You label my reasoned responses to your points ‘diatribes’, which implies a bitterness of attack that simply doesn’t apply to anything I have said. Forceful, perhaps, and you might not like it that I persist in keeping you honest – that might be annoying, but it shouldn’t be confused with bitterness! You’re welcome to do as I do and point out the evidence if you disagree. ie: Point out the instances in my comments that you think demonstrate bitterness.
That at least gives me a chance to clarify anything that might have been misconstrued. Anyone can play the man and make unsubstantiated criticism. Reasoned challenge with clear evidence is a much more interesting game, and one in which I enjoy participating – as you’ll have noted. And the payback for other readers is that something constructive can come out of such exchanges, as long as both parties resist the ad hominem nonsense.
Anyway, I think readers can rest easy on this issue. There is, of course, some risk of disease with any plant-based mulch, and for those who didn’t already know this, they do now. Just how significant that risk is – if at all – I am in the process of ascertaining. You can be sure I will post any relevant info as soon as it is to hand.
The issue of diseases in mulch is often mentioned but please remember, when you order mulch or join the FREE MULCH Data Base on MulchNet, you can actually talk to the producer of the product, the Tree Contractor.
Early in 2010, the Kwinana Freeway added 30 km down past Mandurah, 12.5 million tonnes of soil was moved in construction and, as die-back is soil borne I will let you join the dots. In my humble opinion, locally produced, green mulch from the back of the truck is probably the cleanest mulch available as this product is mostly chipped & delivered direct.
I don’t recommend getting mulch from local government tips as it is mixed with all sorts of rubbish and soil. Makes you wonder how important spreading die-back is to Local Government?
MulchNet is not perfect and we are up upsetting a massive garden supply industry worth billions and they don’t like it. Our business model
Well, there you go folks – Tim is the founder of MulchNet and a long-term member of the Great Gardens team. Expertise on mulch does not come much more authoritative than that.
Unfortunately, it appears the end of Tim’s comment has been truncated, but the preceding information most relevant to this thread is intact.
In light of Tim’s comment, it seems that there is, indeed, a dieback issue arising from some of the practices of Local Govt, but not related to their using fresh local green tree prunings mulch.
With Tim’s comments in mind, I think we can draw our own conclusions about the real agendae of parties seeking to spread damaging misinformation about green tree prunings mulch. As long as it is freshly mulched from recently cut street tree prunings – and as Tim says, you can check with the Tree Contractor re this – you can rest easy that you are using the best mulch for your garden, with minimal risk of spreading dieback.
I think that about sums it up.
Thanks to Bruce for raising the issue.
I am sorry Rolan you need to get someone with a little more credibility than the owner of a website that promotes and I’m sure profits from his mulchnet website…good try but no cigar….
I am not trying to hammer you on any level R, I have no hidden agenda and don’t give 2 hoots about the garden supply industry. Can you please find a credible expert to comment on this issue.
No, I’m sorry Bruce. Sorry for you. Your arrogance and hypocrisy leave YOU with no credibility.
Arrogance, because I seek out the comments of the foremost expert on mulch in WA, and you, in your ignorance and blinkered self-belief, dismiss him as lacking credibility on the basis that he is speaking from financial self-interest. If you had half a clue, you might pause to consider that Tim’s MulchNet offers FREE mulch for anyone who applies. Where’s the profit motive, huh? He’s providing a free public service!
Further, you clearly have no idea about Tim’s motivation, his sincerity and integrity, or his history. Far from operating from a profit motive, he struggled financially for many years in the cause of promoting sustainable gardening practices in this city. If you think he’s making a handsome living, even now, out of MulchNet, then you might be well-served checking the facts against your perception. Frankly, only fools make public assumptions as you just have.
Your hypocrisy is quite remarkable, and even more remarkably, I don’t think you’re remotely aware of it. Let me point out for you, then, that your shrill claim on the “downright likelihood” that green tree prunings mulch spreads dieback is based, on your own admission, on hearsay from some unnamed member of a commercial gardening organisation! Why do you assign your dodgy source credibility, yet blithely dismiss the comments of a mulch expert who has been working in that area for many years, AND who has been an active member of the highly regarded Great Gardens team since their inception?
Are the Great Gardens team also lacking credibility in your view? In your privileged opinion Sabrina Hahn doesn’t know what she’s talking about? Or Josh Byrne? Or Peter Coppin? Or Chris Ferreria? ALL these guys share Tim’s view on the superiority and benefits of green tree prunings mulch. Have you ever attended a GG seminar? if not, I suggest you do so before you shoot your mouth off any more. You might discover you know far less than you think – about mulch and Perth-appropriate gardening generally.
I undertook to seek the advice of a bona fide expert, and was good to my word. I submitted queries to two other experts who have not, as yet, gotten back to me, but I see now that you will simply dismiss them as you have Tim. It is a waste of time my putting any more effort into this. I believe that other readers will be satisfied with Tim’s credentials as an authority on mulch – and frankly, I no longer care what you think.
In fact, I find your unfounded implications about Tim offensive. You’ve shown yourself to be a self-righteous bore full of bluster and muddled by a grandiose and unshakable belief in your own uninformed opinion as absolute truth. Think about it! Even on the basis of simple logic, your linking dieback with green tree prunings mulch doesn’t make sense. Dieback is a soil-borne disease! On what basis, then, can mulched tree prunings be implicated in the spreading of a soil-borne disease?
The lack of humility you have demonstrated might be best addressed by a shrink, rather than giving it free reign here.
As you’re aware, I trashed your two previous comments on the basis that they were merely personal jibes at me and bereft of meaningful content. If you have anything constructive to contribute, do so. If not, please refrain from cluttering this thread with any more of your nonsense. Game over.
The Dieback Working Group in Western Australia has published some good information about managing Dieback in the soil. Visit http://www.dwg.org.au/ to explore the information on their website.
A useful 2-page Facts Sheet about Dieback produced by the Australian Government can be found at the following web address :
Phytophthora cinnamomi is a major threat to natural bushland and forests – and suburban gardens. There is no known cure for the disease nor is there any way of stopping its spread once it has infested an area. The spread into new areas can only be slowed by preventing the dispersal of infested soil or plant material.
A very helpful and easily read report on the effects of and responses to Dieback produced by the Government of South Australia can be found at the following web address:
As a student of Horticulture, I often come across entries in various learning/research material that states a concern with phytophthora in mulch. So Bruce’s original comment regarding concern of it in enviromulch was relevant.
Thought you might like to know.
So I’m on the fence with this subject – I work in the nursery industry so I understand the pros and cons of each mulch idea, plus I’m a wog – stingy as. So I want what I need CHEAP.
My personal 2 cents –
The joke is on both of you at having being disgruntle, at each others comments, enough in your daily activities that you felt the need to keep responding/justifying over a 15 day period…Do you realise that you have wasted precious time thinking about someone you never met?
But I do give you both a ‘hooray’ at getting my mind out of xmas mode, if only for a brief moment.
I appreciate it that you have abided by my request to limit your comments to relevant content.
Thanks for those links.
While I’d encourage readers to do their own research, I have been through all the information contained within the pages you linked to, and for the benefit of readers who do not wish to pore through it all themselves, I provide the following cut-and-pasted quotes as most relevant to this discussion re dieback and mulch:
It is important to balance effort against risk. Phytophthora dieback management in Local government should focus on activities that have a high to medium risk of introducing or spreading P.cinnamomi.
High Risk Activities
High Risk Activities are defined by having a high likelihood of moving soil, sand or gravel. This movement can be deliberate or accidental. The movement of these materials is considered a high risk, because P.cinnamomi is transported in these materials. High-risk activities undertaken in Local Government include:
• The deliberate movement of soil, sand and gravel (earthmoving).
• The construction of roads or drains.
• The use of heavy vehicles and large machinery.
• Completing activities in wet soil conditions when soil is likely to stick to vehicles and machines in large amounts.
Medium Risk Activities
These activities have a moderate risk of moving soil, sand or gravel, and therefore a moderate risk of introducing P.cinnamomi.
• Use of vehicles, hand tools, small machinery
• Footwear in wet conditions.
Low Risk Activities
These activities have a low risk of introducing P.cinnamomi.
• Footwear in dry soil conditions.
The following activities undertaken by Local Government have a medium to high risk of introducing or spreading P.cinnamomi to bushland or horticultural areas:
• Road construction
• Drain construction
• Maintenance activities
• Parks and Reserves maintenance
• Fire fighting activities
• Off road vehicle use by Ranger staff and other vehicles.
So, there you go. No mention of green tree prunings mulch as a significant dieback spreading risk. If it were any sort of risk, let alone the high risk you initially claimed it to be, it would certainly have been mentioned.
I have no issue with Tim as a most credible source of information on this topic, and given his comments and the risk assessment of the specialist dieback groups you’ve linked to, there is no doubt in my mind that green street tree prunings do not present any significant risk of spreading dieback. Readers now have access to enough information here to make their own assessments.
If they still have any concerns, they can compost their green tree prunings mulch themselves before using it on the garden. Personally, I think that is overkill and unnecessary, but the choice is up to the individual.
I think that just about wraps it up.
Being a student of horticulture does not make you a specialist on this topic. The Great Gardens team have finished their horticultural quals and have been practising in the field for a lot of years. You’d probably fast-track your horticultural knowledge by attending a couple of their seminars. These guys are bona fide experts at the vanguard of the sustainable gardening movement, especially as applied to Perth/WA conditions.
No one claimed that there was NO risk in mulch, but the topic here has been whether mulched green street tree prunings specifically present a significant risk of spreading dieback. On the balance of the evidence, it does not.
The exchanges between Bruce and I have nothing to do with “thinking about someone you have never met” and everything to do with two people who care about responsible gardening robustly expressing their views. While I’m happy to have been a source of entertainment for you, I would hate to think that your amusement distracted you from taking note of the important points raised in the exchanges. Unfortunately, it does appear that you have missed the main point: a risk assessment of green street tree prunings mulch as a source of dieback – an assessment that indicates the risk is minimal.
How do you sustain a business when you give stuff away for free? To say there is no financial gain is hard to accept, ever priced tipping green waste at a landfill. I guess if you could not give it away, you would have to pay. I wonder if the customer get’s charged tip fee’s?
I like to know what I put on my garden and as such got a load of Native Organic Mulch for my garden. As far as I know there is only one company in Perth supplying this mulch and it is as they say, only Native tree’s, I have never had a mulch smell like this one. Quite happy to pay for a mulch like this one. I agree, would not put Black mulch near my garden but am happy to get info out there on Native mulch. Type in Native Organic Mulch and make up your own mind.
You’ve misinterpreted me re MulchNet, or maybe I gave a wrong impression. They do, indeed, make green tree prunings mulch available for free as a public service, but they also sell it. If you pay, you can determine how much you get, and when. If you go for the free option, you won’t get a delivery until tree lopping contractors have some excess mulch when in your area, and you can’t usually specify exactly how much you want. If they have a truckload on board, that’s what you get, unless you are prepared to wait until someone else in your area wants some as well, in which case they’ll split the load.
If you do end up with more than you need, though, there is an online register at MulchNet where you can alert others to the fact that you have some to spare, and they can then come and avail themselves of however much they need.
If I gave the impression that MulchNet is solely a free public service, my apologies – Tim does have a family to feed! Still, it’s a pretty good free service he provides.
As I recall from my discussions with him at the Great Gardens seminars, he’d been involved in the mulch and sustainable gardening area for many years, and was perturbed to see a lot of perfectly good mulch being dumped – this is where the MulchNet free mulch idea came out of. It was quite revolutionary at the time, and has since been picked up over east, I believe.
And, as you say, it costs bucks to dump mulch at the tip, so it’s a win-win for the tree pruning contractor and the customer.
The point I was making, though, when I stated that MulchNet offers this free mulch service is that Tim is not some profit-motivated business type seeking to make his fortune out of MulchNet. There is a ceiling on the profitability of a business that maintains a policy of selling only product that is in keeping with the sustainable gardening principles that the owner believes in and espouses. It would be just, IMO, if that ceiling was to raise as the public becomes better informed and changes their gardening habits. It’s been lean pickings for a long while for folk in the sustainable gardening area – those who do not enjoy celeb status, at least – who refuse to compromise their principles, but in the last 10 years their message has started to get through.
When Tim expresses his belief that mulch sourced from fresh green street tree prunings is about as clean as mulch gets, you can be sure he is not spinning some tale out of a profit motive. He is speaking as the founder of MulchNet and a long-term member of the Great Gardens team, and in both positions is an earnest advocate of environmentally sound sustainable gardening practices. That was the point I was seeking to highlight.
I’m not sure what you define as ‘native organic mulch’, but as a long-term practitioner of sustainable gardening principles with natives back, front and on the verge, I can recommend green street tree prunings mulch as perfect for my purposes. Of course, it’s organic – comprising solely fresh vegetable matter – and it’s the mulch the GG experts recommend for native gardens, so that makes it ‘native organic mulch’. Whoever is telling you that theirs is the ONLY such product available is embellishing the facts, I’d suggest. But whatever, you are doing what you think is best for your garden, and that’s fine. If you’re an adherent to environmentally responsible gardening practices, we’re on the same page.
But don’t take my word for it on MulchNet. Go to a Great Gardens seminar. As someone who is clearly interested in sensible gardening practices, you would certainly find these sessions relevant, and my bet is that you’ll come away with new knowledge and the same belief I have in the expertise and sincerity of Tim and the other presenters.
The Native Organic Mulch I speak of is Native trees mulched (not chipped) then composted to remove the need to add Nitrogen to your soil after it is removed by the fresh greenwaste breaking down and removing it for you, composting also kills off seeds which are in the fresh green foliage you speak of. There is only one supplier of Native mulch (not Greenwaste (Enviromulch)) in Perth and has been doing this mulch for nearly 30 years. Dealing with commercial customers only not many know about this mulch. There seems to be alot of confusion about what Enviro mulch is exactly. All greenwaste (as you get in the local council yards) mulched is Enviro mulch, hence your Black mulch and the likes are Enviro mulch with such things as Iron sulphate added to speed up the “cooking” process to blacken the mulch, peat is also used.
Any mulch outlet will have paper work on the make-up of the mulch’s they are selling. Tree loppers doing who knows how many pick up’s a day to fill their truck cannot guarantee that it contains only Native tree’s so I think that’s a bit of a stretch, and I doubt they would throw back on the verge what is not Native after the customer has paid to have it removed. Am quite surprised that people who are in the gardening industry would “recommend” the use of uncomposted green waste on someone’s garden, or maybe the line between Enviro mulch and chipped tree prunnings has been blurred by some.
Land fill sites and greenwaste dumps view chipped tree’s as rubbish, hence the $140.00 or so a tonne charge to dump it (they don’t want it either).
Find it a real eye-sore to drive around and see piles of rotting tree chippings up and down the street, they are a health risk as we all know, so council’s should be responsible and limit what can be “dumped” because someone wanted to save a bit of money. Obviously you feel Mulch net is the foremost authority but I think I’ll stick with probably the biggest mulching company in W.A and 2nd generation experience to answer any questions. For what it cost’s to buy a couple of meters I feel my garden is far to valuable to risk with “unknown” materials. When companies spend over 1 million dollars on 1 mulching machine that weigh’s over 40 tonne then someone spend’s $10,000 on a little chipper only to give away what cost’s quite a bit of money to tip (and apparently it is the best material) it makes me wonder what else people will believe.
It’s clear from your tone and phrasing that you think you know it all on mulch, and that you have great conviction in your belief that there is only ONE quality mulch supplier in the whole of Perth, possibly the known universe – which, of course, is yours. So, I’m not going to bother trying to engage with you. I get a little tired of folk who privilege their own opinion and experience over everyone else’s and who are demonstrably closed to views or information that in any way conflict with or challenge their own perception.
Suffice it to say that I have full confidence in the integrity and expertise of the Great Gardens crew, including Tim Lawrence (actually, especially Tim when it comes to mulch). I say this as someone who attended one of their very first seminars years ago now, who has attended multiple seminars since, and who has spoken at length to various members of the team on a range of issues.
Having also successfully applied their Perth-specific sustainable gardening principles ever since they turned my head around way back when, including exclusively using green street tree prunings mulch, I have my own experience as further evidence that these guys are bona fide experts in the vanguard of the local sustainable gardening movement.
If they recommend green street tree prunings as the best for native gardens, and my experience backs that up, that’s sufficiently credible for me.
One of the main differences between us is that in saying that, I am not also implying that you are wrong in your choice. Your choice of mulch may be appropriate. It sounds fine from what you say. You, on the other hand, seem to think that one choice necessarily invalidates the other. I do not accept that for the reasons I’ve canvassed at length in this thread. No point going over it all again.
I leave it to readers to make their own assessments.
I would recommend, though, that you challenge yourself to be open-minded enough to at least attend a GG seminar (FREE, so all it will cost you is a couple of hours and a little humility). That’s the least any fair-minded person should do before dismissing out of hand the recommendations of a widely acclaimed group of gardening specialists who have led – and are still leading – the sustainable gardening movement in Perth and who have opened the eyes of many folk, including me, to environmentally responsible gardening practices that truly take into account our local conditions.
If you’re not prepared to do that, then I guess you’ve made your mind up and believe in the concept of Absolute Truth, of which you fondly believe you are the proud retainer. Quaint, and if that’s your belief, it’s your choice and you’re entitled to it – but such a position doesn’t seem very balanced or rational to me.
Finally, one point you raise that is worthy of picking up is the use of the term ‘enviromulch’ (I’ve also seen references to ‘environmulch’). Both terms are bandied about at commercial mulch suppliers and, it seems, can refer to various types of mulch, depending on the establishment.
Just to make my position crystal clear, in my post and subsequent comments on this thread, I am referring to mulched fresh local suburban green street tree prunings from native and non-native street trees. That is the type of mulch recommended by the GG team and made available for free – or otherwise, depending on your requirements – from MulchNet.
In the interests of clarity, I have gone back to my original post and changed any references to ‘enviromulch’ to ‘green street tree prunings’. That should get rid of any confusion as far as my writing and recommendations are concerned.
A parting plea: PLEASE book into a GG seminar next year when there’s one in your area. Surely it makes sense to assess for yourself whether these guys are the leading edge sustainable gardening experts I assert that they are? And if so, it follows that you should open your mind to what they’re saying. I can guarantee you, however much you think you know about natives and waterwise gardening for Perth conditions, you will learn some new stuff from these guys, and probably more than you think likely. And I’m sure they’ll be eager to respond to the sorts of claims you’re making here re mulch. Maybe you know more than the experts, but is there not just a tiny chance that you have something to learn from them? Consider.
Where and when is the next GG seminar??
I’m sure you meant to tack on ‘please’, Bruce.
Next seminars are scheduled for February 2011, with details to be posted on the Events page of the Great Gardens website in January.
Update as of August 4th, 2011
Great Gardens is no more, but fear not – they’ll be back later in 2011 with a new website and program. A core group of original members are continuing with the free seminars under a brand new banner. They now call themselves Beyond Gardens. See the Beyond Gardens website for details of upcoming seminar dates and locations. Booking essential.
A very good friend of mine attends the GG seminars and I am not opposed to what they say with regards to gardening, just the use of green mulch. As I have said I have spoken at length with people who have been in the mulch industry for nearly 30 yrs and hear two very differing attitudes with regards to mulch. Not saying only one supplier of mulch but only one doing the sort of mulch that I speak of, most do greenwaste (all in) mulch. I find it amusing that you feel my position is “unbalanced and irrational” when after reading some comments on this page it seems anyone who questions chipped up trees or your leader Tim, they get told they are wrong and “embellishing the facts” or “arrogant” and so forth.
I have not said that the mulch I use is “the best all purpose mulch” as some have made the claim, I have seen the mulch you like, Have you seen the mulch I prefer?
Have I seen the mulch you prefer? Nope.
I’ve already said my choice of mulch does not invalidate yours. Your point is?
A very good friend of yours attends the GG seminars and you are “not opposed to what they say with regards to gardening, just the use of green mulch.” Uh huh. So, you don’t actually know what they say about either gardening or “green mulch”, do you? You know what your friend says they say. And on the basis of this hearsay, you are able to accurately determine that their gardening advice is ok, but their mulch recommendations are not?
Oh – you have “spoken at length with people who have been in the mulch industry for nearly 30 yrs” – and that 30 years of experience apparently seals the deal for you as to their credibility. Well, Jack, Tim has been in the mulch industry for a lot of years as well, so on your basis of credibility, shouldn’t you be assigning his opinion the same respect?
There is no substitute for getting your information from the horse’s mouth. Why not go to a GG seminar yourself, take up your points re “green mulch” with Tim and/or the other experts present, THEN report back here with your findings. Informed comment is always welcome, whether it is pro or con my views.
You mentioned he has been talking up chipped trees for 10 years, 1/3 of the time of those I deal with. The issue is not gardening but the use of uncomposted mulch which has no benefit except ground cover. If you like it that’s fine but you state it is “the best” which is a ridiculous statement as it invalidates all other mulch business’s who have been producing mulch (some for 40 years) as knowingly selling mulch that does no good, but I guess they are “unbalanced” also. 5 minutes on the net will tell you the negative impact of uncomposted mulch, although maybe all on the net are “embellishing the facts” although they have nothing to gain from that. When you do get informed comment you attack those who put it on if you don’t agree with it.
When the person who tell’s you that their mulch is the best and they also stand to gain financially then you lose all credibility. It would be an horrendous abuse of a position IF that was the case.
“Talking up chipped trees for 10 years?” Wha? Where’d you dig that up from? To the best of my knowledge, Tim has been in mulch and sustainable gardening for decades. He goes waaaay back. He’s been a member of the Great Gardens team since they started, which is a bit under 10 years ago if my understanding is correct. Maybe you’re referring to that? Whatever…wires crossed somewhere.
Jack, sorry but you really demonstrate your ignorance with your comment that uncomposted mulch “has no benefit except ground cover.”
Mulch’s function is, indeed, to provide “ground cover” – that is, a protective layer over the soil – for the 3 purposes I identified in my post. Please re-read.
Adding nutrition to the soil beneath is not a primary function of mulch.
As stated, I believe you really need to get along to a GG seminar to ensure you have the best and most up-to-date info on sustainable, environmentally responsible gardening practices. But this is going around in circles, so no point in my repeating myself.
Uncomposted mulch is not a problem in itself. Diseased uncomposted mulch is. That’s the issue here, and unless you have further informed comments to add to those already posted above, I guess you’ll just have to decide whether you need to look into expanding your knowledge or whether you don’t. You know what I think, but in the end your decision is up to you.
I ordered 5m3 on Tuesday Night and it was delivered next day. Checked it out and all looks good to me so far. Will advise on progress. Paid for delivery cost and for a rental property thats fine for me.
Hi Peter – sorry I have neglected responding to your post until now! It somehow got under the radar.
Seems your experience of Mulchnet was a good one…not surprised, but good to have your feedback here.
BTW, re the dieback issue, I’ve now got the word of another expert – Sabrina Hahn – on record. I’ve posted her comments as a ‘PS’ under the title post. That should put the issue to bed, along with the somewhat hysterical and alarmist claims that infused some of the more heated discourse in this thread. All now quiet on the Western Front!
Well done Rolan you have finally put up comments that warn people of the dangers of using uncomposted mulch. You must check with mulchnet that the trees mulched were healthy and not dieback affected as if they are according to Sabrina Harn you will infect your garden with phytophthora (dieback). If it is mulched from healthy trees you won’t have a problem.
Once again Rolan I credit you with posting a relevant and credible post warning of the dangers and potential risk of using uncomposted mulch from mulchnet.
Always interested in getting the facts from bona fide experts, Bruce.
Sabrina’s lucid and balanced statement is a far cry from your assertion on the ‘downright likelihood that the mulched green tree prunings could contain the Phytophthora dieback disease’ – not to mention some of the strident and uninformed opinionating that followed. Nevertheless, I thank you for bringing up the topic of dieback. It’s important in the context of this post that it was addressed.
I always said I would post the facts once I had them from a truly authoritative source, and I have been true to my word with Tim’s and now Sabrina’s contributions. I would have posted Sabrina’s comment far sooner had I not mislaid the newspaper cutting, which I just found during a much-needed cleanup.
A point of clarification: you’re not correct in stating that Mulchnet should be contacted to check that mulched green tree prunings have not come from dieback-affected trees – such assurances should be sought from the tree contractors themselves who source and deliver the mulch. This point has already been made by Tim.
Anyway, in summary – and most importantly – I believe Sabrina has confirmed Tim’s and my assertions affirming green tree prunings as an excellent mulch, while acknowledging the very small and easily manageable dieback risk.
On a less savoury note, pleased to see you’ve calmed down after your weird and unprovoked outburst on the Peter Garrett thread, in which you declared me “a pathetic deluded individual” and an “arrogant, ignorant, egotistical, incorrigible bastard.” I don’t mind robust rhetorical sparring at all, but there has to at least be some topical context. Posting abusive blather out of the blue as you did is just loony!
Censoring comments runs contrary to my basic principles as a writer and blogger, but petulant and unprovoked name-calling and abuse like that adds nothing to this blog (or any blog). It’s undignified and counterproductive all round. If you can’t manage to contain your ‘issues’ in future (whatever they are) and again resort to that sort of unprovoked trash-talk, the post will be binned, simply because I categorise such nonsense as nuisance posts. Also, please stop posting abuse under different aliases. I can see your IP address, so you’re fooling no one but yourself. I have spammed your aliases, so I won’t even see them if you use them again to post on this blog. A bit of growing up in order, don’t you think, Bruce? It’s never too late.
Rolan ,I can assure you and others, I have only ever posted as Bruce Biggs so now I might add paranoid to my list of defamatory comments I have made to your unequivocal ego. Anyone who bothers to read your tiresome blogs will note that it is you Rolan who indulges more than anyone in petulant and unprovoked name calling. I have no doubt you are not capable in seeing it and I imagine you will remove my post to confirm my assertions about you. Good luck to you. You were right, you are always right.
IP addresses do not lie, Bruce. And you should also be sure not to betray yourself with repeated phrases under your aliases – that’s almost as much of a giveaway as the IP address!
I state categorically, I have never resorted to unprovoked name-calling or abuse, on this blog or elsewhere. I’ve responded in kind to ad hominem attacks, but never without provocation, and you will not find a single instance of my resorting to the sort of uninitiated childish tirade you posted on the Garret thread on this blog or elsewhere.
But enough of this bickering from both of us. I have to call an end to it somewhere, and this is it. No more unprovoked name-calling and abuse from you, please, on any thread. Further, any more posts from you on this thread not strictly on topic will, indeed, be removed in the interests of my readership. My sense is that people are sick of this sort of stuff, which is rampant all over the net. I’ve been guilty of playing this silly point-scoring game, too, so the blame is not only with you. No more from me, no more from you, OK?
Today I got delivered what I am thinking people are talking about “green mulch” can someone tell me do I have to add any organic fertiliser to the garden beds before putting the mulch down, I was told that green mulch lets of a lot of nitrogen into the soil, is that true and is that bad?
If you’re referring to green tree prunings mulch, I have heard it asked at Great Garden seminars whether it can deplete the soil of nitrogen during the breaking down process (the answer is no – it only breaks down very slowly). I’ve never heard it suggested that that it adds nitrogen. Whatever, I have been using it for the best part of a decade without either problem.
As far as fertiliser goes, you should prepare planting holes with appropriate fertiliser before putting in your plants, and then fertilise your plants as they need it thereafter, but there is no need to fertilise generally before you put down the mulch. You’ll find it will very slowly turn into a lovely dark moist compost and will bring the worms, so it does have a general soil enriching effect over time.
The issue of spreading soil diseases via mulch is important, however this issue needs to be kept in perspective. Many local governments either sell or give away mulch from government tip sites to local residents and have done so for many years (Kwinina, Stirling, Mandurah, Wanneroo).
Spreading soil diseases is obviously not an important issue for Local Government, you can also see much of this product on medium strips, local parks; road verges, bits of plastic, sand, etc.
Mulch from MulchNet contractors generally is delivered straight off the truck and is locally produced, which is why I think it is a much cleaner product with a very, very low carbon footprint. Locally produced, locally delivered and I always say the best mulch is your own; if you are having your plants pruned or removed, always keep your mulch. If your plants already have a disease, you can’t give it to them again.
Karri and Peat mulches originate in the Karri Forests from South West WA, hundreds of kilometres from Perth and if you wanted to transport soil diseases, digging peat from a wetland would fit the bill and this has been going on for decades with not a squeak from government.
The MulchNet business model is challenging a billion dollar gardening supply industry who have been conning us for years and they don’t like it. All organic mulches, composts, potting mixes, etc all come from garden waste, your garden clippings. Don’t feed this carbon spewing monster, keep all your garden clippings on your landscape and save money.
Thanks for your post and the further clarification, Tim.
Not being remotely educated regarding horticultural issues I read your piece with interest as I needed to mulch the garden and needed advice. I ordered the free mulch you mention but paid as the temperature was rising and I couldn’t wait. I’m sorry, as much as I want to be petrochem free and as natural as possible, the mulch that was delivered was a nightmare. Palm fronds of .5-2m (honestly I am not exaggerating) were riddled through the ‘mulch’, sticks up to a metre long were plentiful. I spread the stuff and watched the mess for 2 years.
Pros: it took ages to break down, water went where it was needed.
Cons: deep cuts and numerous nasty scratches that I and the children sustained for the length of time we remained at the property whilst gardening, playing.
Maybe we had a bad batch, I wish I knew as it’s that time of year again….and I’m as confused as ever!
Thanks for your post, and sorry to hear of your experience. Having ordered several loads of mulch from Mulchnet over the past 10 years or so, I can say that in my experience you copped a bad load. I have had patches of leaf matter that slipped through the mulcher without being broken down enough, but never intact palm fronds or 1 metre lengths of splintery wood.
I reckon if you’d contacted Tim at Mulchnet soon after the delivery he would have seen you right, especially since you paid for your load. I’ve always found him to be a most reasonable bloke who bends over backwards to please his clientele.
He was offering a free firewood service at one stage along similar lines to Mulchnet, and some bozo dumped some big VERY heavy blocks of hardwood of some type on our verge that I couldn’t make a dent on with an axe. No matter how savagely I hurled the axe down at it from on high, It was so hard the blade just bounced off. When I complained to Tim, he came over himself and took it away. I don’t know how he even managed to lift the blocks without help (I would have helped, but we were out the back and didn’t hear him knock). Anyway, do phone him if you have any concerns with mulch ordered from Mulchnet in the future.
One thing I should point out: Mulch is supposed to be rough. The test of a good mulch as suggested by sustainability expert Chris Ferriera (one of my gardening gurus), is that it should hurt to walk on in bare feet. So, sounds like your batch more than passed! Clearly, not an ideal surface for gambolling kids, though. If you need child-safe mulch, I reckon you might need to look at another alternative, like non-stained woodchips or mulched pine bark. Much more expensive, but also good mulches, I believe.
Would be interested in a follow-up report from you once you decide which way to go with this season’s mulch. Maybe Tim is worth contacting in the first instance. I think he’d welcome your feedback on your less-than-happy mulch experience, and he might be able to point you in an appropriate direction.
Very sorry to read your comments, if you log into the Membership Area, click on “My Jobs” you will find all the contact details of the Tree Contractor who delivered your mulch and give them a call and ask them if they don’t mind being mentioned by name in a blog. We designed the system to be completely transparent so no contractor can drop a load and vanish.
Palm fronds are the hardest plant material to mulch but it looks like they didn’t mulch them. Ironically the rough coarse mulch from palm makes a fantastic mulch but only when it goes through the chipper.
We currently have over 160 Tree Contracting Companies sign up to the MulchNet service and I do say to them some loads just have to go to the tip or recycling centre.
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I have been using the wanneroo shire mulch since 2005. The first and second batches were good, I got no weeds and they each lasted for 3yrs however, last year i got a new batch and have had nothing but weeds. This year I put more on because i did a lot of planting, and i noticed there was soil in the mix. It has been three weeks since I have placed the mulch on the garden and weeds are already coming through, growing out of the mulch, which seems to defeat the purpose of using mulch in the first place. I’m also concerned about the possibility of dieback in the mulch. Can someone out there give me some advice, I love gardening and my garden and would be devastated if I killed my garden simply from the mulch i chose to use
Hi Susi, and thanks for your comment.
I don’t have any experience using the Wanneroo shire mulch, but I do take notice of Tim Lawrence, of Mulchnet. No one knows more about green tree prunings mulch. If you read his post above, dated October 4th, 2011, you’ll note that he is not enthusiastic about council mulch due to the disease risk, specifically including the Wanneroo council mulch.
My recommended source of green tree prunings mulch is Mulchnet, based on my own experience using mulch from their network. I would switch to them for future supplies, if I were you.
As far as the dieback issue is concerned, it has been exhaustively covered in this thread – please read through the relevant posts in this thread if interested. Or, you can skip straight to the bottom of my initial post, to Sabrina Hahn’s word on the subject. I doubt you’re going to get more expert information than that. The rest is up to you: ie, to question your supplier about any concerns you have to establish the level of risk, and to take the precautionary measures recommended by Sabrina if you feel them justified in your case. If I was getting mulch from the Wanneroo council, I’d be taking every precautionary measure possible!
Hi Susi, I feel the late spring rain this year will/is responsible for a strong weed growth and if you are using a “Composted Mulch” that holds water that won’t help. Don’t pull the weeds out, just chop them off at the base, leave the roots intact and use them as mulch, make them work for you.
In my opinion, green locally produced mulch direct of an Arborist truck is a clean premium product chipped direct into the truck and delivered to you and remember you can speak with the producer, you can’t do that even at a garden centre.
Regarding the issue of dieback or soils disease in mulch, never accept products that have soil mixed in as “Tip Mulch” invariably has. All this comes back to the general stupidity of the annual “Green Waste Pickup” that many local governments offer to ratepayers, all garden clippings/prunings should be put back on the garden not on the verge to be taken away. If we aren’t removing nutrients from the loop we don’t have to replace nutrients lost.
This material (regardless of the source) is chockablock full of nutrients that the plant has removed from the soil for growth and if it returned to the garden, no more need to purchase fertilizers, this product is the best slow release non polluting nutrient source on the planet. 200 million years or more of R & D in motion. You won’t see this information on TV gardening shows, no money in it.
thanks for your post, and it was a deciding factor in getting green mulch instead of composted ones…
Looked at mulch net, but found that it was too much for my small little front yard, so have rung a few local Cannington tree cutting company, and found one that was willing to sell me as much as i want for $100… was still cheaper for me compare to getting from other companies….
Currently have laid most of my old lawn with a thin layer of cow/sheep manure and topped it up with 4-6″ of the mulch… and kept topping sections that felt like it was lower or bouncy till it is solid… just worried about the weed on the edge of the mount… will probably need to spray the edge regularly to keep the weeds in control.
Would the mulch eventually reduce in depth, and by your experience, how long would it take to need topping up again?
cheers again for your great info.
If you can see your soil, it is time to mulch as our intense sunlight and heat can kill important soil organisms not to mention plant feeder roots. When you mulch you should never see your soil again!!
Hi Joe, and thanks for your post. Glad to hear you went the right way with your mulch decision, and to have assisted in this somewhat!!
Great advice from Tim – no one knows more about green mulch.
I’ve got a couple of questions. Did you spread mulch over your lawn to kill it, intending to then plant natives, or have I misunderstood?
If I’ve got that right, I’d just caution that spreading mulch over the lawn might not be sufficient to kill it. In fact, if it’s a deep-rooting hard-to-kill variety like couch, I can tell you from bitter experience that the odds are that by the middle of winter or spring at latest you’ll have couch emerging all over the surface of the mulch. I had to dig our couch up manually to ensure every runner was gone – big, nasty job! Even then, we had to keep digging at stubborn little patches that kept peeping out at one corner (we refuse to spray).
If your lawn is/was buffalo, you might be OK, though.
Green prunings mulch does slowly break down over time (ie: years), creating a lovely black tilth beneath, which can sometimes turn hard and crusty. That’s a pain when it happens, especially if it traps drip irrigation beneath, which can have the effect of blocking up the drippers. If this happens, or if you need to re-plant, you sometimes need to shovel the old mulch aside, replant, and add new mulch. Takes years to get to this stage, though, and if you make good plant choices you won’t need to replant anyway – just pile on new mulch when the old stuff gets low. And don’t discard the composted old mulch! It’s terrific compost, so use it in your garden, planting preparation etc.
Another caution: thinking has changed on the ideal thickness of mulch – current advice is to spread it only 5-6cm thick. Also, keep clear it of trunks and stems, especially in the case of natives.
Speaking of which, it’s not always easy choosing the right ones. The downer about natives that is often not mentioned by zealous advocates – and we’ve learnt this the hard way – is that they tend to have a high attrition rate, even when you stick to indigenous varieties. We’ve had to replace a lot over the years, and we research our plant choices well and do our best to put into action everything the local experts advise (eg: Great Gardens, Beyond Gardens).
You get to know the hardy old faithfuls, but in our experience they are far outnumbered by casualties over a period of years. Also, even when you prune regularly to keep them well-shaped, there are plenty of varieties that just stop looking good after some years. You can never sit back and think “ah, well NOW I’ve finished and just look at my gorgeous waterwise, low maintenance native garden!”. We once naively thought that was the goal, but you never get there. Still, keeps things interesting!
And we still wouldn’t revert to thirsty, wimpy Euro and other such plants. Seems inappropriate at least, these days, even irresponsible for those who have been educated to know better.
Best of luck with your mulch and garden. Would warmly welcome some feedback once things have progressed for you.
cheers for the reply;
I am aiming to use it to kill off the lawn first… then after a year or so, will look at planting local native eventually.
Not sure of the breed of grass I have on the lawn, but I have also used some cardboard and newspaper to lay over the old lawn to do “sheet mulching”
hopefully after a year I should be able to plant some natives 🙂
Hi fellow Mulchers,
I ripped out my front lawn, put a nice curvy path in and filled in the front yard with a truck load of green mulch. The chipped mulch was all hardwood, Lemon Scented Gum, Banksia and Tuart. When I put the mulch down I layed weed mat down first then a100mm minimum of mulch. I haven’t mulched the garden beds as yet, just where the lawn was. My question is Do I need to use the weedmat? and Will the nutrients from the breaking down of the green mulch penetrate through the weedmat. Great website you have here!
Hi Andy and welcome. And I must apologise for taking so long to respond. Been going through a very distracting and anxious time due to some appalling neighbours taking us to court over a bloody fence. You’d tell them to get a life, but they wouldn’t understand. Anyway…
I’ve never put a weed mat down as a preparation for laying mulch, and I haven’t heard this recommended by the “gurus” who run the Great Gardens or Beyond Gardens workshops, whom I respect as bona fide sustainable gardening experts specialising in Perth conditions. As long as you weed out all the deep-rooted weeds, like couch grass for example, before you lay the mulch, I can’t think of any reason weed matting would be necessary.
Not sure whether weed matting would prevent nutrients reaching the soil underneath. But to be honest, I really wouldn’t use it in your context. I assume you’ll be planting out the area in place of your lawn (yay!), in which case you’ll have to cut big circles out of the matting to prepare the soil for planting. That sounds like a major pain, I reckon.
Would be good to hear from other readers on your queries. I’m no expert, just a reasonably well educated gardener committed to sustainability principles.
Great to hear how you go, so pls let us know.
Great web site! Thank you!
Is newspaper very efficient as a mulch layer in my garden?
I need to put something down now before the heat comes. I have roses, bearded iris, citrus trees, lavender and a vege patch to mulch. The other flowers in the garden are low water and pretty hardy but I still need to mulch the garden.
Do I need to shred it or if I need to layer, how many layers do I need to use?
My local newsagent has plenty of free newspapers I can have so I am hoping you will say ” sure, go ahead”. 🙂
Enjoy your day!
Hi Jane. Newspaper can be used laid down in sheets as a weed suppressant – we use it that way when growing garlic, which is particularly averse to sharing its patch with anything else. It needs to be held down (we use thin lengths of wood) and wet constantly to stop it blowing away or becoming dry and nasty. It breaks down over time, of course.
It’s also good shredded and put in the compost.
However, mulch should be coarse to allow water through to the soil beneath and not too easily broken down into compost (so it lasts). Thus, paper by itself in any form is not ideal. IMO, you’d be better off composting it, and using green tree prunings as mulch. I reckon shredded paper mixed with some manure could work well as a sort of composting mulch on your veges, though. Would need to be kept damp.
I’d be interested in your results when you decide how you’ll use newspaper in your garden, if you do end up doing so. Please post back.
Newspaper is not a good mulch, great for the worm farm (shredded) but layering newspaper is not a good idea, it will dry out preventing water getting to your soil. I have put wet, shredded newspaper down first and then covered with a good mulch. This was just to get rid of a pile of community papers.
Have a look at “Learn about mulch” on my website, this is an article by the great John Colwill published in the West Australian in 2002, still relevant today.
Good to get an opinion from the expert – thanks, Tim.
Have to maintain, though, as mentioned above, layering newspaper works extremely well as a weed suppressant for garlic. This tip was passed on to me by a permaculturalist garlic grower in the south-west, and we’ve never looked back since.
I’ve added a link in your post to the ‘Learn About Mulch’ page.