Mulch Ado About Nothing

by Danny Zawacki

Do you ever come across a website that offers to make your life better and you think, “Great, but this is too good to be true”? I’ve often come across these as ambitious startups offering something free or asking me to please give my email address for updates which never actually come. Well, when I came across ChipDrop I figured it was another one of these ambitious startups. I actually found ChipDrop on Craigslist, which added to my suspicion that it was a ruse. I mean, they were promising a truckload of free mulch delivered to my door. It really seemed too good to be true and was likely a scam. Against my better judgment, I convinced Ellie, with very little effort, that we should sign up and it would likely lead to nothing.

A day and a half later I was wrong.

Oh so wrong.

For lack of a better measurement, I was delivered a Corolla of mulch in the middle of our driveway. I had enough time to give Ellie a heads up on her way home and make sure she didn’t park in the garage if it wasn’t there by the time she got home. It was there. She sent me a photo and I just laughed because what else do you do when your driveway is blocked by a load of wood the size of a 2005 Toyota Corolla? You laugh, that’s what.

I woke up the next morning and the pile was steaming. All of that fresh ground wood was drying itself out in its own self-generated heat. As we dug into it over the weeks, we also found a nice white dust filling the air. Not so great to breathe in, but apparently that is beneficial to the mulch breakdown.

And so began the harrowing journey of delivering the mulch to the various parts of our yard. We don’t have a large yard, mind you. I think our lot is either 1/5 or 1/4 of an acre. Part of that is house, driveway, and garage. The rest was green space broken up by flower beds and gardens. I looked at Ellie and said I’d move it. It was my blunder from the beginning, I’d clean up the mess.

On day one and two, I moved mulch with a bucket and then with a leaf bag. It wasn’t sustainable. So over that weekend, I bought myself a wheelbarrow. It was much more sustainable. I wasn’t going to break my back spreading mulch and reclaiming our driveway.

My first thought was, fill the garden boxes with a thick layer of mulch. It will break down and the soil will eventually be great. Then I found out too much mulch can be a bad thing. I guess in layers of more than 4″ it tends to become hydrophobic. So, instead of putting more in smaller space, I found more spaces to put mulch. The edges of the yard where weeds grow? Mulched. That garden box? Mulched. The space between the garage and the grapevine? MULCHED. Everything was mulched. (Fun fact: Don’t mulch higher than the base of the poured concrete for the garage, when it rains it will run into your garage).

There was one day where Ellie and I did a lot of damage to the size of the pile. It was the same day I spent a few hours digging out a hundred or so ferns from the front of the house planter boxes. I also then had the best sleep I’ve had in a long time and the sorest back I’ve had in a long time (aside from breaking it this summer, but that’s a different story).

We didn’t use all the mulch ourselves. Damn near close, but we had some help. I put up a post on NextDoor and a woman down the street came over in her hatchback Mazda 3 and filled empty kitty litter buckets with mulch and took it back to her place. She probably made five or six trips that way. It was a dent, but only a small dent. Also, one of my friends came for a visit and he took a trunk load of mulch with him. Again, another small dent. But those small dents were needed and made a difference.

It took us three weeks. Maybe more. I lost count. But we did get all the mulch out-of-the-way. It’s great that this was offered for free. But I would have paid a bit to limit the amount I was delivered to a more manageable pile. In the end, our yard looks great and we spent hardly any money on this, just time. I’m glad the service isn’t an empty promise and I recommend it for anyone who needs to do some landscaping. Be prepared!