Thursday, April 19, 2012

Stop This Nonsense!

I recently planted a bunch of flowers, vegetables, and herbs around my house. Immediately after, we were hit with a day in the 90s and several other really warm days with no rain. Despite my daily watering regimen, my plants were drying out and the dirt around them was getting hard and cracking. I knew that I needed to mulch my beds, but I just hadn’t quite found the time. Last night, I made the time.

I showed up at the large warehouse in search of regular mulch. I quickly learned that “regular mulch” is akin to looking for “regular sneakers.” What kind of mulch was I looking for, the sales girl asked. I tried not to sound snarky in my reply. I want the kind that helps retain moisture and reduces weeds. I stumped her. She quickly excused herself to find someone more knowledgeable about the issue. Soon a boy, who may have been a whole two years older than the girl, approached me. I gave him the same line, and he told me to use this mulch. I was standing in an aisle with probably 50 variations of mulch and he told me to use the one right at the end next to him. I suspect it may have been the highest priced mulch of the bunch.

Some mulches appear to have weed deterent chemicals imbedded in them. I didn’t want that. I just wanted plain old everyday mulch. I didn’t want the rubber stuff that’s used on playgrounds. I wanted the kind that is natural and slowly breaks down around my natural plants. The one he pointed to appeared to meet these basic needs.

The next question stopped me. What color of mulch did I prefer? What? I chose not to take Botany, but I do believe I understand enough about plants and mulch to know that mulch is made from shredded wood. Wood can be a variety of colors, but it’s a safe bet to say that most are a hue of brown. I had my choice of brown (“color guaranteed to last a whole year!”), black, or red. Being the natural girl that I am, I went with brown.

When I returned home with my bags of mulch, I again pondered the color question. Did I make the right choice? Brown is rather boring, after all. Should I have gone with red? Our chimneys are red and our pool is edged in red brick. Our porch floor is painted brick red. Maybe the red mulch would color-coordinate better and enhance the beds. Or maybe black would look good. Our house is large and white. Black would provide a good contrast to that which would make the plant colors really pop. Why didn’t they offer blue to go with the color of my pool or green to blend in with the weeds that might get through?

Stop this nonsense!

Manufacturers provide the products that consumers are asking for, not the products that consumers really need. What we need here is plain mulch that protects our plants and slowly decomposes over time. What we need is practical, not ornamental. The flowers are the ornaments.

I’m happy I chose brown. It will nicely offset the reds and purples of my tomatoes and peppers. It lets the natural colors of my marigolds shine brightly without competing with them. It provides the perfect backdrop to my purple and pink petunias.

Brown in the perfect color.

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