When we first moved into this house, every existing flowerbed was mulched. Sort of. Rather, it appeared that sometime in the last ten years, someone had thrown some mulch down. It was rather thick in some parts, non-existent in others, but every piece of mulch looked. . . well. . . tired. Like it had done all it could do and was now going to return to the big compost pile in the sky.
Since we moved in at the end of winter, there wasn’t much I could do about the mulch at the time. I didn’t care about it one way or the other. Sure, it looked ugly, but meh. There were a lot more pressing ugliness concerns to be addressed. So, by default, the mulch stayed. Until springtime.
That spring was when we realized we were sitting in the middle of box alder heaven. Every box alder bug for miles around came to our property to copulate. It was annoying, but since box alders don’t do anything other than fly around and be annoying, it was not horrifying. Until one day when I was out working in the flowerbeds for the very first time. I moved aside a pile of tired, old mulch and found. . . 8000 box alder bugs. In a six-inch-square area. As I moved more and more mulch, I found more and more bugs. They were infesting the mulch, to the point where there was more bug that mulch. Now, like I said earlier, box alders are annoying, but not, to my knowledge, something to be feared. Unless you happen to see a billion of them in a very small space. A writhing, crawling, seething mass of insect life. Need I say. . . ew?
So, I raked out every bit of mulch from every bed we had and told The Man that we were going to have none of that. Nothing organic that can host an infestation of Biblical proportions. That was two summers ago.
This summer, I had to cave. One of my flowerbeds has been a disaster since Day One. When we moved in, it was bursting full of unidentifiable plants. I decided to thin them out a bit, but wanted to leave them and see what they turned into. Turns out, 99% of them were tall, self-seeding weeds. I still don’t know what kind, but they grew to about 4 feet in height and the bees loved their teeny-tiny flowers. That autumn I dug out as many as I could, but I was too late. The seeds had fallen.
Last year, I tried to keep up with the new sprouts by hand, but it was no use. I had to cultivate at least once every two weeks to keep the ground around my real plants relatively clear. This year, when I saw that regardless of my caution in not letting any of the previous year’s sprouts flower and drop seed, I was facing another uphill battle, I caved. I had to mulch. I had to strangle them out. Besides, this particular bed is in full sun for almost the entire day. Mulch would help keep the soil from baking dry every other day.
So, I mulched tonight. I also planted two new perennials to fill in holes in the bed – an Indian summer daisy and the saddest, most nearly-dead dwarf hollyhock ever seen. The good folk at Lowe’s gave me a discount, possibly because they wanted someone else to be responsible for its death. I’m hoping it rebounds now that it’s out of its confining pot and watered (and mulched!)
In the upper-left: Three mystery plants that came with the house. They’re kind of like foxglove, only yellow. They are currently budded. Then, the Indian summer daisy, and my two early sunrise coreopsis in the back row. In the middle are three snow-in-summers, and in the front is the sad hollyhock and two English daisys (one is much smaller because it was almost strangled by leftover hosta and weeds). The sad hollyhock is the barely-visible collection of stalks in the lower-left corner of the bed.