Saturday, May 3, 2008

A Mixed Bag of Mulch

Yesterday MSS and I went to the city's recycling center to pick up our free glass mulch. (She took some pictures, which I hope she will post because I didn't bring my camera.) Given the size of Austin, it's actually a pretty small facility (maybe there are others?).

Karl, who couldn't have been nicer, showed us where the mulch was and warned us about how heavy the tiny pieces of glass could get. He also explained that the workers there spend almost all their time sorting out nonrecyclable items that are in the with the recyclables. The list of what is recyclable may be smaller than what you think. Karl can't wait for the single stream recycling--all materials will go in one container and many more items will be accepted--that the city is supposed to be rolling out in the fall. A computer will then sort those items.

MSS and I filled all the containers we brought and filled my small car. Next time I think we will both wear better shoes. I wasn't even thinking when I wore my gardening crocs--too many holes for the small pieces of glass to fall in.

The glass itself is somewhat tumbled and smooth for the most part, but I wouldn't put it where any sensitive, bare feet or paws will be walking. You could still put it in an area where people will be walking, if you are fairly confident they will be wearing shoes.

At first glance, I was a wee bit disappointed. The glass looked more like sand, and I could see nonglass items in the mulch, mainly plastic and metals pieces that were probably caps to glass bottles. But Karl assured us that , the sand would disappear with a little rain, the labels would disappear with a little wind, the plastic wouldn't be as visible, and we'd be left with pretty, sparkly mulch.

I put the mulch down in the front in area between the driveway and the walkway that will be part of the new walkway, if I ever get around to it. I've tried to grow plants there but they are always getting trampled, because there isn't enough room to step from the car to the driveway or walkway.

Sometimes visitors just don't see the plants. Last summer my neighbors' African grey parrot got loose and settled in a tree in my frontyard for a few hours. Earlier that morning I had seen the father, mother, and child running through the alleyway behind our house with some sort of net. It was really quite funny to watch. About an hour later I heard some weird bird calls out front and opened the door to find my neighbors in the front with a ladder trying to coax their bird down.

The parrot wasn't budging. It had smelled freedom and was making the most of it. I offered the neighbors coffee and a phone so E. could call into work and let the office know he'd be in late because his parrot got away. (Wouldn't you have liked to have been on the receiving end of that call?)

E. was understandably somewhat oblivious to the struggling plants he was trampling with the ladder. G., his wife, caught me wincing, but I said nothing because really, what could I do? They needed to get the bird--their son was near tears--and those plants weren't exactly huge.

After a few hours, the parrot zoomed down and buzzed its owners before flying back up and alighting in another neighbor's tree. Another few hours later, the owners got their parrot back after squirting him down with a super soaker water toy.

That evening, G. came by with a huge bouquet of stargazer lilies as a thank you for letting her family trample my plants.

And really, once you see the plants, you'll see that I came out way ahead on that exchange.

Here are the fairly pathetic looking pigeon berry plants and two new mint plants.

When I took this picture, I was not happy with how the mulch or this area looked. Since I needed to water the mint anyway, I watered the whole area, hoping that the rinsed mulch would improve the look.

The mulch looked better, but the area didn't. The problem is the plants. They are too small, too spread out, and just not right. As everyone steps on this area already, I think moving the plants and leaving this area as just mulch will fix it. I think the pigeon berry will survive moving. I just hope the mint will too. These plants are my third or fourth attempt to grow mint. It may be invasive for other gardeners, but I've never even grown enough to make a decent mojito.

I'm much happier with how the mulch looks in the free plant area/alleyway. It sparkles and highlights the variegated agave MSS gave me quite well. (That is one promiscuous agave--its pups have gotten around from MSS to Pam, back to MSS, to her friend, and now to me.)

I obviously need a lot more mulch for that area so I will be going back. Karl said he'd take care of me.


  1. Glass mulch? I've never heard of this, but what a clever idea and a great way to recycle!

  2. My post is up. I think it looks nicer after you watered it. I haven't done that yet. I'll just wait until it rains.

    Thanks again for taking me with you.

  3. Fascinating, I have seen it in front of t restaurants here in Nashville and at the Wildflower center in Austin but never thought about where it might be purchased.


  4. I have never heard of this either. I bet it does sparkle in the sunlight! Sounds like it would need to be in a non barefoot area just incase(-:

  5. trust me, the pidgeonberry will survive. I think it should be on the "invasive" list. I planted 1 plant 3 yrs. ago and I'm still trying to dig out the roots. I leave a tiny amount in the spring, and by fall, it's everywhere. I think I'm going to elimanate it altogether this fall. it's far more aggressive than the mint, IMO

  6. I've been reading your and MSS's posts about the glass mulch with interest. (Free stuff, yay!)

    I agree that it looks pretty underwhelming on first glance, but I'm really curious as to how it's going to look after a few months once it's had a chance to settle.

    I'd definitely try using this stuff in planters of xeriscape plants-- the different colors in the mulch could coordinate with foliage colors quite nicely.

  7. Looks really cool- I'm glad you tried it. Now I'll be on the lookout for a place to put some.

  8. You can see how it looks after several months in the demonstration gardens at the Wildflower Center. They've had it in the first two beds as you come into that garden for many months.

  9. I really enjoyed your artical on the glass mulch. I am an Austin blogger and I am really interested as to where you picked up this medium. I have some containers that this would work well in. I enjoy reading your postings - keep up the good work.