Mulch ado about — weed-free ferny paths

After unpacking our new Ikea kitchen, we had a lot of cardboard left over. So I decided to sheet mulch the path along the contour of our north-facing valley slope. It's about 120 feet long! It was hard work! I was so glad to see the bottom of the truck bed finally!

But soon the cardboard was thickly layered, and I spread three to four inches of Golden Nugget mulch on top.

The path has lasted well for several years without mulch, but the outside edges were starting to sink - I hope the mulch will help to spread the foot traffic pressure. Also it was getting weedy. Also - I'll need to put more stones on the downslope here and there to help shore things up - and add plants where there are none right now, to stabilize things more. The lower slope is a weedy future project.

I had to do a bit of rework because - ahem - I accidentally cut through an electrical cable running to a little building nearby. Thankfully, I survived to tell this tale!  Dear Mr Wood Rat patched things up, but had to disrupt the path. So I did a bit of remedial stone work:

And I made another little bench in the stone wall. You can see some of the bunch grasses I've been planted in this photo, too:

It's very comfy. Sometimes I sit there and see interesting birds back in the north garden.

Is this a varied thrush? Photo from a distance, so not a great shot… Seems to be a recent winter visitor.

Next I thought about plants. I've put a lot of bunch grasses on the slopes above - a friend came to help me one day and we had a good time. But I want to plant in and around the bank and the new walls, too. So I decided to rescue some ferns from the ditch of the little road I drive a lot. After seeing the road workers scalp the roadsides around here recently, with their mechanized scalping machines —  I no longer have any compunction about rescuing a few plants from the roadside ditches (not higher up where they might escape the blades of the road maintenance crews).

Some sweet polypody. I took three small clumps from three different spots in the ditch.

Of course many ferns live happily in our area with no help from me, and they seem to enjoy the stones. Some gold-back ferns, some woodfern. Also some sword fern.

These ferns just grew there all by themselves. Clever ferns!

I also brought one clump of five-fingered fern home with me. There was a lot more of it on the roadside, but it was growing higher than my "ethical collection zone."

I'm sorry to say I'm not quite finished with the path, but there isn't much to go.

Now, if we can only get some rain - our constant lament of late. January is shaping up as a warm, dry month indeed. Pleasant for humans — but only in the short term!


Ed Morrow said…
"January is shaping up as a warm, dry month" Prophetic indeed.
Here in Carmel Valley what was once emerald green is showing signs of yellow, soon to be brown. I've got some coast redwoods - not planted by me - that spent last summer in the intensive care ward. They were out for a while but now they look like there headed back. Even the coming storm that's headed for the North Bay doesn't look as though it will give CV much relief. So, it's time to start pulling the hoses and doing some hand watering.
But how much and how often? Is there some good way to judge how much water to apply, is there some best way to apply it? Should I invest in a soil probe to see how deep the moisture goes? Any ideas?
Ed Morrow
Country Mouse said…
Hi Ed - good question. I may turn this comment into a post, or maybe Town Mouse will - she's more aware of watering as she has a city watering bill, and I have a quarterly well bill that is not based on consumption! I've been hand watering. Really, I don't have an answer beyond what makes sense to me. Where I have seedlings, I water fairly lightly and often. Their roots are not that deep, and they dry out quickly. I water chaparral plants either not at all (I have a large wild chaparral area), or way less than riparian/shady plants. I also know where the water sinks in easily and stays wet longer, where the bedrock is not far below the surface, and more frequent watering keeps things going. I check the turgidity of tender plants - but sclerotic plants like manzanita don't droop, so it's harder with them. I mimic the season. I don't think you can give too much water in winter because nature - used to - dump tons of water at a time in winter. I was out just yesterday giving everything I've ever planted - especially recent plantings and seedlings - about 30 seconds of hosing each (spread over multiple passes so it would sink in) - we are very warm and dry on the ridge of late, with no dew or fog. The old finger in the soil is another test, for potted plants. If you feel dampness, no need to water. I'm sure probes and all that are better than the finger test. I have salvias that look happy with no water, and a coreopsis that droops if I miss a couple days. Even plants with deep roots often have shallow roots too. So to tide them over, I guess I don't worry so much about deep watering. If they never get a deep watering maybe they won't put their deep roots down, but I don't worry so much about that. I do a deep watering seldom because I have a lot of garden. Coast redwoods don't have deep roots, so I would probably water your planted ones to the tree line every week or two for say 20 mins of sprinkler time. My natively there trees are looking OK still and I never water those. I also in general give foliage a bit of a spritz because I think the plants would enjoy (yes, enjoy) that, and it gets the dust off. These are just my surmisings. A deep watering once a month is another approach. I think how much to compensate for lack of rain depends on how deep the plant roots go, and what type of plants you're watering, and how old or recently planted. And how much time you've got to fuss over them — as well as your water bill!