Thursday, June 30, 2022

Much ado about mulching

| June 12, 2022 12:00 AM

Anyone who’s lived in Northwest Montana for more than a few years is familiar with its typical rainy season — June. So far this month, that “wrings” true like a wet rag.

While the unpredictable skies may have hamstrung my outdoor recreating, it did not put a damper on my and my husband’s determination to redo some weary landscaping.

After 15 years, our raised patio bed was losing its charisma. Constructed by our own hands in 2007, at its highpoint its domed, L-shaped design stands about 4 feet above the patio and we used a dump truck load of bark mulch to cover the bed's entire surface. Over time, as bark mulch is prone to do, it had deteriorated to the point where the top was balding and the soaker hoses were popping up in places.

So … over the past two weekends (including the long Memorial Day weekend) the two of us tackled removing and hauling away the old bark (cart after cart), pinning new weed fabric over the exposed hose and then replacing the old mulch with recycled rubber mulch, guaranteed to retain its color for 12 years — or so all 105 of the 35-pound bags we purchased claim.

I’m not exaggerating when I describe this project as Herculian — and our aching backs and shoulders each night proved that. Not only was it more work than we bargained for, it was performed under countless showers — from harmless little sprinkles to sock-soaking downpours. Nothing deterred us from completing it, however … even after discovering, upon returning with the additional 40 bags Jim had to go back to the store to purchase last Sunday due to our miscalculation, that they were a totally different shade of “red cedar.”

If dismay is a euphemism for what we were actually experiencing, it nevertheless didn’t diminish our motivation to immediately head back to the store in our soaking wet clothes to exchange the product.

A side note here is when we both resigned ourselves to clamor back into the pickup I exclaimed that I wasn’t even going to bother taking the knee pads I was sporting over my high-viz waterproof cycling pants off, to which Jim countered, “Well, I am.” So I did too. Given my sodden appearance, my sudden self-consciousness now seems ironic.

At the store, we asked the employee (who was exceptionally friendly and helpful) to open a bag from each of the two remaining pallets of mulch to compare their color to the first 65 bags we’d already spread. Mercifully, one was a near perfect match, instantly improving our outlook.

The day went by quickly, to say the least, and the project actually approached completion sooner than we’d expected … as did the satisfaction that comes from recognizing a job well done.

Community editor Carol Marino may be reached at 406-758-4440 or

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