Every December, many of the city’s residents bring home a small conifer for the winter holidays — and then discard them in early January.
Mulchfest is part of the city’s adaptation to this cycle: deploying large chipper trucks at numerous locations around the city, where people can bring their trees to be chipped, and optionally take home a bag of the resulting material to be used as mulch.
While most people just leave their tree, or perhaps take home a small bag of pine chips, there doesn’t seem to be any real limit to how much mulch you’re allowed to take, so I’ve learned to bring a shopping cart and a stack of empty tote bags, so I can bring home enough for a dozen sidewalk treebeds around the neighborhood.
The mix of pine needles, twigs, and chips will slowly break down over the coming year to provide a stream of supplemental nutrients to the soil, as well as improving moisture absorption and retention and building soil health.
While I am generally happy to provide the limited funds needed to cover the garden’s operations, neighbors do occasionally donate supplies, for which I am very grateful.
My thanks go out to the following for items received this spring:
Peter Arndtsen for his gift of two young evergreens and numerous cuttings.
A couple in 217 W 106th who provided dozens of flower starts and two large bags of potting soil.
Someone who had discarded a metal “grow” sign which I rescued from the garbage and attached to one of the treebeds.
An anonymous donor who left three hanging baskets on the steps this morning. [Update: I got the backstory on these after the fact; a neighbor collected these from a scrap heap after another garden decided they had ordered more than they needed.]
We took a trip to Metropolitan Plant & Flower Exchange in Fort Lee and picked up a bunch of bedding flowers to be added to the garden planters and the treebeds here and around the neighborhood, including the following:
Over the last six weeks, I’ve planted well over 750 daffodil bulbs around the neighborhood, as well as a smaller number of other bulbs — hyacinths and grape hyacinths, two varieties of tulips, crocus and dutch iris. Nearly all of them went into sidewalk tree beds, with the remainder buried in large planters in public space.
I’m down to a few dozen bulbs that I’ll finish planting over the coming week before our first real hard freeze.
It was hard work, but with a bit of luck we’ll see lots of bright green shoots and colorful yellow flowers emerging next spring and it will all have been worthwhile.
The process of making hundreds and hundreds of six-inch-deep holes in hard-packed earth was greatly eased by use of an auger drill bit that attaches to my cordless impact driver — it’s a huge time-saver, although it does feel odd to be gardening with power tools.
During that same time, I’ve also given away more than 500 daffodil bulbs to folks who offered to plant them in other parts of the neighborhood, or further afield, such as the few dozen that went to Brooklyn and the hundred that went to an abandoned lot next to a public school in Patterson NJ.
Along the way, I’ve also sprinkled more than a dozen tree beds with assorted late-blooming wildflower seeds — mostly gathered during a trip to the Hudson Valley at the end of the summer, supplemented by a few bulk seed packets from Everwilde Farms. With a little luck, some of those will survive the winter snows and sprout next spring, although I don’t yet know how successful they’ll be.
How is this my life? Planting daffodil bulbs at night, in the rain.
Total of ten sidewalk treebeds successfully planted tonight, with between one and four dozen daffodil bulbs each, plus a sprinkling of wildflower seeds from a field in the Hudson Valley that we visited this summer. Thank goodness I’m almost done with the autumn planting!
Thank you to local musician Vita Wallace for submitting her photograph of the garden to the Bloomingdale Neighborhood History Group’s “2020 Project,” a multimedia record of life in our community during the pandemic.
The gardens on, around, below, and above the stoops here are always fruitful and wildly wonderful. This year, the Black Lives Matter messages made them especially poignant.