Thursday, March 27, 2008


This is the point of the following email I got yesterday:

Dear Lisa,

This week Mother Jones magazine released the article Mulch Madness about Atchafalaya Basinkeeper Dean Wilson’s efforts to stop the illegal and unsustainable cutting of cypress for cheap mulch. Right now the cypress mulch industry is destroying wetlands that protect coastal Louisiana from hurricanes. The article is online at:
Waterkeeper has been working with Dean and organizations across the Gulf Coast to save our cypress forests. We’ve made great progress. In June 2007, more than 200 Louisiana cities, universities, churches and other organizations
pledged to stop using cypress mulch.
Month later, Wal-Mart and Lowes announced they would stop or limit buying and selling cypress mulch from Louisiana. This is a great start but the threat remains. We have a long way to go to stop the mulching of the nation’s coastal wetland forests.
Our gardeners hold the key. We believe that gardeners must know the truth about cypress mulch, and will stop using cypress mulch when presented with the facts.
Again, thank you for your help spreading the word: Say NO to Cypress Mulch. I am also happy to provide more information for you.
Bana Malik

Bana Malik
Communications Associate
Waterkeeper Alliance
50 S. Buckhout St., Ste 302
Irvington, NY 10533
914.674.0622 x23

Interesting! I never realized that cypress trees were cut just to make mulch. I figured the mulch was a byproduct of lumber scraps from other uses for cypress. So I sent her this reply:

Dear Bana,
Thank you very much for bringing this to my attention! I will make a post to my garden blog to help get the word out. I actually used to prefer cypress mulch, until I discovered a flush of tasty and edible morelle mushrooms after using oak chips for mulch. Now I ONLY use oak! :) But I see so many gas stations selling pallets full of cypress...not good!
Thank you again,

True story about the mushrooms showing up from my oak mulching! I use the "mini-nugget" oak mulch from Menard's, and although it's not as colorful or fragrant as cypress, I find it appears more natural in my gardens. (Plus if it has morelle spore, yippie!) The same day, I got this reply:

Dear Lisa,

Thank you so much for your note. We’re so happy to have your support.

It is wonderful that you found an alternative to Cypress. We came across a study that the University of Florida did which found cypress mulch to be no better than pine bark/needles/straw or even leaf litter.

Our friends in Louisiana have followed many of the operators from source to product illegally cutting down cypress forests at the expense of our precious coastal wetlands. If you are interested in speaking to anyone in person, or need more information, do let me know. Thank you again Lisa, we deeply appreciate your help!



So here's the post I promised. When I visited the Waterkeepers web site, I found that they are involved in many conservation efforts. Now, in the past, I may have scoured the web to be sure I agree with all of this groups' tactics. I don't like how some groups mix in various anti-hunting tactics with their other politics (I even took a dislike to Jimmy Buffett based on an old boyfriend's assertion that Jimmy is anti-hunting.) But I'm not so hard-core anymore...people don't have to agree with everything I do, either! Plus I'm not donating cash at this point, I just want to support the idea of avoiding cypress mulch that's not responsibly manufactured. And since I doubt you can tell by looking at the bag, it's just as easy to stop using it altogether. Here's another very interesting link I found: . Anybody else have a take on this?


Cinj said...

Very interesting. I guess I thought as you do. I don't usually go for the cypress mulch anyway, but good info to know. I usually go for the pine bark since I'm surrounded by pines here, it only seems natural to go for pine. People would KNOW I was crazy if I went with anything else! ;) Thanks for sharing.

Rurality said...

We always used pine at our old house too. (When we actually had landscaping!)

I dislike Jimmy Buffet anyway though. I had a roomie once who played his music so much that I can't stanad it anymore!

lisa said...

Cinj-Yea, I think sticking to local/natural stuff is the way to go.

Karen-RIGHT?! I mean, how many times can you hear "Margaritaville" before your ears begin to bleed? Sheesh!

vonne said...

I heard about this a few years ago and couldn't f*cking believe it!
I immediately stopped using the cypress mulch and talked to my local native plant nursery about native mulches. They started carrying native cedar and I actually like it better anyway, plus it smells goooood!

Ahhh, y'all leave poor old Jimmy alone...He's, like, wasted, ya know? Plus it's hard to think straight with a blown out flip-flop. :)

Marvin said...

Has anyone tried Buffet Brand lime peel and ground flip-flop mulch? I hear there's a shaker of salt (for killing slugs) included in every bag.

Annie in Austin said...

Hi Lisa,

Those articles and emails about the depletion of cypress stands have appeared in Texas for a couple of years. Apparently at one time the mulch really was a mill byproduct but then mulch turned into big business. When we first moved to Texas I was told that fire ants didn't like cypress - I bought it and used it back then, but not after these stories came out.

Annie at the Transplantable Rose

lisa said...

Vonne-I think my rather late arrival to the blogosphere kept me in the dark about this, but luckily I quit using cypress at least 6 years ago. Heh, I'm sure ol' Jimmy does okay for himself. (Although I know the feeling of aging brain cells and a blown-out flip flop! ;-)

Marv-LOL!!! That actually sounds like pretty good mulch to ME, and the salt shaker is a great marketing tool! :)

Annie-In surfing the websites in my post links, I saw the arguement to use cypress to repel fire ants. Did it work? I have thankfully limited experience with them, but it would make me use ANYTHING to keep them away. I hope there are plenty alternatives.

Annie in Austin said...

I'm not sure if the cypress mulch had any real effect on the fire ants, Lisa - they seemed to come and go with weather as much as anything else. We still get some since we moved to this house but in fewer numbers. They're also supposed to dislike compost tea, molasses, orange oil and other stuff that we use in this garden.


chuck b. said...

My favorite mulch to use is cocoa hulls. Smells good, looks good, decomposes fast, and the worms love it. Of course it's $8 instead of $5, but what-ev.

lisa said...

Annie-Good to know. I suppose any of "Jerry Baker's Miracle Garden Tonic Recipies" would work as good as anything.

Chuck-I like the smell of cocoa hulls, too. I had some trouble with mold formation, though. Guess you have to watch how thickly you spread it.