Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Killing Soil With Our Taxes

Speech to Grants Pass City Council, 4/15/09

            Driving by our new public safety station on the Parkway a few weeks ago, I saw All American City Landscaping spreading Red Death, soil-killing finely ground bark, on the newly installed landscaping around the station.
            When I asked Mr. Frasher about it, he said that the landscape architect had specified that mulch around their new strawberry plantings—and that landscape professionals have differing opinions about proper materials. 
            I doubt that the landscape architect took so much interest in the type of mulch used.  I suspect the contractor used the cheapest bark out of habit.  But if the architect did specify, it was probably to allow for easy leaf removal in the fall.  Red Death mattes down, and leaves blow and rake off it easily without removing bark.  My landscaping teacher told us to use it for just that reason. 
            Easy leaf cleanup is not a good thing, if the city wants to leave its leaf mulch in place for cheap and easy maintenance.  Dead soil cannot eat leaves, and that soil will be dead for the next two years.  Rain water will run out of the bark directly to the nearby river, rather than being absorbed into the landscape.
            Landscape architects build landscapes; they don’t maintain them.  I will put my 9 plus years of experience as a natural gardener, renovating and maintaining landscapes that had previously been covered with Red Death, up against any landscape architect, any day. 
I have dug dead, compacted soil covered with Red Death.  I have seen the runoff run red out of fine bark.  I have seen that it takes two years or more for it to decompose enough for soil life to return.
            The city doesn’t use its own compost, Jo Gro, which feeds soil.  Instead, it uses bark that costs twice as much and kills soil.  And it cleans up the free mulch that the trees drop to feed themselves—and sends the leaves to Jo Gro.
The City has been setting regulations for the citizenry regarding controlling and cleaning up runoff, and building bio-swales to absorb the rainwater.  Yet it uses our tax money to kill and compact its own soil with fine bark.  Citizen complaints resulted in coarse bark being used on one highway project, but other projects and maintenance are unaffected.
            I request that the City Council formally direct City staff to stop using fine bark as mulch anywhere on city property; to use Jo Gro to improve the soil on new plantings and anywhere that fine bark has been used in the last two years; and to blow leaves into beds, rather than removing them.  Please put this on the agenda, so we can hear both sides of this issue. 

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