Embracing Mulch: The Cornerstone of a Healthy Landscape

Are we between a rock and a hard place by using gravel as a mulch?

Mulch has been on our minds for quite some time at Studio Petrichor. In a world where modern design sensibilities seem to take precedence over the health of living systems, mulch plays the part of the unsung hero. Let this be an ode to the humble yet mighty MULCH. Join us on a journey to uncover the beauty, importance, and yes – even the sexiness – of mulch in landscape designs. 

Biomimicry: Life Knows How to Live Here

Our love of mulch is grounded in biomimicry, an understanding that timeless wisdom is encoded in nature’s blueprints. In her seminal book Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature, Janine Benyus introduces the concept of looking to the natural world as a model for solving complex human challenges. Defining biomimicry as the “conscious emulation of life’s genius,” Benyus asserts that we can create a more sustainable future by mimicking nature’s time-tested strategies. Like Benyus, we believe the designs and processes of the natural world hold the key to building a healthier planet.

What Would Nature Do? 

When making decisions that impact living systems, Benyus encourages us to ask questions such as what would nature do here? One approach to answering this is to simply observe what nature wouldn’t do. Much of “sustainable” modern landscape design includes Instagrammable gardens with perfectly manicured gravel, decomposed granite, concrete, or other non-biodegradable ground cover. In these picture-perfect landscapes, any discards, fallen elements, or surrendered parts of once-living trees, shrubs, grasses, and plants are often tossed aside and swiftly shipped away. From the green bin to the highway to the woodchipper, they are processed multiple times before being reintroduced into the living systems and cycles from which life continues. 

From Colonization to Cultivation 

Let’s face it, that overly photogenic gravelly ground cover is just another manifestation of colonization. Literally stolen land, it requires extraction from the earth and fossil fuels for transportation. It creates urban heat islands and interrupts natural soil microbiome and watershed processes. Under these conditions, plants struggle to access essential nutrients and moisture. Whenever inorganic ground cover is selected instead of mulch, it replaces the food- and water-harvesting essence from which life emerges and is regenerated.

Soil Health Begins With Mulch 

We believe another world is possible. Every one of us can refuse to interrupt natural cycles of decomposition and regeneration. By simply mulching your prunings and composting on-site, you can fast-track the return of carbon to the soil. Mulch fosters mycelium colonization and burrowing insects while simultaneously acting as a sponge to capture and store moisture, the secret sauce of any living system. Mulch is a magical conduit for nourishment and regeneration in our landscapes. It unequivocally supports the symbiotic relationship between plants and the living soil that sustains them. 

Making Mulch Sexy 

Mulch is the quiet hero of regenerative landscapes and should be celebrated as such. It supports the intricate web of life that sustains entire ecosystems. By choosing mulch over gravel, we embrace natural decomposition cycles, nourish the soil, and foster biodiversity. So go ahead. Get dirty. Indulge in the messy reciprocity of the natural world. Keep those leaves and clippings on the ground where they belong. Slather some earthy mulch onto the soil and see what happens.

To learn more about our processes and practices that align with Nature’s intelligence, explore our website, sign up for our newsletter, follow us on social media, join us at some events, and be a part of the movement to change the climate by nurturing soil.

If there’s one thing Studio Petrichor knows how to do….it is how to move mulch in the garden.  Want to know more?  Want to talk about it in your garden?  Explore our website, have a look around, complete the questionnaire, and schedule an intake call.  We look forward to helping you strengthen your relationship to your environment.

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