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So Mulch To Learn

My parents always gardened—and because my dad was in the Air Force, we moved every three years. So the gardens had to be put in anew each time, and Mom and Dad, who both hailed from the Northwoods of Wisconsin, had to figure out what grew in each new USDA growing zone every time we moved. This led to more than a few tragedies, such as the grapevine withering on a metal chain in the corner of our Arizona yard, or the orb weavers as big as your head that completely took over our Texas garden like some B-movie horror scene from the seventies.

But the most memorable mishaps involved, of all things, mulch.

I’m not sure where he sourced them, but my dad brought home to our California garden several bags of “rice hulls” and proceeded to spread them around where we’d planted vegetable seeds. Then, conveniently, he went away on a TDY (tour of duty) for a year, leaving the rest of the family to reap what his little mulch experiment had sown, which was, basically, a rice patty without the water.

Yeah, these weren’t just the hull but the seed as well, and each sprouted a rice plant, all through the garden. What a great germination rate they had!

Fast-forward more years than I care to mention, and I’ve got the same situation, as I’ve fashioned a nomadic adulthood for myself and am wrestling with a new garden in a new climate, this one in Washington state. I happened to pick up a few “bales of straw” and distributed them throughout my grassless front yard as mulch. Imagine my surprise when the next Spring my entire front garden turned into a wheat field. Like my father’s rice “hulls,” this straw had actually been hay, full of seeds.

Mulching—you reap what you sow.

What’s your worst gardening mistake? Email us your 200-300-word summary to with “Broken Trowel Entry” in the subject line—if we publish your item, you win the Broken Trowel Award and get a free one-year subscription and our GreenPrints Companion CD!

This article was published originally in 2023, in GreenPrints Issue #137.

  • I am still exploring and getting acquainted with the new format. Thank you for interesting articles

  • Thanks so much to GreenPrints for the opportunity! I enjoyed sharing this tidbit with readers.


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