A Menagerie of Mulches

Wool Mulch used on the Ambler Arboretum

By Kathy Salisbury
Director, Ambler Arboretum

The Ambler Arboretum of Temple University is a teaching landscape. That means we have the luxury of experimentation. We have been doing some experimentation with mulches over the last couple of seasons. We have been using what we have around campus in great supply as mulches to see if they work to suppress weeds, hold soil, maintain moisture and are aesthetically pleasing with good results. Over the winter, we used white pine cones and Sweetgum balls and this spring we have introduced a new mulching material — wool! 

Curatorial Horticulturist Cat Meholic learned of some wool that was going to be thrown away through a permaculture group she is involved with. The farmer reached out to the group asking if anyone was interested in testing this wool out as a mulch. We volunteered! Meholic picked up the mulch and it is now in various locations around the Arboretum. 

Though we do not see it often, mulching with wool is nothing new. Wool and fiber companies in Europe have been figuring out ways to use waste wool for quite some time, even experimenting with wool compost and wool fertilizer. Not only is this experiment at the Arboretum looking for ways to reduce staff time spent weeding and watering, this also helps inform sustainable garden maintenance strategies at the core of the Arboretum's mission.