Blog : That Great Smell of Mulch is Here Thanks to Cornerstone Tree Care

By Amanda | May 7, 2014 | in

Green Alliance Correspondent

PORTSMOUTH — “The first day of spring is one thing, and the first spring day is another. The difference between them is sometimes as great as amonth,” American poet Henry van Dyke once noted — though he could have added “or longer.”

Typical April weather in Northern New England only hints at spring now and again, but now that it’s May, spring seems to have arrived, and gardeners should be thinking of, well, their gardens. “In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt,” Canadian poet Margaret Atwood wrote. In that vein, a Portsmouth company, Cornerstone Tree Care, offers local gardeners organic, locally made, recycled mulch that plants and flowers love.

“Now’s the perfect time to put down mulch,” arborist Micum Davis, the owner of Cornerstone, said in a recent interview. “Perennial flowers are not through the planting beds yet. If you get mulch down before they have sprung, there is no damage to the plants. And the mulch is easier to spread.”

Of course, it’s not the end of the world if it’s not done before the perennial flowers come out, it just takes longer, he said, adding, “As long as the mulch gets down before the summer heat and the weeds start growing, you will assure the benefits to plants that mulch provides.”

In collaboration with Pembroke, N.H.-based The Dirt Doctors, which, Davis said, grinds the mulch into “a really nice product that’s consistently ground,” Cornerstone produces locally generated finely textured composted, organic mulch that customers rave about.

"The mulch is the best quality I've found for general consistency and rich deep color that lasts throughout the season," said Cornerstone customer Keith Barringer.

Davis explained: “We use it to mulch landscape beds — also known as planting beds — in order to add organic matter as slow release fertilizer, to retain soil moisture, and to minimize weed growth. And it beautifies gardens.”

Why is mulch so important? “It really helps plants to thrive,” said Davis, noting that many homeowners and gardeners remove organic matter when doing their fall or spring cleanups, leaving plants in a state of deficiency. “They are short-circuiting the natural nutrient cycle. By adding mulch composited back into the equation, a gardener is able to supplement the nutrient cycle as well as provide all the other aforementioned benefits.”

The mulch is black because Cornerstone and Dirt Doctors use organic elemental carbon. “It looks good. It adds a consistency so the mulch doesn’t fade over time. It’s a more refined product that way. It’s organic; it’s great,” said Davis.

The collaboration with Dirt Doctors has gone well, Davis said. “They’re professionals. This is what they do. This is their business.”

And other professionals have noticed.

"I've been landscaping since 1982,” noted Dan Connor, owner of Fields of Green Landscaping. “Cornerstone's mulch is the first in years that when we spread it, the smell and texture brings me back to those days when I would spend countless hours of my teenage years on my hands and knees spreading mulch at big old Victorian homes on the North Shore. It may seem funny to wax poetic about mulch, but knowing it's all forest floor product, organically colored and local, it makes us and our customers know that it has that old world New England quality."

Besides putting recycling organic materials to good use, Cornerstone employs a host of other sustainable practices that reflect its owner’s green sensibilities. When pruning, removing or otherwise tending to trees, Cornerstone workers do not wear spikes during belaying process. And the company employs chain lubricants that are biodegradable, 91 percent of what is usually a toxic material, safely returning back to the earth within 14 days.

Davis travels efficiently and mindfully to all tree analysis sites in his Prius hybrid. He has issued a no-idling policy for all trucks and equipment on every job. All diesel equipment runs on biodiesel, running high blends in the warm months. His base operation uses no electricity, and his shop is a re-purposed mobile office trailer with windows and a garage style door for natural lighting.

Cornerstone composts, processes and recycles nearly all of their tree waste into lumber, firewood or landscape mulch.

Furthermore, most of the work Cornerstone does lies within a 20 mile radius of Portsmouth. The company is a proud member of Seacoast Buy Local, and it’s a longtime and loyal member of the Green Alliance, a union of local sustainable businesses promoting environmentally sound business practices and a green co-op offering discounted green products and services to its members.

While spring does not appear to have yet sprung, preparing gardens now will yield benefits as the weather warms. And when it does, the gardener can look upward and rejoice just as the great Native American Chief Sitting Bull once did in his appreciation of nature: “Behold, my friends, the spring is come; the earth has gladly received the embraces of the sun, and we shall soon see the results of their love!”

For more information about Cornerstone Tree Care, click here!

And for more information about the Green Alliance, click here!