Monday, October 9, 2017

Watch out for garden fires!

Still decorating with pumpkins!

The weather over the weekend was dreary, hot, humid. . . . . . . thanks to the latest
 hurricane which, although far away from here, still sent signs in the clouds and a
 few rain showers. We do need rain, especially for the trees and gardens.
We are wondering if the brilliant autumn colors will come this year, all seems
 stagnant, almost lifeless after such a long dry spell.

Did you know that garden mulch can catch fire?
We had a scary incident on the last day of painting on Thursday - when the 
painter was working on the front porch posts. For an hour or so we could
smell burning in the air but couldn't pinpoint it. When the painter, kneeling on
 the flower bed noticed his drop cloth was scorched along one edge, he pulled
 it back and saw smoke coming from the ground close to the foundation of the house! 
He pulled back the mulch which was smoldering and very hot!  We immediately
 saturated the entire bed with the garden hose, also the second bed in front of our
 bedroom window, just in case.
Both these areas are where we had all the shrubs and ground cover, other
 than the hydrangeas, removed to do the work on the house. The soil/mulch
 is now exposed to the sun which has been constant and very hot every day.
With no rain for several weeks, the intense sunshine on the thick layer of 
built up mulch - ours is mainly shredded pine bark mulch and nuggets which
 break down into a rich soil - caused spontaneous combustion and underground
 burning as it turned into fertilizer.
I was online in no time flat looking up what was happening in my garden, as
 nobody seemed familiar with such a situation. What I read about houses/buildings
 actually catching fire from similar situations was really frightening.

I'm writing this as a brief heads up if you also have a build up of old
 mulch in your garden beds. If exposed to sun and there has been little rain,
you may want to get out there with your hose and do some watering.
We are planning on restoring our front beds - will have the old mulch 
dug out and removed, perhaps changing to decorative stones for 
ground cover. Any tips regarding the best way to mulch garden beds will
 be appreciated. 
~ Thanks ~


  1. As I read this I immediately thought 'spontaneous combustion'. It is something about which we worried every summer when we lived at Pondside. We were always warned about pine bark mulch too close to the house. I am so glad to read that tragedy was averted at your cottage!

  2. Yikes Mary! That is very scary. We have always had mulch around our house. We had a lot of wind and rain from Nate in this area of NC.

  3. Mary, they have a shredded rubber mulch that looks like the real thing and it never breaks down. At Lowe's. Paint thinners or linseed oil on a rag can combust on its own.

  4. Donna, below is a link to 'rubber mulch' which again is quite disturbing. Apparently there are two distinct camps regarding its usage. Personally I think it looks so fake and, after reading about it, decided no way will I use that either!
    Thanks so much for taking time to comment Donna.

    Mary -

  5. Scary! But I have heard of mulch and compost being able to develop a lot of heat, under certain circumstances, and the advice to all gardeners is always to leave their compost bins with some opening for ventilation precisely for that reason. At least that's what my Dad tells me.

  6. That is wild! I would never have dreamed such a thing. I do have a lot of mulch in the north side of the house where it does not get as much sun and we don’t have the heat you folks do. Thank The Lord you figured out what was going on!

  7. Thanks for letting us know. Wondering and have the feeling that is part of the problem in all the fires in California right now. So sad, so many losing their homes.

  8. That is truly frightening - who knew! Thank you for sharing. By the way, I love all your pumpkins and am getting my pumpkin "fix" here on your blog. I just don't seem to have the drive to decorate for the seasons lately so it's lovely to be able to enjoy the beauty others are adding to their homes as the seasons change. Pumpkins have always greatly appealed to me for their fun shapes and brilliant colors. You've found some really interesting ones.

  9. That was a close call, thank goodness your painter noticed what was happening in time.
    Hope the rest of your week is exciting but in a good way.

  10. My dad would rake it all up and put it in a big empty metal trash can ... I remember people burning the leaves etc from their gardens in the fall ... the smell is one that I associate with Autumn to this day :)

  11. That is scary! I didn't know that at all so thanks for the heads up. Beautiful pumpkin decoration!

  12. Oh I totally know that mulch can catch fire as my mother's garden also had that happen a few times! So glad you were able to douse it in time! how sad that would have been to see your beautiful cottage up in flames! Makes me think of all those people in Napa valley who have lost their also beautiful homes.


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