Guests who pay attention to my wooden bowls full of wine corks often ask in amazement or horror if my husband and I consumed all that wine alone? Laughing, we assure them that the answer is a definite no! However, we’ve had our fair share. If they only knew of the many bags I have stored in the garage, overspilling with wine corks.

The secret is that over time, generous friends and family have saved their corks for us, adding to the collection.

Today, my bags and decorative bowls are empty.  

Organic wine corks (never use plastic or silicone corks) make excellent moisture-retaining mulch, ideal for container planting and small-scale gardens.

This week, my container plants received a thick layer of protective cork mulch, just in time for the approaching fall and winter months. The corks are recycled, the plants are protected and watering is kept at a minimum. It takes longer for cork to break down, compared to other green waste mulch. The additional bonus is that cork does not retain water and are therefore resistant to mold. 

Avoid applying cork in areas where you might find standing water during heavy rain. As we all know, cork will float. 

Apply a 2- to 4-inch thick layer of organic corks to your potted outdoor plants, covering the exposed soil.

Use full-size corks for large plants, such as New Zealand flax, lavender, rosemary, boxwood, olive shrubs, manzanita, large succulents/aloe and citrus trees.

Let the wine corks remain where they fall or use your creative side and have fun while stacking or lining the corks into a decorative pattern.

In a smaller garden, consider replacing old bender board with two rows of empty wine bottles, turned upside down and placed side by side. Fill the planter with a layer of cork, protecting your plants from heat and cold.

Use small chunks of organic cork for smaller pots and plants. It works great for both indoor and outdoor use, such as low-growing herbs, vegetables, small-sized succulents and annuals.

Pull out the cutting board and a sharp knife.

Place a few corks on the chopping board at a time and chop away until you have a bowl full of desired sized mulch. If this is too tedious of a process for you, there is a faster option.

Use a blender.

Place a maximum of 12 corks in the blender cup and start your blender at the lowest level. Then quickly turn up the speed to the highest level. Don’t forget to keep the lid on or you will be cleaning cork of your walls for the rest of the evening. Continue the process until you have as much mulch as you need.

Eva Powers is a garden designer and owner of Creative Garden Design, garden writer, and vice chair, educator and volunteer at SYV Botanic Garden. Contact her at evapowers@syvbotanicgarden.org or visit facebook.com/creativegardendesign805.

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