Normally I would haul our own composted mulch from the city lot. This year I just can't handle the lifting.
The soil in my beds is rich and weed-free after two summers of deep mulching, so I thought I'd spring for some pine straw.
It comes in compressed bales, like hay, only much, much lighter. This means I can do almost all the landscaping without help.
If you go to Georgia, you'll often see huge spans of lawn covered with pine straw instead of grass. That's the tactic I'm trying underneath the giant magnolia, where nothing--short of $500 worth of groundcover--will thrive. The straw does settle and bleach over time, but after a hearty application like this one, can simply be top dressed for the next season.
Hopefully we'll have sold the house by then!