I managed to get in several hours in the garden today, and got a lot accomplished. I took lots of pictures so will post a couple different items.
This summer we're trying something different: mulching with straw instead of hardwood mulch or the composted leaves we get from the city pickup mulch pile. It's not the best looking when it's just been put down, but after a few rains it'll looks fine.
Why straw? It seems to be more economical than the hardwood mulch we get in bags at the big box store: one bale will cover as much area as probably 4-5 bags of mulch. We pay a bit too much right now because we don't have a pickup truck. That means we only can get 4 bales in the back of Doug's car, and we end up buying it at a feed store for about $5/bale. If you have a truck and can get enough to make the drive worthwhile, you can find farmers selling straw on Craig's List for as little as $2/bale.
It's not quite as economical as the leaf mulch we get in University City in the spring, but I think it's cleaner. The free mulch comes from leaves the city picks up curbside and piles up to compost all winter. However, I've found enough garbage in that mulch -- pull tabs from cans, plastic bags and other assorted plastic items, cigarette package wrappers, etc. -- that it really makes me wonder exactly what all I am adding to my yard. And who really knows what people spray on their trees.
Here's a view of the same garden area from the driveway. You can't really see the mulch until you're right up by the fence so I don't have to worry about what the neighbors think. :)