A New Mulch for the High Line

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Kate Lindquist
On the Falcone Flyover, visitors can walk through lush foliage at canopy-level during the warmer months of the year. Current mulching efforts will mean healthier and more robust plants this upcoming summer. Photo by Iwan Baan

We are always looking for unique ways to minimize waste, cultivate sustainable operations, and keep our discarded plant material closer to home. That is why we are excited about a new opportunity for closed-loop recycling with the introduction of our own organic mulch below the Falcone Flyover, on the High Line between West 25th and 26th Streets.

The Falcone Flyover contains an elevated walkway that carries visitors through a canopy of sumac and magnolia trees. Below the pathway, a gently rolling topography creates soil depth to accommodate shrubs and trees, but it is also prone to erosion.


A new experiment is underway to prevent the erosion and increase the soil’s fertility. Using a test area, the High Line Gardeners recently introduced an application of organic mulch created from discarded plant material from the High Line, with the goal of increasing use of compostable material on-site and reducing the frequency of visits to off-site composting locations in the future.


There are more than 100,000 plants on the High Line, and the majority of fallen leaves, clipped stalks, and discarded organic material is taken to the NYC Department of Sanitation’s compost facility at Fresh Kills in Staten Island. Composting the material at Fresh Kills is a great way to keep plant material from going to waste. The finished compost created at the site is sent back out into the community for use in municipal and large-scale landscaping projects. However, the process of transporting our compostable materials to Fresh Kills consumes energy and staff time. At the height of High Line Green-Up Spring Cutback, when overwintered plants are cut back in preparation for the spring growing season, the High Line Gardeners make one trip each week. By finding new ways to reuse discarded material in the park, we come closer to our goal of a sustainable and efficient horticulture operation.

The organic mulch has successfully reduced soil erosion in the testing area below the Falcone Flyover. This spring, High Line Green-Up will produce enough plant debris to expand the project to the remaining areas of concern below the Falcone Flyover.