Having been in the recycled rubber mulch industry for quite some time, I often find it amusing how the media portrays rubber mulch. There is always an “expert” somewhere that is either pro, or con for the product. One thing that I find highly ironic is the comments by the hard line organic gardener or writer that often says their mission it to leave no footprint while they were here. They recycle everything, but when it comes to recycled rubber mulch, it is taboo – the only method for mulching is compost or wood.
So here is where the fun part comes in. In a recent article on the Web there were some startling revelations about mulch. I have condensed the piece into the main topics for discussion, they are as follows:
Rubber mulches are available but do not contribute to soil improvement like organic mulches, such as wood. (Remember this statement about wood and please refer back to it often)
A professor at a top university in the country warms us against the use of wood mulch for several reasons. They are:
Wood mulch uses the soils nutrients that should be going to plants
Dyed wood mulches could be deadly for young plants as the dye washes off
Wood mulches could harbor spores of fungi during warm, wet periods known as slime mold
If wood mulch is not aged, once wet, the new wood can create an acidic condition that could kill plants
Straw mulch has the same problems as wood mulch
Avoid mulching too close to trees and plants and do not mulch too deeply as this too could harm plants
The professor recommends compost, but only is it is done correctly
If done incorrectly you could create a soil that is too acidic, is overloaded with one nutrient, or lacks any nutrients, which could have no impact on the area, or kill your plants
Perhaps I am amused that the piece was published while contradicting itself in the opening paragraph that wood mulch offers a “benefit” to the soil and then cites how wood mulch can kill your plants and offers no benefit.
What I do know is that there is something wrong with the wood mulch picture as a whole. We recycle products that would have otherwise ended up in a landfill by giving them a second life as landscaping and playground products. I ask this question…does it make sense to cut down a tree to put under a tree? Oh, and if you listen to this author and professor, that wood mulch could kill your plants.