Playground mulch vs. cedar mulch vs.pine mulch

cjra(TX)August 12, 2009

I'm never sure which is the appropriate forum for my questions, but I figured some here would know about mulch.

What's the real difference between what's referred to as "playground" mulch, cedar mulch, and pine mulch in terms of how it's used/pros/cons?

So far I've used mainly cedar mulch because it's about half the price, and I like it. However I have a kids area I'm finishing off - it's basically the border between the grass and fence, about 6 ft wide, maybe 12 feet long, bordered by a fig tree on one side and a chinaberry on the other. There's a playhouse and a sand box. In front of the playhouse are stepping stones leading to a gate to the neighbor's yard.

I could get another pallet of grass (zoysia) to fill in the gaps, but I don't think it's grow well there and would be a pain to maintain (a few longish narrow strips), so I figured I'd put mulch down. Initially I thought 'playground mulch' as that's basically what this is, but when looking at it, apart from the color, couldn't decide if it was any different - or better - than cedar mulch.

It's not like the kids will be walking on it barefoot or using it to cushion falls, it's really just a ground covering to avoid it being just dirt/weeds.

A con would be the color - this is much lighter, and the bed adjacent to it beyond the chinaberry will likely have cedar mulch, so I'm thinking this would look funny.

Any reason why a playground-grade mulch would be preferred in an area that kids walk on a lot?

And re: cedar vs. pine - any major pros/cons?

This is the area, before we put the sandbox down. It sits where the bench is and pretty much fills that whole space except for about a 1ft perimeter.

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Playground mulch is actually designed to standards that have mostly to do with impact (and liability to those who specify it). The knock on cedar mulch, as I remember it, is that it is very fibery and can give you little tiny splinters if you contact it a lot (refering to western red cedar).

Pine mulch is a widely varying thing as there is no standard, there are lots of species of pine, and then there is the whole thing between recycled wood, wood chips, and actual bark (won't even go into dye).... and in the south they use pine needles as mulch (usually called pine straw). Pine mulch can mean a lot of different things. My mulch of choice is finely ground pine BARK. The problem is that it is more often than not "cut" with other crap (recycled wood or wood chips) these days and you wind up with a bunck of wood chips on top after about a month to the weather.

    Bookmark   August 13, 2009 at 6:51AM
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We use fine ground pine bark mulch in our garden, but got playground chips for around our kid's playhouse. I recommend playground chips for a small play area like yours. They're much cleaner for playing in, and dry more quickly after it rains. And because they don't break down into the soil like regular mulch, they seem to prevent weeds better and need refreshing less often. Also, some mulch is treated with chemicals/dyes that aren't in playground chips. We put a row of stones to divide off the play area from the mulched garden surrounding it, and it looks cute--the color difference actually makes it a nicely defined area.

    Bookmark   August 13, 2009 at 10:27AM
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Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

The western red cedar (Thuja plicata) play area mulch I've been getting here in recent years is by far the best mulch for planting areas I've ever worked with. Clean, aromatic, comparatively firm when stepped on and long-lasting. Same or similar product should be pretty good for play areas.

    Bookmark   August 13, 2009 at 10:51AM
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Thanks for the info. Sounds like there are some advantages for the playground mulch, and since it's a relatively small area, may be worth it.

    Bookmark   August 13, 2009 at 7:57PM
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