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'Safety turf' rubber mulch

Posted by woodswalker88 none (My Page) on
Fri, Jul 15, 11 at 19:20

This was posted under another topic, but I am re-posting cause I am kind of desperate for answers.

I moved to a new house recently and they have this rubber mulch, which I call "Safety Turf", all under the front shrubs. Specifically yews and azaleas.

The realtor thought it had been put there for termite control. Really? The house is that easy for termites to eat? (it was built in 74.)

People worry about the toxic chemicals in this product, but what bothers me is it's a dead zone as far as a real ecosystem. May as well have rubber bushes in there too. At my old house I loved to listen to the crickets sing at night, and for sure there are no crickets here.

There are about 4 inches deep of safety turf, followed by gray weed-control sheets and dead, clay-ey soil. I wonder what would happen if I got a shovel and started removing that safety turf? Suppose I replaced it with some topsoil and real mulch? Should i leave the gray weed sheets? I spose I could leave a little of the safety turf around the trunks of the bushes where I can't reach, and maybe close to the house. Just to stop those termites, y'know.

Does anyone have experience removing this stuff? As far as disposal... I need a parking space at the front of the lawn, I'll use it for that.


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: 'Safety turf' rubber mulch

The house is that easy for termites to eat? (it was built in 74.) Yes, termites can devour a house fairly quickly. You should have a yearly termite inspection and treatment if necessary. Prevention treatments are common, and necessary in some places. Hard to be more specific without knowing where you are.

I wonder what would happen if I got a shovel and started removing that safety turf?
You would be doing yourself and your bushes a favor. You would also make it possible to add new plants to that area if you would like to.

Suppose I replaced it with some topsoil and real mulch?
Yes!!!

Should i leave the gray weed sheets?
Absolutely not.

I spose I could leave a little of the safety turf around the trunks of the bushes where I can't reach, and maybe close to the house.
You should be able to get to those spots with a rake to get all of the rubber stuff.

Just to stop those termites, y'know.
I think this mis-info happened through this thought process... Termites eat wood houses. Mulch is wood. Mulch shouldn't be placed up against a house. Termites don't eat rubber. Therefore, rubber mulch stops termites.

This is all good but it's that last leap that's wrong. If termites want to eat your house, they'll happily crawl across the rubber mulch to get there, whistling a hungry tune as they go...

Does anyone have experience removing this stuff?
Rubber mulch, no. Weed fabric and plastic, yes. Ugh. Nasty job removing it but it's the only way to reclaim your space. Even the most ordinary of shrubs needs moisture and organic material. This plastic and rubber stuff is not offering anything beneficial for your planting bed, and is blocking at least some of the water. Real mulch decomposes over time, replenishing nutrients in the soil, and should be renewed on top (not replaced) occasionally.

As far as disposal... I need a parking space at the front of the lawn, I'll use it for that.
Without knowing where you are, what your soil is like, it's hard to comment specifically on this. What I can imagine, though, is putting this stuff down, and then grass starts growing up in it. Then you want to mow over it, and either the rubber is too high, and/or you end up sending chunks of it flying all over the place. If your soil is mostly clay, parking on it without a thick layer of rocks probably won't work, long-term. If your soil is mostly sand, you should be able to just start parking where you want and the grass will die in the 2 tire tracks, and sand will rise to the top so it's not muddy. An added surface is not necessary.


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RE: 'Safety turf' rubber mulch

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RE: 'Safety turf' rubber mulch

I agree with Purple on all points. [And thanks, MTO, for the great links. Hadn't seen those. A friend is looking at 'rubber mulch'. You've passed me the ammunition... ]

Quote:
[Just to stop those termites, y'know.
I think this mis-info happened through this thought process... Termites eat wood houses. Mulch is wood. Mulch shouldn't be placed up against a house. Termites don't eat rubber. Therefore, rubber mulch stops termites.

This is all good but it's that last leap that's wrong. If termites want to eat your house, they'll happily crawl across the rubber mulch to get there, whistling a hungry tune as they go... ]

Reminds me of a neighbor issue a few years back. Same kind of fallacious logical leap.... We have an old house, with a double-deep yard. The back portion is a woodland-ish garden. Their house is roughly 1940s, and their backyard runs along our back line.

In our woodland garden, we had edged the paths with chunks of log.

They were having a problem with carpenter ants in their house, 50-60 feet away from the boundary.

Carpenter ants like wet, heading-toward-rot wood. We had these logs, heading-toward-rot over time.

Therefore, our edging logs were drawing the carpenter ants that were infesting their house. If we would just get rid of the logs, they wouldn't have the ant problem.....

[Diplomacy on] ....No, if the ants were that interested in our logs, they would be living in and around the logs. They wouldn't have moved into the the second floor bathroom of your house. Perhaps you should see if you have roof leaks or window frame leaks that are creating perfect carpenter ant domiciles in your own walls.... !!!

Yeah, get the rubber mulch and so-called weed-block fabric out. Loosen up the nasty-soil well with a garden fork, so you don't have an obnoxious, difficult boundary. Add at least topsoil, and perhaps compost, as well.


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RE: 'Safety turf' rubber mulch

Thanks for your replies! The soil in my front yard is clay. The safety turf is located in the beds at the front of my house where yew and azaleas were planted. I don't think I'll be able to remove all of it. Now my question is what's wrong with that gray weed-stop fabric? At my old house I didn't have any weed control measures and I constantly had to crawl under my bushes and pull out poison ivy. Naturally, red itchy blotches were a permanent part of my body decoration....

Anyway, there is also a mature oak and several dogwoods on the property. They are all thriving...and they are all surrounded by a circle of safety turf! Perhaps I shouldn't fix what's not broken?

Meanwhile I have 4 trash bags full of safety turf that I removed from the front bushes. Whatever should I do with it?? Maybe put it around the shed? I don't even want to put it in the trash....


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RE: 'Safety turf' rubber mulch

If you have individual trees surrounded by the stuff, and they are doing ok, you certainly can let them be. And spreading the bags of it around your shed isn't crazy. May save you some weed-whacking.[grins]

If you are on clay, and want to rejuvenate what is "a dead zone as far as a real ecosystem.", especially after it has been well-covered for years, you do want to break up the surface of the soil, waggling a garden fork back and forth, then add topsoil and compost, and work the fork again. Break the 'boundary' of the clay surface, and let the other things gradually work their way in.

If you dumped a load of great topsoil on top of the clay you have, and planted things, their roots would likely hit the clay, and go sideways instead of down, and not thrive. They hit a 'wall'. If you break up the surface, even some, then things will mix as rain falls and roots grow, over time.

And the 'boundary' issue is one of the reasons that I would be ripping out the gray fabric. Your patience is appreciated [grins].

First [yet again] boundary. Roots of the plants you want will find it very difficult to get through. No matter what you do with improving the soil above it, it is still a 'wall' underlying your ecosystem.

Second, [and the main reason why I 'Gaaaak! at the mention of weed-block fabric] is that anything that vines, or spreads by runners, or that has aggressive deep perennial roots will love that 'weed-block fabric'. Vines run along the fabric under the soil, send roots through it. Anything with runners will weave these runners in and through the fabric.

At least in my area, the worst, most aggressive and nastiest weeds actually work around [and through] the fabric. And love it, because it discourages minor little weeds that might compete with them....

I do understand the problems you had with the poison ivy [Boy, do I!] But poison ivy would be one of the things that would love the weed control fabric. If you have problems with this in the future, there are better ways.


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RE: 'Safety turf' rubber mulch

At my old house I didn't have any weed control measures
Anything that covers the ground in a thick enough layer will prevent a lot of weeds from being able to grow. The reason most people do not use non-organic materials as mulch is the lack of benefits these offer to the soil/plants vs. an organic mulch. No mulch will completely erradicate the need for at least occasional pulling of weeds.

If all you want to do is maintain this landscape, that's fine and there is no reason to remove the rubber mulch and weed fabric. But if/when the gardening bug bites you, that stuff will be "in your way."

...and I constantly had to crawl under my bushes and pull out poison ivy.
Hopefully you won't be plagued by PI here at your new home, but if you find some, it's easy to pull if you do it right away, while the plant is an infant.

Put plastic bags (like they give you at almost any store) over your arm, I usually use 3 layers. With your hand inside the bags, pull the ivy. Then grab the bag handles and turn the bags inside-out with the PI inside. Tie knot, put in trash. Never burn or compost it. Wash/shower immediately just in case.


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RE: 'Safety turf' rubber mulch

You didn't say when the rubber mulch was put in, and maybe you don't know, but over time it will have the same problems that gravel mulch has, which is accumulation of leaves and debris that muck up the visual aspects of the mulch but can't break down properly. Weeds will then grow in the rubber mulch anyway. Search for some threads on the pros and cons of gravel and rock mulches.

Azaleas are evergreen but they do drop leaves over and over as of course will the deciduous dogwood.

You might just live with it awhile and see what the maintenance and appearance is like. Or you could target one small area and begin renovating that.

I'm not sure if I would want it for a parking pad--or to re-phrase, I would not want it for a parking pad but if recycling it that way is appealing to you, I would try to research how it would perform. Otherwise you would end up with 2 big mulch moving jobs.


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RE: 'Safety turf' rubber mulch

"No mulch will completely eradicate the need for at least occasional pulling of weeds."

Exactly. And this is true with or without weed control fabric. They will simply be different kinds of weeds, growing differently. Better even than mulch, the best weedblocker is a dense ground cover plant such as thyme, ajuga, asarum, or lawn grass. Of course, until they grow in, you have to pull weeds... and then you have to control the groundcovers if they are mixed with other plants. For this reason - management of the open ground - garden beds are inherently and permanently more complicated to take care of than lawn.

As for ecosystem, an ecosystem consists of a transition and communication between the deeper layers of soil and the air. The fabric interrupts that and reduces the viability of both the upper and lower layers.

If you are looking for an easier-maintenance surface, patches of loose flagstone can do wonders in places that are difficult to reach. You can water through them, they conserve moisture for the plants, and several different lifeforms seek harbourage under them.

What to do with the rubber... Find a tire recycling option and let them start over with it. Rubber mats and other products are other, more useful, end products.

KarinL


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