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mulch types - advice please

Posted by gw409 6 (My Page) on
Tue, May 7, 13 at 0:49

hello:

my mulching needs are more practical than cosmetic. are all mulches basically the same or are some better than others?
(cedar, pine bark, fresh wood chips etc?)

i have access to a pile of wood chips from trees/limbs that were recently cut and ground. are these acceptable to use as mulch also?

thank you


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: mulch types - advice please

With a few exceptions, the biggest difference other than appearance is the rate at which they decay. For a given wood-based mulch the rate of decay is heavily influenced by environment, with temperature and moisture being two of the more important variables. Size of the mulch chips is also a significant factor in durability, with larger meaning longer lasting.

In my experience pine bark can last or hold up for several years (3-5), depending on the size of the chips. Cedar depends in part on the kind of cedar - the red cedar I use is very, very slow to decay, whereas typical mixed hardwood mulch is pretty much decomposed after ~6 months.

The exceptions - while it really shouldn't be a problem, some people have reported problems with fresh wood mulches. Another issue that has been reported by some are wood mulches taken from old piles that haven't been turned (aka sour wood mulch), and then applied to young plants. The other exception is there are a few tree species you do not want to use as mulch because their wood products can be toxic to some plants. Noteworthy here is black walnut.


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RE: mulch types - advice please

A mulch is any material you place on the soil to 1. aid in soil moisture retention, 2. aid in suppressing "weed" growth, 3. aid in helping keep the soil cool, and 4. aid in adding organic matter to your soil. So those wood chips you have access to would be perfectly acceptable materials to use. I have used fresh wood chips as mulches many times and have observed that where they are spread the plants growing there usually do much better then where older, aged, wood chips have been put down.
There are some woods (Cedar for example) that are naturally decay resistant that some people prefer for that reason. That may be okay but that also limits the amount of organic matter going into your soil unless you pull back that mulch to add compost or other vegetative waste.


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RE: mulch types - advice please

we find green type mulches are good for improving the soil, feeding the soil, maintaining stable temp's ie.,. warm - winter; coll-summer and holding back weeds and holding in moisture.

we use sugarcane mulch, spoilt hay mulches and slashed grass mulch.

len

Here is a link that might be useful: lens bale garden


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RE: mulch types - advice please

@gardenlen:those you mentioned are good mulching materials but they are mainly for soil feeding and do not last as long as wood chips or brownish material. You corn looks great btw.


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RE: mulch types - advice please

If I get local chipped refuse wood, a year is the most of a life expectancy I can count on. At Home depot they have Cypress wood mulch. This Cypress mulch may last 2 years. I get both sources, the local stuff rots and contributes to the soil food web. There is a BIG price difference for wood chip mulch. The Cypress wood mulch is SO much cheaper than any other wood mulch product, why? I usually get what's free, if it's available. I just wonder why Cypress mulch has suddenly become cheaper than Pine and Hardwood mulch. Eucalyptus mulch is higher priced than Cypress. Maybe Sandy or Katrina killed a LARGE amount of Cypress trees?


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RE: mulch types - advice please

"Wood chips from trees/limbs that were recently cut and ground" would make very good mulch altho might not be as long-lasting depending on the variety. I prefer mulch that will decompose fairly quickly as it adds to the organic content of my soil.

I'm not familiar with cypress so can't answer your questions about it.

I get shredded bark mulch from a local log builder - likely spruce and fir. It's been piled awhile and already starting to heat when I get it. It's free, I only have to pay trucking which is inexpensive.


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RE: mulch types - advice please

thanks for all the tips.

the free pile i have access to was chipped last fall and is mostly maple type trees i guess? so long as there is no obvious detriment i will continue to use the free stuff when available.

i am vigilant about mulching newly planted trees for the first few seasons, after that i just let nature take over and allow the trees own droppings and autumn leaves act as mulch.


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RE: mulch types - advice please

Most every good source of information is telling us to not use Cyprus mulch since the trees are being cut faster then they can regrow.

Here is a link that might be useful: About Cyprus mulch


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RE: mulch types - advice please

Last fall I mulched my properties with the 3 truck loads of trimmings produced from the tree work I had done (poplars, flowering plum and assorted dogwoods). The leaves will disappear fairly rapidly, the chunks of branches and trunks take longer. If you can get it, then use it. If you can get it on an annual basis, then even better. just mulch with it and let nature do it's thing.


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RE: mulch types - advice please

Cyprus is a country - cypress is a tree :-) And in fact, a common name applied to a lot of different tree types. Discouraging the use of "cypress mulch" without knowing what type of cypress it refers to is in question is meaningless. In the link above, the 'cypress' refers to Taxodium or bald cypress. In places where this tree doesn't grow naturally (any place other than the Gulf Coast), an avoidance of cypress mulch is unnecessary. Typically, wood mulches are by-products of the timber industry.


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RE: mulch types - advice please

that's the idea ceth,

no matter what you grow the soil needs feeding as do the worms and bacteria needed to convert that nutrient for plants to use.

len


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RE: mulch types - advice please

Regardless of the sustainability of cypress, I would go for the locally available chips anyway, simply because they aren't trucked in from far away. Being free doesn't hurt either. :-]

Cypress is very rot resistant though, which is why it's used for decks, outdoor furniture and fence posts. I prefer mulches that feed the soil, i.e. break down in a year or so.


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RE: mulch types - advice please

Up until recently I have used pine bark mulch. I like the look of it and it doesn't mat and crust over like some mulches do. I now use shredded leaves. Leaves are free, I have lots of them and I have a shredder. When I run out of leaves, I will use pine bark until more leaves are available in the fall.


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RE: mulch types - advice please

I read something just the other day, saying that using wood chip mulches near the house is not a good idea, because as it breaks down, it will attract termites, which you don't want near the foundation of the house. Is there any truth to that? I've been using cedar and pine bark mulch, wondering if that could attract termites, and I suppose carpenter ants as well?


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RE: mulch types - advice please

  • Posted by TXEB 9a (My Page) on
    Tue, May 14, 13 at 18:36

I live deep in the heart of termite country. The wisdom down here is, not really. Subterranean termites generally have other food sources they much prefer over wood mulches. They really like high cellulose materials, and in wood mulches the cellulose degrades quickly. We don't find termite colonies working mulch, we find them completely ignoring the mulch and building their mud tunnels to get into the house. They really like the paper backing on drywall, and soft wood moldings. When applying mulches we strive to be sure we have 4" inches of free space between the top of the mulch and the sill line so we can visually monitor for mud tunnels, fire ant trails, etc.

Both drywood and Formosa termites are a completely different beasts (we have those too), and again wood mulches are not an issue.

Here's a link to all you ever wanted to know about mulches - all kinds - and way more.

Here is a link that might be useful: Impact of Mulches on Landscape Plants and the Environment - A Review

This post was edited by TXEB on Tue, May 14, 13 at 20:23


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RE: mulch types - advice please

Since I'm new to gardening I've been experimenting with various mulches. Here's what I've found so far:

1. Compost works really well and is great for the soil, but is expensive in large quantities and if animals dig through it then it mixes with the soil (good) but then you have lost the protection you wanted from the mulch in the first place (bad). I finally gave up on this after trying to patch holes every day.

2. Pine bark chips look great, but are very expensive around here and of course are not so good around smaller plants. They last longer but I am not sure the extra life offsets the extra cost. The larger pieces also means light gets through more, and I have found that I have had to do more weeding in the pine-bark beds than my other mulched beds. Animals can root through them easily too, but at least they are easy to move to cover up the holes.

3. Wood pallets shredded into chips (Scotts brand colored mulch) seem ok with weed suppression and also seem to have decent longevity, showing very little sign of degrading after a summer and winter. However, I do find that they seem to get moved out of place by small animals quite easily, and need constant adjustment or a bit of refilling. I'm also leery about using these recycled wood pallets.

4. Shredded leaves are free which is nice, but only available in the fall. it also looks really, really messy and so I wasn't happy with it. I can't speak to it's effectiveness because I didn't keep it around, but I hear it's good.

5. Shredded cedar, natural color. The mulch mats which means it stays in place and acts as an excellent barrier but it doesn't always look so nice. The fresh color is a rich brown but it quickly fades to a less attractive, yellowish woody color. The soil underneath I find tends to stay the most moist, and this spring the soil seems richer and fluffier than from under the pine chips or the shredded pallet chips.

6. Shredded cedar, dyed black. This mulch seems to have the same advantages of the other shredded cedar, but the black color (IMO anyway) looks far, far better. Even when faded to a sort of black-grey from a distance it looks more like rich, black earth and creates a really bold contrast to the colors of my plants. This is what I will go with from now on, unless I discover too many horrible things about the black dye.

This post was edited by ptwonline on Wed, May 15, 13 at 13:55


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RE: mulch types - advice please

I'm using burlap this year...It's a pain to cut holes in it to plant but it rots slowly so it adds to sil as a Brown (jute), it allows water in slowly so no washout, and it appears to keep things pretty moist while allowing some breathing. So far so good. I'll post later in the year about how it breaks down. Interbay mulch google search should turn up things about burlap too. I used used coffee bean sacks which were about 1.10 a bag all told when I ordered 50. I double bag in beds, there are some spots that ends up haveing 4 overlapsed because of my bed dimensions.


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RE: mulch types - advice please

  • Posted by TXEB 9a (My Page) on
    Wed, May 15, 13 at 16:43

If you like the colored wood mulches, you can buy water-based colorant concentrates for application on installed landscape. A friend of mine who is a landscaper uses them when needed, says they work fine. Measure, mix and apply with a tank sprayer. The "dyes" are typically carbon black for the black, iron oxide for the red, and both for the dark brown. One brand is Mulch Magic (manufacturer's link below, MSDS and datasheets available) - there are others. They're easy to get from Amazon, Gemplers, and others (search mulch colorant).

If you use a natural wood mulch like cedar, which is my preference, a lot of the fading appears to be sun bleaching. A little turning and fluffing with a rake every month or two restores the fresh look. Good for several turns.

Here is a link that might be useful: Mulch Magic


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RE: mulch types - advice please

Sugarcane mulch is very good for soil and weed control. You can also use the sugarcane mulch bales to grow Strawberries in. They grow like crazy in the mulch. Sunnyque.


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RE: mulch types - advice please

Now that's something I've never seen up here in Missouri. Not exactly sugar cane country up here. :-] We do have cotton burr compost though, it comes out of the MO Bootheel.


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RE: mulch types - advice please

The Cypress mulch I mentioned is already here and is in great quantity. It is cheaper than the pine and mixed hardwood in bags. I use fall leaves and if I am out of pine needles, I use the cypress mulch, a dusting to hold down the leaves. My point is that I am surprised that the cypress is here in more prevalent numbers than hardwood and pine mulch. The pine mulch is much more expensive. Our Home depot has tons of the stuff, (cypress mulch) so I don't feel bad using it, because it has been stocked in such vast quantities for 2 years so far. If I had a pick-up truck instead of a small hatch-back, I would be shoveling the free stuff like crazy, though.


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RE: mulch types - advice please

When we are talking about MULCH, I think the question is for WHAT PURPOSE, WHERE?. Are we talking about :
--vegetables garden
-- flower beds
-- shrubs and trees,

Cedar mulch is very good for flowers garden(esp.perennials), shrubs, trees but not for vegetables garden.

Pine bark nuggets (NOT sap wood mulch) is almost universal and can be used for all those application. I would use small nuggets around tomatoes, peppers, eggplants. At the end of season you can either rake it of to be reused or till it in. It make an excellent soil condition.

After the pine bark, the next best universal mulch is pine straw. But it is only available in some pine growing states (GA for one).

The next ones for veggies garden are wheat straw, and hay. Again, not available everywhere.

I tried drying grass clippings and using it. Didn't like it. It worked like peat moss : Mushy when wet, caked when dry. It might be ok if you dont get much rain.

The other stuff some gardener use, are newspapers, cardboard. In my opinion those are even worse than grass clipping. With rain and watering they would just suffocate the soil. They are like paper paste when wet.

So, here at PNW, I think bark nuggets(pine, cedar) are the best option. But they are a bit more pricier than sap wood mulch.


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