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I have had numerous questions about mulch and wood chips on the land so I am posting a few articles I have found on the subject. Permission has been given for all clips.
Using Mulch By Matt Goering
Mulch is the term used for a variety of organic products which are applied as decorative ground cover, as a soil improvement, and to conserve water usage. Bark mulch is one of the most popular mulches available, and comes in bark chips of varying shapes and sizes. Besides bark mulch, wood mulch also comes in a number of other varieties that feed the soil as they decompose, improve the looks of your land, and help retain soil moisture all at the same time.
Which Type of Wood Mulch Is Best for Me?
With a wide range of wood based mulch to choose from, it can be difficult to decide which type to lay down over your garden beds. Here's a list of the most common types, and why, or why not, you should choose these mulches for your landscaping needs.
· Bark Mulch is one of the most popular mulches around, because it looks so great once you put it down. It is also an excellent choice when it comes to water conservation, since it provides a solid barrier against moisture evaporation. The one downside of this mulch is its size. Most bark mulch comes in large chips, which decompose slowly. If you can find bark that's been shredded, go that route. Shredded bark will not only trap moisture in your flower beds better than large chips, but since it decomposes quicker, it more readily adds nutrients to the soil as well.
· Cedar Mulch is the cream of the crop. Because cedar mulch has natural oils in the wood that repel insects, it's the perfect choice for wood mulch, especially in areas where termites are common. Cedar mulch is going to be a little more costly initially, but it's well worth the extra expense when you consider its pest repellant properties.
· Colored Mulch is another popular mulch alternative. It's usually composed of wood chips or shredded wood that has been died a reddish color. If you are particular about the appearance of your landscaping, colored mulch is the way to go. It can't be rivaled when it comes to appearance. Of course, good looks come at a price. If you choose colored mulch for your gardens, make sure your budget can accommodate the extra costs.
· Natural Colored Mulch refers to wood based mulch that is not colored for aesthetic appeal. Many homeowners choose to go this route, since naturally colored wood chips are usually cheaper than dyed alternatives. They provide the same benefits when it comes to moisture retention, week reduction, and composting properties, but they don't carry the extra price tag that goes hand in hand with dyed varieties.
· Pine Peelings, or other wood shavings, are basically the cast of material of more intricate milling processes. They are then collected and sold in bulk as wood mulch. This variety of mulch won't turn as many heads as bark mulch or cedar mulch, but it serves its purpose. If you're on a tight budget, but still looking for wood mulch for your gardens, look for pine or other wood peelings at a local lumber yard or wood supplier.
Bark Mulch Warning
Whether you choose bark mulch, or another variety, it's important that you take into consideration the prevalence of wood boring pests in your area before you purchase. Termites, for example, prefer to munch on dead wood, and wood based mulch is a favorite feeding ground. If you live in an area where termites are commonplace, it's probably a good idea to talk to a pest control contractor or landscaping contractor before making your purchase. It can be the difference between a maintenance free landscape, and one that causes scores of headaches and larger problems down the road. If termites are not a problem in your area, wood mulch is about the best investment you can make when it comes to landscaping. You'll be getting one of the best looking, and performing, mulches on the market.
Matt Goering, formerly a carpenter and house painter, is a freelance writer for the home improvement industry who has published over 600 articles.
This is a great clip from a page with lots of valuable information
Cedar Mulch Myth
QUESTION: Last December we lost several of the cedar trees in our yard due to the strong winds. We put all of the branches and foliage through a chipper and now want to use the mulch in our landscape beds. Our neighbor just told us, however, that cedar mulch is notorious for killing plants-------is this true?
ANSWER: Unfortunately, this is one of those myths that continues to be passed down from one generation of gardeners to the next. There are numerous references in popular garden publications including websites that warn against the use of cedar sawdust and mulches citing the leachate as being toxic to both seedling and established plants. Some articles even go so far as to suggest that chemicals released from cedar foliage will cause tip burn on established plants and inhibit seed germination. Its no wonder there continues to be widespread concern on how safe cedar-based mulches are for landscape plantings.
There is no documented evidence that either leachate or volatile compounds released by cedar foliage is toxic to plants. It is well known however that Cedars, especially Thuja species, have developed chemical weapons against a number of pests and pathogens. Researchers have found that our native Western Red Cedar, Thuja plicata heartwood contains thujaplicin, a water-soluble tropolone that not only inhibits various bacteria and fungi, but also has anti-tumor activity as well. This anti-microbial activity is most likely responsible for the rot-resistant nature of cedar wood. There is no evidence however that this substance harms plant tissues.
Another component in cedar’s chemical arsenal is thujone. This essential oil is found in both Thuja foliage and other non-thuja species. Best known for its ability to repel clothes moths, thujone and other foliar terpenes also repel, inhibit or kill cockroaches, termites, carpet beetles, Argentine ants, and odorous house ants. These compounds are not readily soluble in water, but volatilize and become airborne. The lack of solubility also helps to prevent the compound from leaching into aquatic areas.
In summary, despite what you may read and hear, there is no scientific evidence that mulches of cedar sawdust or woodchips will have a negative impact on plant growth.
But keep in mind, whenever a sizeable quantity of sawdust is added to the soil, extra nitrogen must be applied with it. For each cubic yard of sawdust (300 square feet one-inch deep) 3½ pounds of available nitrogen should be added. This can be supplied by 17 pounds of ammonium sulfate, 11 pounds of ammonium nitrate, or 22 pounds of ammoniated phosphate (16-20-0). For a bushel of sawdust (15 square feet one-inch deep) ¾ pound of ammonium sulfate, ½ pound ammonium nitrate, or one pound of ammonium phosphate (16-20-20) would furnish the nitrogen needed.
These are fairly liberal amounts of nitrogen. Less could be used if fertilizer is to be used around or under individual trees, shrubs or plants. It is always wise to watch plant growth closely when a large quantity of wood mulch has been used. Slow-growing plants with small, pale-green or yellowish leaves usually means that plants need more nitrogen.
Mulch - From the Dirt Doctor
The best mulch for any site anywhere is recycled plant material (leaves, twigs, spent plants, buds, bark, flowers and other plant debris) that grew on your property. That's the natural way it is done in the forest and on the prairie. The second best choice is purchased shredded native cedar. Third in line is shredded hardwood bark. Then there is a group in the middle that includes cypress which is not high on my list because it does not break down well. We want the mulch to break down. That's what creates the true natural food for feeding microbes and plant roots. Pine needles make a good mulch but look a little out of place when used on a property where no pines are growing. Lava gravel makes a good mulch and has the extra benefit of keeping squirrels and cats out. Looking more harsh than organic mulches and not breaking down into humus are the negative points. I'm not at all a fan of shredded rubber products, dyed wood or pine bark. It's interesting that the most popular mulch material, pine bark, is not very good. First, it won't stay in place - it washes and blows away. What does stay breaks down into a mucky material that does help plant growth.
Nature doesn't allow bare soil and neither should we. For shrubs, trees and ground covers, use at least 1" of compost and 3" of shredded native tree trimmings or shredded hardwood bark. Mulch vegetable gardens with 8" of partially completed compost or alfalfa hay. Mulch preserves moisture, eliminates weeds and keeps the soil surface cooler which benefits earthworms, microorganisms and plant roots.
Question: Are all cedar mulches created equal? The main thing I want to do is repel roaches and other bugs from around my foundation. L.M., Dallas
Answer: The fresher the better with cedar mulch. All cedar trees make excellent mulch, but I prefer mulch made from our native cedars. Freshly cut cedar mulch has more oil in the wood, which provides fragrance and repels insects. Repelling insects is a nice side benefit, but the primary purposes of mulch are to protect the soil and help build humus.
The best mulch choice is shredded native tree trimmings from local trees. Shredded hardwood bark is the second best mulch, partially completed compost is next. Pine bark is the worst choice. It breaks down into a mucky material, if it stays in place - a rarity, it usually washes and blows out.
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Austin , TX
ph: (512) 364-0969