Post 4 of 6- Mulch
Welcome back to another edition of The Beginner’s Guide to Aggregate, where the Chatt Soil team explores all things aggregate! Today we discuss the multitudes of mulch; defining what it is and how it is made, identifying the types Chatt Soil offers, and discovering how it is best used. Over the last few weeks, we discussed ‘What is aggregate? ’, dove into the nuances of soil/dirt, and unloaded a bunch of information on gravel. You are most likely familiar with mulch, having seen it or used it in the past. Regardless of your experience, this post will enlighten you in ways you never thought possible!
Definition & Usage
The definition of mulch is straight-forward: it’s simply any material that is laid or spread over the surface of soil as a covering. Mulch can include organic and synthetic materials. For a landscaping project, mulch adds infinite amounts of visual delight. Not only is mulch beautiful; it is also practical! Mulch makes it difficult for weeds to grow, traps moisture, maintains soil temperature, and is very cost effective.
Production / Harvesting
Organic mulch is harvested from fallen trees. Bark based mulch is scraped off the tree using a machine, where hardwood mulch is processed through a woodchipper.
Synthetic mulch, which is most often rubber, is made from recycled tires! The tires are stripped of all metal components and shredded into small pieces.
Key Product Types
True to its name, Chatt Soil’s hardwood mulch is derived from various hardwoods common to our region, including species such as pine, oak, and maple. Due to the high cellulose content of hardwood mulch, it decomposes faster than the cypress or pine bark varieties. When exposed to air and water, cellulose decays (by the way, cellulose is just a fancy word for the cell walls of plants). Interestingly, many beneficial fungi and bacteria favor cellulose as a nutritional source. Even though these bacteria and fungi can be beneficial, it is important to understand that their consumption of cellulose may cause nitrogen deficiencies in the soil, which can be incredibly harmful to plants. To mitigate this, we suggest amending hardwood mulch with grass clippings or a nitrogen rich fertilizer to ensure that your plants do not fall victim to such deficiencies.
Brown / Red / Black Mulch
Brown, red, and black mulch are all part of the same family: ‘dyed hardwood mulch’. Our materials are processed with toxin-free dyes and are safe to use for food gardens and around your pets! When shopping for dyed mulch, it is crucial to ensure your mulch is dyed naturally. ‘Discount mulch’ may seem appealing, but the toxic dyes used in it can wreak havoc on your plants. This makes it unsafe to use around animals as well. While some of the chemicals used to treat wood were banned in 2003, older wood that is recovered from demolition sites will predate the ban and are dangerous.
Another consideration when selecting a dyed mulch is that it does not provide the same benefits to the soil as its all-natural counterparts. Thus, it requires additives and fertilizers to maintain soil nutrients.
Derived from the clippings and shavings of cypress trees, cypress mulch is a byproduct of the wood industry. Chatt Soil’s cypress mulch is double ground and screened, which provides you with the absolute highest quality product for your mulching needs. Due to the nature of this wood, it also retains its coloration longer than any dyed mulch. It stays looking fresh for years, instead of a single season! Due to its hardy and fibrous nature, cypress mulch retains more water than our other offerings. This can prevent water from reaching the soil and the roots from having access to it. As cypress mulch dries, it becomes water repellant, which can further compound this issue. Some plants prefer to be drier, so it would be a good mulch to use for something like lavender, which hates being waterlogged! Thankfully, a few simple tricks can help to prevent too much water retention. Laying a thin layer of mulch and making sure to move it around with a rake every few months helps to make sure your plants and their roots receive plenty of water when utilizing this beautiful natural mulch.
Pine Nuggets are great because they are larger ‘chunks’ and last much longer than other more fragmented varieties of mulch. They decompose more slowly which makes them lower maintenance. The nuggets are harvested from the bark of pine trees prior to processing. While this product tends to be the most resilient, there are some drawbacks- such as aggregate floating (where the material travels away from where it is placed), and water retention concerns. Due to its large composition, bark nuggets do not provide much in the way of water mitigation. They are great for cosmetic purposes and keeping an area mulched without having to replace it too much.
Kid-Safe Playground Mulch
Derived from recycled hardwood, this all-natural material undergoes a few extra steps to provide the kiddos with a safe and toxic-free playing surface. After the hardwood material is broken down, the product passes through a series of large magnets and screens to remove any foreign or hazardous objects. Due to the prevalence of chemicals in certain treated woods, Chatt Soil’s offering is not produced from wood pallets. This ensuring it is 100% free from any harmful chemicals. For additional peace-of-mind, all of our Kid-Safe mulch is certified by the International Playground Equipment Manufacturers Association (IPEMA).
While adding mulch is aesthetically pleasing and inhibits weed growth, there are a few drawbacks that you should be aware of when considering it:
- It can be a potential hiding places for harmful insects and/or rodents
- Over-mulching can suffocate your plants by overheating the soil and depriving them of light
- Light-weight varieties may migrate out of where they are placed
In our opinion, mulch is still very much worth it and has many more benefits than drawbacks.
While mulch can undoubtedly improve and enhance the aesthetic appeal of a yard, it is important to understand how it will interact with your soil nutrients and water flow. A solid understanding of these factors and a few tricks will work wonders to solve such issues before they begin! At Chatt Soil our mission is not only to provide you with the best bulk buying solution possible, but also to educate our customers so they can make informed decisions. We look forward to seeing you next week as we rock into all things Stone! Thanks for reading, and do not hesitate to contact us if you have any questions or would like to place an order! See you soon!