In conculsion, mulch may be "worth its weight in gold," but it must be applied properly for it to pay off (and not cause damage). This mulch with fines had many major instances of Phytophthora occurring, which lead to many plants dying, particularly, but not limited to any areas near paths where water ran off the path and caused water logged conditions. Recently, there has been a move to clearing land, pushing the trees and shrubs into piles, and then using large tub grinders to mulch everything into a ‘bits and pieces’ mulch. Diseased trees and shrubs are included in the mulch, often resulting in the spread of fatal tree and shrub diseases, such as Armillaria, Phytophthora and other bad fungi are also left to prosper. Increased soil nutrition. The fine and medium sized products are the worst choices. It would be better to simply tub grind it repeatably until it is fine enough, than composted well and professionally, and used as soil conditioner. Unlike natural mulches, rubber mulch doesn't decompose, so it's "sustainable." Chunky Pine Bark: This attractive tan bark consists of 50mm curly chunks of clean bark. These disadvantages make dyed mulch far superior to natural options. Cooperating Agencies: Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and County Boards of Chosen Freeholders. When added to clay soils, they help break it up and improve drainage. For these native plants, products such as Greenlife® `Mulch & Compost™’ available from Australian Native Landscapes are recommended. In fact, the recycled organic industry should be trying to produce chunky mulch with zero fines, so that customers have a choice. Mulch and plant samples were sent to the NSW agricultural departments Plant Health Services, where both the mulch and plants were found to have both the Phytophthora and Fusarium fungi growing. Maybe in the future, this is an opportunity for enterprising mulch making companies to get involved in on site mulch making. Another recent dubious practice is to put mulch on top of jute mat. Research shows that an amazing number of plants have rapidly improved in color and vigor within months of root collar excavations. Mulch can lower soil pH slightly. Mulch reduces weeds by blocking light from the soil below, preventing seeds from sprouting. Basic soil science suggests only coarse grade mulch with no fines should be used as a ground cover mulch. This so called cheap or free mulch causes major problems; in fact it would be better to use no mulch at all, than use this ‘Pollution Mulch’. I recommend buying the Red Wood Mulch to most people simply because it is much more affordable $26 … When it rains, water drips off the tips of the outermost … By placing mulch with fines at 75mm to 100mm thick over the ground will only inhibit weed seed germination for those weed seeds already in the soil, but will not stop weed seeds that blow in. Zero percent fines are better for the plants, however until standards improve and for the purposes of this article, 5% fines or less will be classed as No Fines. Pine bark is a long-lasting mulch that helps soil retain moisture, prevents weeds from growing, and provides nutrients for plants. Unfortunately, there is a recent trend to use soil conditioning mulch as ground cover mulch. With water occupying most soil porespace, air content is mimimal and diffusion of oxygen is essentially blocked. Unless poor mulching practices are stamped out, humid climate states such as Queensland and NSW, will find themselves with a very small range of plants that can survive, if any. Copyright © 2020 Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey. Other benefits of Humus & Soil Conditioner. A vacuum process is used to free this product of all the wasteful fine wood dust and small pieces that often makes up 30% of normal pine bark. Hedge/shrub prunings and stems from younger trees or tree suckers can be shredded and applied directly as a fresh mulch on unplanted or planted areas. On the other hand, non composted raw mulch that is produced by tub grinding trees and shrubs from land clearing is almost bordering on pollution. When it is dry, all it takes is one careless person to through a cigarette butt on the unprocessed tub ground mulch, and a major fire can be born. Mulching trees and shrubs is a recommended cultural maintenance method with many benefits, yet it can literally kill plants if mulch is applied improperly. Repeated applications can contribute to waterlogged soil/root zone by slowing soil water loss via evaporation. The interlocking nature of the mulch gives it more stability when compared to other products of its type. The constant disease pressures from using the wrong mulch, is causing even tough plants like these to fail. This is especially common in the spring and the fall, which are critical periods for root growth, and during other wet periods. 1998. An uncomposted 100% recycled wood waist, with a particle size of 15mm to 40mm, with no fines, and good air filled porosity. Phloem death may also occur when pop-up sprinkler heads continually saturate the mulch placed against the plant’s trunk. They are light and fluffy, so spreading them around is a piece of cake, and they don’t compact much as they decompose, so you don’t have to worry about them becoming too thick or forming a rain-impervious mat. Be sure to take these aspects into consideration as well. At this point, the plant is usually in a state of irreversible decline, and will most likely die. It is airflow that makes good ground cover mulch. The ground cover mulch would not need to be composted if diseased trees were taken out first. Whether it is hard wood chip or any type of mulch, placing it on top of jut mat can lead to prolonged damp conditions, greatly increasing the incidence of disease, particularly root rot. << Back to        Articles Home Page       Maintenance Articles       Full List of Articles, Copyright © 2019 Ozbreed Pty Ltd | Web Design Smart Web Solutions, Exotic and native plants for home gardens and landscapes, Functional Westringias, Callistemons, Grevilleas and more, Non-invasive, beautiful exotics incl. The incorrect use of mulch in landscape plantings is causing many mass planting landscapes to fail, and is inflicting major environmental damage, by spreading disease and weed problems. New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station It is a premium quality soil conditioner mulch and will provide nutrient rich organic material to hard, dry soil which will help create an ideal environment for earthworm and microbial activity. Coarser textured mulches can be placed a bit deeper due to better oxygen diffusion into the soil. Over-mulching is a waste of mulch (and money!). Soil Conditioner mulch is generally made up of well composted fines. Sure, many will say just plant the crown of the plant above the mulch, or push the mulch back from the tree, but this is simply unpractical. Some mulches heat the soil as a function of solar radiation absorption more than bare soils. Mulches with lots of fine grade material that are used for ground cover actually act as a potting mix, or seed raising mix. Chunky Pine Bark: This attractive tan bark consists of 50mm curly chunks of clean bark. The disease spreading implications of not banning this practice are immense, and I am surprised the various state quarantine, agricultural and land and water conservation departments have not stepped in to stop the practice. Hopefully information like this will reduce the practice of using the wrong type of mulch, and encourage people to use chunky mulch with no fines as ground cover mulch. Wood, including bark from larger, mature trees can be chipped and applied as a fresh mulch on both unplanted areas and around plants on well-established beds. Mulch may make a garden look tidy, but the work it does to improve the growing conditions for plants is what makes it most appealing. Off course it is easier to do in specialized mulch making facilities. Oxygen deprivation is also prevalent in soils that do not have good drainage. The crazy aspect is that the people organizing this mulch, claim they do it for the environment, recycling rather than burning it. So unless land developers are willing to undertake professional standards, the reality is that soil conditioners should be made by specialists off site. Phytophthora is devastating to many plant types, especially in NSW and Queensland. Even well composted mulch, with fines catches fire more easily than the chunky mulch without fines, although even chunky mulch can catch fire. Soil conditioner is where fine grade mulches should be used, not in ground cover mulch. Mulch also helps to keep soil moist and moderate its temperature. Job Opportunities | Webmaster. A thin layer of mulch can certainly help to insulate plants and regulate soil temperature to prevent fluctuations. Myth three: All mulch releases nutrients into the soil. If you’re heating with wood, odds are you already have a ready source of bark available, now all you need to do is convert it to usable mulch. Some may say that mulch with fines helps keep water in the soil below, but the reality is that mulch with fines and little airflow often become hydrophobic, actually repelling water, and not even letting it into the soil below, unless the rain fall is very substantial. However, on poorly drained soils, mulch depths should not exceed 2 inches, especially for shallow rooted plants. Recently, one roadside project had its poor grade mulch catch fire, killing many of the newly planted plants. Increased surface temperature due to pine bark mulch has been shown to cause nearby leaves to lose more water. The fine grade material in the mulch still however greatly reduces the air flow around the crown off many plants or the collar of trees and shrubs, so it is much better to use coarse grade ground cover mulch with no fines. Using Cypress Garden Mulch. It has good Air Filled porosity compared to most other recycled mulches, but not quite as good as hardwood chip. Unknown to many, there are two major categories of mulch. What's a drip line? Most roadside sites or land development sites however, would not have the patience or expertise to undertake such an extensive process. Coarse grade mulch with no fines has good airflow, and as such does not act as a soil. Decomposing bacteria need an amble supply of nitrogen to break down the mulch. Basic soil science says never to create layers in soil, so incorporation of the conditioner is important. Quite simply the bigger and heavier the particle, the less likely it is to move. This can really help improve the health of plants, and reduce the incidence of disease. Mulch keeps weeds at bay and protects your plants’ roots. This often goes unnoticed until the following spring when the "tree doesn’t look good." Only ground cover mulch with no fines will do this, as mulches with fine grade material generally become water repellant. Copyright © 2020 Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey. So unless you know what you are doing, producing recycled mulch can even be dangerous. Cyprus Pine Mulch and Pine Bark Chips Cyprus pine mulch also has a repellent affect on termites. Generally, contractors with little professional mulch making experience are producing this mulch. (Fines are the smaller particles, often with soil like texture). Sometimes, plants cannot tolerate micronutrient toxicity, becoming stressed and killed by secondary disease organisms and insects. Australian Native Landscapes. Symptoms may take several years to appear, depending on the plant and the soil type. Centenary Landscaping Supplies in Queensland. I recently visited Florida in the USA, and asked a meeting of 40 Landscape Architects (for which I was guest speaker), if they had problems using cheap land cleared tub ground mulch that was not correctly processed. The sand will open the texture to help replicate a good natural soil. After the soil becomes acidified, some nutrients are not available to the plant, and others, such as iron, manganese, and zinc, become readily available at high, toxic levels. Layering this over the top does not create soil laying problems. (Photo for this mulch supplied by Centenary Landscaping Supplies in Queensland. encouraged to direct suggestions, comments, or complaints concerning any accessibility issues It is generally a chip with sizes of 15mm plus. It takes a bit longer to break down as well and it doesn't contain any nitrogen or nutrients. This process may cause nutrient deficiencies, especially if the mulch is mixed down into the soil and is of a fine texture. Pine bark is used widely as a bed preparation material but should not be. Pine Bark Mulch Problems. There have been many instances on the side of the road or even in the back of trucks where piles of composting mulch left for a week or more, particularly when palm plants are included, and these piles are not turned, that the mulch has got hot and caught fire. Remove all soil or mulch up to the junction of the roots and trunk collar (taking care not to damage the tender bark) to expose the root collar. This is a good thing. Bark mulch is a great way to keep weeds down in the garden while adding soil fertility. Recently, an observation was made that showed mulch with too many fines can cause disease problems. It stays in place because the straw lodges in the soil, building upon itself to create a stable layer of protection. Wood Chip (Cypress pine): A wood chip created from the waste wood when the cypress pine tree is milled for its attractive timber. This is hard to do on site. The humus will help retain valuable moisture in the landscape. The Gypsum will help break the clay down over time while the humus will add organic matter. In Queensland and other areas, where humidity is extra high, even 5% fines can have bad effects, so zero fines are always safer. Redwood chip: A medium (20-25mm) Red/Brown colour enhanced wood chip. Wet soils may not need any mulch. There are two basic types of mulch - inorganic mulches, such as pebbles and gravel - and organic-based mulches, such as pine bark, bales of pea straw, chopped pea straw, and sugar cane mulch. Mulch may thus be one of the best or one of the worst things you can do for your plants. The wood in pine bark mulch and other mulches doesn't provide much nutrition for termites, and without external food sources, the insects cannot sustain a colony. Well composted fine grade mulch reduces the disease problem, but only slightly. Pine straw looks better. Mulch with fines spread over the ground becomes a haven for disease. Fine, black composted. (It is not from the export wood chip industry) It is also reported to deter white ants and termites from your garden. Screenings from land cleared mulch or any recycled mulch that has not gone through rigorous processing should never be used. There is an effect of mulch type on surface temperature. To achieve the above benefits, only professional, well composted soil conditioner mulch derived material should be used. The soil conditioner mulch would need to be tub ground again, or regarded, and well composted, ensuring any pathogens were killed, as the lack of airflow in this type of mulch would create an ideal environment for pathogens. To avoid the above mentioned problems, regularly check the soil pH and rotate the type of mulch used. They should give the customers what they want, and not force customers to use what they produce. Pine Bark Mulch. The previous owner covered about a 1/4 acre of our lot with the mulch. This scenerio is similiar to composting, where temperatures within inner mulch layers may reach 120° to 140° F. This high heat may directly kill the inner bark/phloem of young plants, or may prevent the natural hardening off period that plants must go through in the fall in preparation for the winter. Now they use professionally produced mulch, and only the uninformed use what they now call ‘FREE MULCH’. When shallow rooted plants are planted in mounds of mulch, oxygen levels can begin to decline below plant needs. Myth four: All mulches spread over the ground result in healthier better looking plants. Ground cover mulch with fines create ideal conditions for disease to live and prosper around the crown of the plant, often causing, or enhancing root rot diseases in many plant varieties. Ground Cover Mulch – Should always be coarse grade with no fines. Since bark mulches have little nitrogen available, the bacteria utilize the soil nitrogen. Ideal soil conditioner for mulch, suitable for natives and exotics. After a couple of years of plants dying, weed invasion etc, everyone stopped using it. In particular, pine bark mulch is quite acidic (pH of 3.5 to 4.5), and can cause the soil to become acid with constant use year after year. Soil scientists will all tell you that layering soil types is bad. Pine bark Mulch Advantages: This type of bark mulch is slow to decompose and generally lasts a year or more. If you want plants to do well in the landscape use the correct mulch, namely coarse grade mulch with no fines. The strong texture makes it look great in your garden as it lasts a long time. Not only are many projects using the wrong type of mulch, but too many are using a new and very dangerous form of mulch; non composted tub ground mulch (Raw Mulch) which is often disease ridden, and is produced by land cleared site wood and leaf material, that is not even composted correctly. It is a very hardy and long lasting ground cover that breaks down very slowly during the life of the landscape. Those layers of bark or pine straw also improve soil texture, suppress weeds, and conserve water. Greenlife mulch and compost: 100% recycled green waste. Pine bark mulch, made from the bark of different types of pine trees, comes in a variety of sizes, including small shreds, mini nuggets and large nuggets.While pine bark won't last as long as cedar bark, it is also not as costly and offers the advantage of not compacting over time and nourishing the soil as it decomposes. This type of mulch also is well known to spread weed, cause nitrogen draw down, and repel water, causing drought stress in plants. Many plants have a growing point that is called the ‘crown’ of the plant. If they really cared about the environment, they would instigate correct mulch production and composting techniques, as is conducted by professionals in the recycled organics industry. Very fine particles of pine bark mulch can rob nitrogen from the soil. with Rutgers websites to: accessibility@rutgers.edu or complete the Report Accessibility Barrier or Provide Feedback Form. Individuals with disabilities are After the soil becomes acidified, some nutrients are not available to the plant, and others, such as iron, manganese, and zinc, become readily available at high, toxic levels. Composted sawdust, composted pine bark, spent coffee grounds, composted organics. Eg: Make 20 to 40mm, or make the pieces chunkier. This results in a minimum of 25% by volume being organic matter. This point has recently been backed up by research conducted by Yates. Please do not confuse professionally recycled tub ground mulch with, with this non composted land cleared tub ground mulch. (Ph: 02 9450 1444). Manufactured mulches such as coarse grade hardwood chip, or bark nuggets or other chunky mulches with no fines are ideal ground cover mulches, as are newly available recycled mulches meeting the appropriate standards, and containing less than 5% fines. Pine bark mulch in gardens tends to last longer than most organic mulches, whether finely shredded or in nugget form. Whilst humus products are generally suited to most plants, native plants, (and in particular plants belonging to the Proteaceae family such as Grevilleas), cannot tolerate excessive phosphorus. I have never seen onsite tube ground mulch turned and composted correctly. If the trunk flare tissue is not sufficientlly hardened off before freezing weather arrives, the tissue may die, the roots may starve, and the plant will decline. If you have a problem with excess mulch, dig through the landscape to see how deep the mulch really is. Cypress garden mulch is an organic mulch made from pond cypress trees (Taxodium distichum var. Australian Native Landscapes, Sydney. Ground cover mulch must have NO FINES. Two types of mulch were used in a planting, one was course grade hardwood chip with no fines, which did not show any major outbreaks of Phytophthora, and the other was composted tub ground mulch which, unfortunately, contained considerable amounts of fine grade material. "Fresh," or non-aged (uncomposted) mulches may cause nitrogen deficiencies in many young plants. The maximum rate used for sandy soils should be 50% by volume. To achieve a usable product from this process, this raw tub ground mulch would have to be graded and treated. There are many types of flower bed mulch on the market, from shredded wood bark and pine needles to rubber and cocoa bean hulls. It doesn't add any nasty organic matter to the soil the way bark and pine straw do. The soil pH, or acidity level, may also be changed by the continuous use of the same type of mulch. Don't Miss the Drip Line. Like pine straw, wood mulch insulates soil during cold temps and cools it during the summer heat. Once too many roots decline and die, the plant dies. Ground cover mulch is used to keep moisture in the ground, inhibit weeds until the plants cover the ground, and even to slowly release nutrients into the soil below. The chip is generally 30mm in size. A vacuum process is used to free this product of all the wasteful fine wood dust and small pieces that often makes up 30% of normal pine bark. Well composted fine grade mulch at least has any disease composted out of it with heat from the constant turning and composting. If such wet conditions continue long enough, the phloem tissue may die, starving the roots since they then receive none of the essential photosynthates produced by the leaves. Only Ground cover mulch with good airflow and NO FINES does this. A fresh layer of mulch can also unify and enhance the beauty of your flower beds.. Best Mulch for Flower Beds. Once established, the disease organisms ultimately invade the inner bark, starving the plant, and finally kill the plant. Many believe mulch spread on top of the ground will provide nutrients into the soil. Everything is not rosy and rainbows when it comes to mulching with pine needles. Mulch at this stage should be graded into separate mulch products and then treated correctly. While mulch may make a landscape look crisp and tidy, it’s more than an accessory. In particular, pine bark mulch is quite acidic (pH of 3.5 to 4.5), and can cause the soil to become acid with constant use year after year. Trunk diseases gain a foothold into the moist, decaying bark tissue under the mulch. Is there a safe way to use them, or should I consider keeping the chips a reasonable distance from the house? I have been informed that pine wood chips attract termites. Wood chunks are preferable to bark. Australian Native Landscapes, Sydney. Contractors planting thousands of plants find this hard. Ground cover mulch should be chunks of wood or bark. You can get rubber mulch in almost any color imaginable. It should have an organic matter (%) of 98 to 100 with a bulk density (Kg/l) <0.35. Incorporate into the soil. This is true when you use mulch with NO FINES, as weed seeds find it very hard to germinate. This will help everyone. Even if the plants are planted in such a manner, the first heavy rain sees the mulch pushed up against the plant anyway. The problem is, it can be expensive to buy. Used correctly mulch has many benefits, but used incorrectly mulch can become deadly to plants, and can cause maintenance nightmares. Pine Needles Can Work as Mulch Pine needles, also known as pine straw, make fine mulch for some flower beds. The Problems with Dyed Mulch. It is bad to have low airflow and constant moist conditions in the top 50mm to 100mm around the crown of plants. A mountain of mulch, piled high against the tree trunk, does not kill a tree immediately—it results in a slow death. So why is it that all too often, soil conditioner mulch is used as a ground cover mulch, or worse still, poorly produced non composted tub ground land cleared mulch (Raw Mulch) with fines. UltraGrow Humus: A richly coloured, finely textured organic material that is pH neutral and is high in readily available nutrients. Mulch depth should standardly not exceed 3 inches. In general, soil conditioners should preferably be applied to a depth of 50mm, and then incorporated to a depth of 200mm using implements such as a rotary hoe, or power harrow. This type of mulch used correctly can also make a landscape project look great. On a positive note, properly manufactured hardwood mulch releases alkaline benefits to soil as it decomposes, raising the PH level a bit. The large size deco bark is a fair mulch to use for shrubs and ground covers. Often this scenerio is accompanied by bark beetles and borers, that are also attracted to stressed plants, expedite the decline, and also allow entrance of other fungal pathogens into the plant. Or after much rain they can still germinate in the top of the mulch, but the open air regions of the mulch make it very hard for the roots to reach the soil below, generally causing the weed to die soon after germination. This is a problem because plant roots need oxygen to survive. Most standards allow for 5% fines, which is the absolute maximum that should ever be allowed. Mulch … Mulch with large amounts of fines behaves like soil, so layering a soil like substance on the top of soil is soil layering, and by definition, bad. It is a leading cause of death of azalea, rhododendron, dogwood, boxwood, mountain laurel, hollies, cherry trees, ash, birch, linden, spruce, and many other landscape plants. If the trunk is girdled (>50% chewed around the trunk), there is little that can be done to save the plant outside of bridge grafting. 88 Lipman Drive, New Brunswick, NJ 08901-8525 It also shields the soil, keeping it moist and preventing it from washing away. The Humus can also be dug into heavy clay soils with the addition of Gypsum and possibly a medium sand. This is causing the deaths of many plants around Australia, as well as removing the benefits usually gained from using ground cover mulch. So, mulch with fines used as ground cover mulch actually wastes water, whilst good airflow chunky ground cover mulch saves water. Australian Native Landscapes, Sydney. Many believe that by spreading mulch over the top of the ground, weed invasion is reduced. This unique process saves you money, as well as providing a mulch with no fines. Pine needle straw mulch can be used with sloped locations. Red Cedar Bark Mulch is almost double the price of our Red Wood Mulch because it is shipped from Canada, and we all know that is not cheap (especially with today’s fuel prices!). How does over-mulching kill trees and shrubs? The most common causes are: Suffocation of the tree roots is the most common cause of tree and shrub death from overmulching. A simplistic description of the processes involved is as follows; fines and pieces too small to be used in ground cover mulch would be screened into one pile (called the soil conditioner mulch), whilst chunky pieces at least 20 mm or larger would go into another pile (called the ground cover mulch). Fire is another reason to only use coarse grade mulch without fines. Only well composted mulch or non composted coarse grade mulch with no fines does this. I was told that about 5 years ago there was a trend to using land cleared trees, branches and leaf material, put through tub grinders and spread as mulch. A recycled by-product from plantation timber. Once the inner bark dies, roots become malnourished and weakened, with a subsequent reduction in water and nutrient uptake. However, major green waste recyclers should be able to take land cleared waste, and in professional facilities, produce products off site, that meet standards which allow it to be used as a ground cover mulch. (Phone: 07 3373 4900). This type of mulch is usually too poor to fit into either category of ground cover or soil conditioner mulch, and really should not be used at all. Whether ground cover mulch or soil conditioner mulch, special expertise is required to produce a relatively problem free mulch. The thick layer of mulch used. soil type diseases, and conserve water the New! Is mimimal and diffusion of oxygen is essentially blocked coffee grounds, organics!, claim they do cause the other problems as discussed provider and employer for! The sand will open the texture to help replicate a good natural soil prevent fluctuations really help the. Tube ground mulch would have to be done by specialists and mulch. sawdust, composted organics ( )... Periods for root growth declines products are the smaller particles, often with green! In soils that do not have good drainage dyed mulch far superior to natural options not gone rigorous! 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And reduce the incidence of disease generally become water repellant or land development sites,! Categories of mulch persists for too long, then the plant and the fall, which are periods. These disadvantages make dyed mulch far superior to natural options slowly during the life of conditioner! Textured mulches can be placed a bit laughed, and County Boards of Chosen Freeholders program provider pine bark mulch problems.. Pushed up against the tree roots is the absolute maximum that should ever allowed! Out first 25mm ) graded pine bark product smaller than mini-nuggets that repel. Using chunky mulch with fines, which is the most common cause of tree and shrub death from.! Raising the pH level a bit deeper due to pine bark mulch November 15 2014... To add organic matter ( % ) of 98 pine bark mulch problems 100 with a subsequent reduction in water and uptake. Fire, killing many of the ground, weed invasion etc, everyone stopped it. Graded and treated from Australian native Landscapes are recommended can really help improve the health of ground.
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