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Why We Don’t Use Dyed Mulch

There are numerous reasons why we don’t to use dyed mulches in the landscape. Aside from looking artificial here are a few more.

Origin of Dyed Mulch

Dyed mulches (black, red, green and other colors) are usually (with few exceptions) made up of recycled wood waste. This trash wood can come from old hardwood pallets, old decking, demolished buildings or worse yet pressure treated CCA lumber. CCA stands for Chromium, Copper and Arsenic; chemicals used to preserve wood. This ground up trash wood is then sprayed with a tinted to cover up inconsistencies in the wood and give it a uniform color.

Effect of Dyed Mulch

This dyed wood mulch does not break down to enrich the soil as good mulch should. Instead it leaches the dye along with the possible contaminants (chromium, copper, arsenic and others) into the soil harming or even killing beneficial soil bacteria, insects, earthworms and sometimes the plants themselves. These wood mulches actually rob the soil of nitrogen by out-competing the plants for the nitrogen they need for their own growth. Dr. Harry Hoitink, Professor Emeritus at Ohio State University, warms that dyed mulches are especially deadly when used around young plants and in newer landscapes.

What We Use

We at Naturescapes only use composted triple shredded bark & leaf mulch. This product is 100% natural and organic that is naturally dark brown without additives. Shredded bark mulch breaks down over the course of a season or two to enrich the soil. It also increases the soil’s organic content, aids in beneficial soil bacteria and enhances earthworm production. Being composted, or naturally aged, it actually releases nitrogen into the soil therefore helping plants rather than harming them.

5 Responses to Why Not to Use Dyed Mulch

  1. Bet Williams onJun 27, 2012

    Hi John,
    Thank you for putting my township name on the website. I have had so many people come up to me again as they ride past my house and ask where i had it done. I send them to the website. Hoping it sends some people who really appreciate a beautiful landscape like me!!!!
    Thanks,
    Bet

    Good info on dyed mulch. I never knew how bad it was to use!

  2. AJ onMar 21, 2014

    Sally,

    With all due respect, I have to disagree with your opinion on this topic. Using the correct manufacturer/supplier will prevent ANY of the above issues from happening. Yes, there are manufacturers that use the above described techniques. Are they a significant portion of the industry? No. I am with a dyed mulch manufacturer out of your own home state and I wish you were in our freight range so I could show you the difference between the “mulch” that you speak of and our mulch. This judgement (based probably off of one bad experience) applies to a very small portion of the market, even in your own state. Here are some things to consider about our Dyed Mulches:

    * All of our mulches are %100 Virgin Wood Fiber which contain NO reprocessed material such as C+D (Construction and Demolition) or pallet material. This means no “CCAs” are present in ANY of our products.

    * Because our raw material base is AGED, COMPOSTED, BARK, it will break down into the soil and replenish nutrients back into it. Nitrogen deficiencies occur from a application of a high percentage of FRESH, wood material.

    I hope you consider these topics. Heck, if you would like, I’d be willing to give you a tour of our facility to show you how it really is done. Please feel free to write back to me or contact my organization at any time.

    Thanks,

  3. Admin onMay 12, 2014

    Dear AJ,

    Thank you for your response to the blog we wrote about dyed mulch.

    It’s refreshing to hear there are manufacturers who don’t use scrap/cca wood for their mulch.

    Mine was not a blog based on one or two experiences, but on career long observations of over 40 years. Every location where I have seen dyed mulches, it has not broken down over a year or two and the pieces of ‘mulch’ were very coarse. This is not conducive to soil enrichment, which is one of the reasons to use mulch in the first place. I feel that jet black or red mulch is too artificial looking. There are many professionals who agree with me.

    Again, I’m glad you don’t use recycled wood products and I have adjusted my comments to cover that possibility. Also, with the amount of red and black, and even yellow dyed mulch, in different landscapes I’m sure your business will continue to grow.

    I, as a naturalist, will continue not to use them.

    All the best,
    John H. Fridy, Owner

  4. PNW onMay 23, 2014

    In Seattle the city has so much mulch from trees it cuts they will deliver it too you. I don’t know how well dyed mulch takes to break down but the green undyed mulch they give to people here breaks down after a year or more and turns to dirt with the amount of rain we have. This undyed product does not last as long as cedar bark or fir and cedar mixed bark mulches. I have found in the ground layers of bark mulch while replacing a fence that people had put different things down over the years and the bark mulch still existed in the ground. Where as the undyed material breaks down and begins to grow weeds.

    I purchased some dyed mulch material today from Lowes that came from WI. I don’t like the look of it. The size is much larger and has a lot of sharp pieces of what is clearly wood and appears to have no bark whatsoever noticeable in it.

    I am planning on returning it tomorrow at 2 dollars a 2cf sack and getting bark mulch that has a much smaller size at the local QFC grocery for only 50 cents more. Because looking at it I just don’t feel it is going to be as desirable in the end and think it will ultimately break down faster too thought it may take longer than the standard green mulch the city will deliver.

    There is also a lot of info about termites and mulches. I know some people find carpenter ants after getting bark delivered sometimes. They may even have a symbotic relationship here with the below ground termites. Termites will even eat treated fence posts below ground here at some point. One of the thoughts is you may attract termites if you have too much mulch. However in Texas where I am sure they have above ground type they place a board across the bottom of the fence along with some hardware cloth too to stop animals. But the board lines the bottom of the pickets and touches the ground and allows the termites to have something to eat. They change it out after so many years. We do not build them that way here as our termites only live below the ground or in a stump or dead log.

  5. PNW onMay 23, 2014

    One more thing we see here. The landscapers that worked on this yard had material company deliver a type of compost/mulch that is fine in size. They put it down with a hose about 3″ sometimes 4″ or more. This not only stopped weeds from growing it stopped some of the plants or bulbs in the ground from reaching the surface. I believe it is equivalent to this product link below. This material has become popular here and does seem to keep weeds down for sometime but really without a weed barrier material nothing is going work as well for as long as it could.

    Fortified Mulch
    Half fine bark & half compost – used for top dress in lieu of bark. Compost adds nutrients & a dark color.

    http://sunsetmaterials.com/bark.html

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