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Don’t Buy Cheap Mulch

I’m writing this in December.  What a better time to talk about mulch, right?  Well this is the time of year that we have to order our supply for next year and it’s the conversation I had with my long time supplier that prompted this article.

We have always carried 100% premium cypress mulch.  I know a lot of manufacturer’s cypress mulch bags say “Premium”, but it’s just not true.  This spring, when you’re ready to spruce up your landscape, look at the bag before you buy.  If it says something like,

Premium Cypress Mulch     and other hardwoods

DO NOT BUY IT!  It’s Junk!

 It probably has 1% cypress in it, if that.  An easy way to avoid getting junk mulch is to buy it from someone that is in the business of selling lawn & garden products.  That means NO gas stations and NO grocery stores.  They wouldn’t know a good lawn & garden product if it fell on them!

So you’re probably asking, “What’s wrong with it if it says “hardwoods”?  Hardwoods are a great building product.  Your cabinets, furniture, maybe doors & trim or floor is made of some type of hardwood (the tree has a leaf, not a needle) but when it is laying down on the forest floor, hardwoods do two things, rot and attract bugs.  I have had recent experience with both traits.

My son bought a house this summer and he asked me to help him with the yard.  The previous owner had mulched with hardwoods.  Digging what was left of it out was nasty.  Just underneath the surface was solid white mold.  That did help us some.  Since it made the mulch stick together, it came out in big clumps instead of pieces.  Of course the insects and spiders “ran for the hills”, or the grass in this case when we disturbed their happy home.  A treatment of granular insecticide and new mulch and he was good to go.  Also my wife had some landscaping done at her building this summer and the landscaper used black dyed mulch.  All the “dyed” mulches are made from hardwoods.  So when I went to water for her one day I noticed something strange came “bubbling” to the surface.  It was termites!  Some might argue that they might have been there before the landscaping but this was an 18” long strip in a parking lot that had rock in it before.  There was no reason for those termites to be there.  I say they came with the mulch, but I can’t prove that.

A few more thoughts to leave you with:  My supplier (who sells cypress, cedar and hardwood) remarked about the first time he saw the dyed mulch was at a Kansas City Chiefs game.  “They had sprayed everything red.  I knew then what was coming.  Everyone wanted it next spring.  It’s mostly just ground up pallets.  It’s just crap!”  So this year, and for ever more, when it’s time to buy mulch, look for 100% cypress or 100% aromatic cedar. (You know, the stuff they use in closets to keep moths away)  Both are naturally resistant to bugs and will do a fine job with your plants.  If you need or want a color, use rock.

Kent Porter

Porters Building Centers