Landscaping with rubber mulch

Future rubber mulch
Rubber mulch is chopped up, recycled rubber tires that looks much like chunks or shreds of wood mulch. Making a soft landing point under playground equipment is what gained rubber mulch some respect. Now, rubber mulch is making its way into landscaping design. 

Like its wood counterpart, when applied several inches thick, rubber mulch helps reduce weeds showing up in the landscaping. But unlike wood mulch, rubber mulch will not become an attraction to wood-loving pests, like terminates.

In addition to the typical brown color we expect from mulch for landscaping, rubber mulch is also manufacture red in other non-fading colors like black, blue, green and terra cotta. Be sure to read the label for the manufacturer’s guarantee on the color. One rubber sales location indicated that the rubber is guaranteed for five years not to lose all of its color. Another said the color would last up to ten years before it started to fade. 

It should be noted that there is a slight odor from rubber mulch when it is first applied, but then, wood mulch also has an odor when first applied. In both situations, the odor goes away after several days of exposure to sun and air. In addition, the color of rubber mulch does not rub off on skin or clothes.

One claim to fame about rubber mulch for landscaping is that it will last a lifetime because it never decomposes. Therefore, even though rubber mulch costs more than wood mulch, in the end, you will save money. Using Lowes.com for a pricing example, a point-eight (.8) cubic foot bag of rubber mulch costs almost $13 while a two (2) cubic foot bag of wood mulch costs less than $4. The rubber mulch manufacturers will coach you to go with rubber mulch, even though more expensive, because you do not need to replace it every one to two years as with wood mulch. [Author’s note:  We have had the same mulch on our front landscaping for several years. Other than getting lighter in color, I see no need to replace it. Point is, I do not think that wood mulch needs replacement every one to two years, but that is just one frugal gal’s opinion.]

How to Use Rubber Mulch in Your Landscaping

You can use rubber mulch anywhere that you would use wood mulch like in flower beds, around trees, or to create a pathway. Just like with wood mulch, you would not want to place the rubber mulch directly against the stems and trunks of plants and trees. Part of the allure of using mulch (aside from the beautification factor of everything looking neatly preened) is that mulch helps retain moisture vital for plant growth. That same mulch, when captured against the stems or trunks of plants and trees can lead to mildew issues.

How to Remove Rubber Mulch

The supposed “pro” to using rubber mulch is that it lasts forever in landscaping is not without its drawbacks. If you want to change your landscaping, getting rid of the rubber mulch can be a challenge. This is something to keep in mind if you plan to sell your home in the near future. A potential buyer may not want rubber mulch and could consider the expense and labor of removal in the bargaining price.

The first place to contact about disposal of rubber mulch would be the manufacturer of the product. They may offer a recycling option, paying you for what you return.

Landfills should accept rubber mulch, but getting it to them is another story. You will need to shovel the mulch into a truck bed or wagon to tote it to the landfill. Based on weight of drop-off, you will want to ensure as little dirt is in the shoveled mulch as possible. 

Another option would be to work the rubber mulch into the soil, i.e., bury it. It will not harm the soil and may even help to aerate it. However, depending on how much rubber is worked into the soil, you may be creating an area where plants cannot effectively root.