Professional landscapers and homeowners both appreciate redwood mulch — abundant throughout the Pacific Northwest — as a natural, durable material for creating appealing flower beds and garden areas.The mulch’s natural appearance and pleasant odor make it a good choice for most gardening situations.
Redwood mulch keeps soil covered, replicating the natural mulching and decomposition process that occurs in undisturbed woodland settings. Organic mulches, like redwood mulch, prevent soil erosion, regulate soil temperatures, reduce weed growth and conserve moisture. Redwood, with its natural insect-repelling and rot-resistant qualities, is an especially good choice because it resists termite and ant infestations and lasts longer than other wood mulches.
Redwood mulches come in many shapes and varieties. Your first choice is whether to buy bagged varieties at a garden center or buy it in bulk from a landscaping supply firm. Bags are usually more convenient, but cost more than bulk purchases. For large areas, buying in bulk is usually the better option. You’ll find redwood mulch processed as bark chunks, wood chips or shredded wood. Bark chunks last the longest and are the last prone to compression. Wood chips are pieces that have been put through a shredder. The pieces may not be uniform in size, but have a natural, pleasing appearance. Municipalities often give this mulch away for free during the summer. Finally, shredded bark has a fine texture and appearance. Many people prefer its look, but it tends to decompose quickly and can trap water.
Use redwood mulch in flower gardens, perennial beds and under trees. Shredded redwood mulch or wood chips also work well along garden paths, but bark chunks are too large. Lay down between 3 and 6 inches of mulch. A shallow layer allows weeds to grow through, while deeper layers may trap moisture and contribute to fungal diseases. Redwood mulch is flammable, so don’t use it within five feet of your home, especially if you live in a dry area, prone to wildfires. Redwood mulch isn’t appropriate in temporary beds, including vegetable beds, that are dug up each year. Straw and grass clippings, which decompose quickly, work better in these areas.
Improperly handled redwood mulch sometimes contains toxic substances that kill plants.This usually occurs when large piles of mulch sit in landscaping yards and don’t get oxygen. To avoid this problem, buy mulch that has been allowed to weather and air out. Smell the mulch before you buy it. If it has a foul odor like vinegar or silage, buy a different product or lay it out on a concrete surface for a few days before you put it in your garden. Once the odor goes away, the mulch is safe to use. Because redwood mulch is an organic product, it breaks down over time. Replace the mulch every three to four years as it wears thin. Some commercial mulches have been stained to resemble redwood, but are actually scrap wood, leftover from industrial processing. Don’t use this wood, which may contain solvents or other chemicals that can harm plants and soil. Use only mulch labeled as redwood mulch.
This article originally appeared on SF Gate, and was written by Julie Christensen, Demand Media