Mulch Selection

Discussion in 'Landscape Architecture and Design' started by jkelton, Sep 4, 2002.

  1. jkelton

    jkelton LawnSite Member
    Messages: 243

    Since I am in the mulch business, I have my own opinion on which mulch is best, but I would like to here from you guys what you opinions are. Here in Tennessee, we have the following choices that are readily available to us: Hardwood, Black Hardwood (which in most cases is hardwood mixed with charcoal ash to make it black plus leaf compost), Pine Bark, assorted colored wastewood products, and pine straw. Hardwood is generally the least expensive and most widely used, with the Black Hardwood coming in second.

    I personally like Pine Bark - it's much cleaner to work with (esp. if you have ever dealt with the Black Hardwood), actually emits a good smell, more natural looking, and does not tie up as much nitrogen as Hardwood while decomposing. Any opinions you guys might have (esp. anyone in Tennessee or surrounding areas) would be appreciated. :)
  2. mdb landscaping

    mdb landscaping LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,205

    Up here, i can get spruce, pinebark, cedar, red cedar or wood chips. In my opinion spruce is the best. It interlocks real well after it gets wet a few times, and it holds its color longer than the pine bark.
  3. KeesBBAI

    KeesBBAI LawnSite Member
    Messages: 8

    J it seems most of the customers are requesting black hardwood. I would prefer to work with others......I don't like the black after the first week.

    shoot me an e-mail with your contact info.
  4. heygrassman

    heygrassman LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 509

    Could you quantify how decomposing mulch is tying up nitrogen?? Not trying to be a smarty pants.. i have never heard that before. Also, does the sap from pine bark increase the acidity in the soil??
  5. jkelton

    jkelton LawnSite Member
    Messages: 243

    I do know that pine increases the acidity level, but I am not sure if it is the sap from pine actually increases the acidity, or if it is some other mechanism. Pine bark is good to use around plants that like higher acidity levels, such as azaleas.

    For the nitrogen question, check out:

    My guess is this is directly related to the C:N ratio of the material, which can vary with the type (or mixture) of the material, and can change with time (high C:N ratio when material is immature and lower values as the mulch decomposes). As the material decomposes, the nitrogen can be pulled from the surrounding soil, therefore changing (lowering) the C:N ratio. There are obviously other variables, such as if the mulch is mixed w/the soil. This is at least my theory.

    I have noticed this myself on a couple of jobs I have done. On one particuliar property, the mulch had not been reapplied in several years. This property usually gets the shubs trimmed once per year. This year, I mulched the property soon after the shrubs were trimmed. The owner noticed that the shrubs had not grown back as fast as in previous years. Of course, this was not a controlled test by no means, so I can't prove that nitrogen depletion was the culprit, but I think it could be.
  6. jkelton

    jkelton LawnSite Member
    Messages: 243

    Any of you guys use Pine Bark Fines (small pine bark chips - chips no larger than a dime) as a mulch? I used some yesterday and I really liked it. Would not be good for any areas prone to erosion (slopes and downspout areas), but the quality is consistent and it looks great put down.
  7. Tim Canavan

    Tim Canavan LawnSite Member
    from Houston
    Messages: 218

    I like to use the black hardwood when there are no pine trees around and there is lots of color flowers in the beds. The black makes the color stand out better.
    If there are pine trees, I like to use an aged pine mulch. It looks better when the needles start falling.
    Fo the most part, around here we bag up the pine needles and throw them away. I wonder if the pine straw will ever catch on down here.
    Any of you guys ever use bag mulch? I've used it a few times and it will cut your labor by more than half. You can carry alot more on a wheelbarrow, you're not shoveling and the cleanup is much easier. Just a thought. I'd like to hear what you guys think.:cool:
  8. vardener

    vardener LawnSite Member
    from MD 7
    Messages: 49

    I use cypress mulch as much as I can in my business. It has a nice blond color that really doesn't fade much at all, looks classy, and the best part is that it doesn't float away, I guess because of the nature of the tree, being a wetlands dweller. I can get 2 cu ft bags for 3 bucks apeice, a bit more than the bulk hardwood, but I agree that bags are worth a few extra dollars.

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