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NW US Landscaping Mulch Practices

Discussion in 'Landscape Architecture and Design' started by jkelton, Dec 2, 2001.

  1. jkelton

    jkelton LawnSite Member
    Messages: 243

    I made a trip to Oregon a few weeks ago and I noticed a substantial difference in landscaping practices from where I am from (Middle Tennessee) - I liked what I saw in Oregon. One of the major differences is the use of mulch in landscapes. Although we use use mulch in landscaping, the guys in Oregon seem to use it much more. From what I saw, anywhere that seemed like a person would either have a difficult time growing grass (e.g., around several trees or on steep slopes), or where a person might have to trim with a stringtrimmer, they put mulch. The designs they made with the mulch looked very appealing to me (NOT too deep), both aesthetically and ease of maintaining (mowing). I found two sites (possibly members of Lawnsite) that have pictorial examples of what I am talking about.


    The reason I am bringing this up is that it would seem that the practices of using mulch in this manner would be advantageous to both the landscaper and property owner for the following reasons:

    1. Reduction in mowing and trimming time. The properties I saw in Oregon had virtually no trimming, plus the area mulched is inversely porportional to the mowing area.
    2. Professional look.
    3. Reduction in growing grass in problem areas. I know that Tennessee already has a hard time growing grass (transistion area) - if mulch is applied in these areas, problem areas can be somewhat eliminated. I don't think Oregon has the same problem growing grass - they had the best, greenest looking grass I have ever seen.
    4. Better chance to perform preventive maintenence on turf areas that are left. I would think the customer would be able to justify spending a little more on the lawn per sq. foot if he/she had less to take care of and knew there was a better chance the turf would perform like they desire. I think of the 80/20 rule - a person can spend 80% of his/her effort to perform the last 20% of the job. That is, we tend to spend the bulk of the time on a job trying to make it perfect. If we could reduce the these problem areas, less total effort can be spent on making the lawn the way we want it. It seems to me like the guys in the NW has done a good job of this.

    What do you guys think? Does anyone agree/disagree with the above theories? Some of the examples from Oregon are pretty extreme (only one patch of grass in the middle of the yard) - mainly looking at using the mulch as an aid in providing a professional look and reducing overall lifetime costs of the property. It's something I have thought about for the past few weeks and I would like to pose to the forum for discussion.
  2. jkelton

    jkelton LawnSite Member
    Messages: 243

    I figured out of 89 people who at least read this post I might get some response - thought I would bring up this question again.
  3. joshua

    joshua LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,226

    i would agree with you, but mulching is not just for looks its to help kepp mosture in the ground surrounding trees and shrubs as well, this is what most people over look, they go for color and what looks good compared to what will help the plants the customer just spent 1k or more on. yes, in theory mulch is very attactive around trees in the middle of the lawn and looks professional if done right but if a site is over mulched it can cause root rot and other diseases. yes i would have to agree that some of those properties were extreme but very nice, and will help the the property value increase, and other than good luck
  4. tlcservices

    tlcservices LawnSite Member
    from fl
    Messages: 61

    you have to sell it to the client what is the cost to mow or trim as opposed to the cost of creating a bed, and installing mulch each year. average home owner is only there 3-5 years 10 yards of mulch x 4 years =2000 is that going to increase the value of the property that much?pluss the cost of spray company 550 each year lawn and shrub maint 1000-1800 per year.where is the home owners payoff?
    homeowner cost
    500 for mulch
    1200 for maint
    550 for spray
    and thats in fl no snow or aeriating
    2300 or 200 a monthits hard sell
  5. joshua

    joshua LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,226

    tlc, mmmhhh, let me think of this for a sec. better yet let me go to my college books and reference materials to tell you how much of a pay off it could be. or you could pay the amount of money i do and go to school and learn this and lots of other great things for your self. but i'll let you slide this time. no thats obviously not what i meant, do some thinking for yourself. trees, and a good landscape are 5%-20% of the total value of the property. so lets say your property is worth 100k then your landscape and tree can be worth (so to say) 5k-20k.
    sorry couldn't find it in my books (quick scan of them) straight for my notes from my professor.
  6. tlcservices

    tlcservices LawnSite Member
    from fl
    Messages: 61

    I agree with you ,its what ,when, and how the landscape becomes an asset instead of a liability to the property. Bare dirt for 3 years and then mulch when ready to sell, $1800 in homeowner pocket. I still think proper lawn care is a hard sell.
    Bare dirt can look just as good as year old mulch too.
  7. joshua

    joshua LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,226

    tls, i don't know when, what and how become such a assest, atleast not yet. i will though soon, still learning this in school. everything i'm learning is just mind blowing, things i've seen on trees and other things are alot to swallow.
  8. JimLewis

    JimLewis LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 6,872

    To address some of your original comments and questions;

    Yes, we do have a rather unique form of landscaping here in the NW. And let me tell you, it's not so much because LCOs are selling "let's create a bed over here" to our customers. It's because this is the way the landscapes are designed and installed when new properties are developed around here.

    I should note that we also don't use "mulch" much. Mulch is recycled yard debris. What we use predominately is pure "barkdust". Which is the bark from Fir or Hemlock trees that is graded into small pieces similar to mulch. The color is a lot nicer and lasts a lot longer than mulch. Mulch looks good when it's brand new then fades to a dirty brown color after a week or two. Barkdust holds a nice solid reddish brown color for several months up to a year.

    The reason we use barkdust so prevelantly is because of our huge timber industry. It is a direct bi-product of the timber mills we have here. In fact, barkdust used to be used as fuel back in the first half of the 20th Century. People would burn it in wood stoves. People would buy barkdust by the truckload at local barkdust yards.

    Well, eventually electric and gas heat took over and the mills and barkdust yards needed to come up with an idea for what to do with all of this extra barkdust. About that time, landscapers and builders began using it to decorate flower beds. And the rest is history.

    I am sorry, the pictures from my web site are not very good ones, from a point of view of what you are referring to. To give people a better idea of the concept jkelton is referring to (using flowerbeds to border lawns everywhere) here are some better examples;


    Those are probably more typical pictures of how are flowerbeds are around here.

    You mention that we use it a lot more here. Again, a big part of that is because the supply of barkdust is so prevelant. Also, because the color is so nice it really increases the aesthetic appeal of a landscape. Most people around here apply new barkdust every year. And the biggest reason they do it is for aesthetic reasons, and nothing else. Barkdust doesn't do much for the soil. In fact it leaches N2 pretty badly. But people around here have fallen in love with the color. It's just something we all do here.

    If all there was available here was just straight mulch (and it is available, just nobody really likes it in leiu of barkdust) I don't think you'd see us using it as much.
  9. jkelton

    jkelton LawnSite Member
    Messages: 243

    Thanks for the info. We also have a good supply of what you refer to as barkdust (albeit not near as much) - we just end up calling it mulch and not barkdust. Although many people around here has switched to the colored shredded pallets (and other assorted waste wood), most still use the double ground bark (I think many landscapers around here do not recognize the differences between the products when they are bought). I personally like the looks of the bark products over the shredded waste wood products.
    Like I mentioned in my previous post, I really think many lawn care professionals (and customers) would like the looks of the mulched areas if they would give it a chance, especially in areas that are already difficult to grow (and mow), such as hillsides and shaded areas.
    Keep up the good work up there in Oregon!
  10. JimLewis

    JimLewis LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 6,872

    Hmm. I never knew it was readily available in other states really. The furthest I've ever really seen Fir or Hemlock barkdust was Colorado.

    And what I have seen in places like the East Coast was more like large bark chunks. But even that was very rare. It seems that it just hasn't caugh on in other states much. So I was just under the impression that people used "mulch", or what we call garden mulch.

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