Cooperating Agencies: Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and County Boards of Chosen Freeholders. Whilst humus products are generally suited to most plants, native plants, (and in particular plants belonging to the Proteaceae family such as Grevilleas), cannot tolerate excessive phosphorus. Centenary Landscaping Supplies in Queensland. It is generally a chip with sizes of 15mm plus. This often wrongly called recycled mulch, which should really be called non composted land cleared tub ground mulch or Raw Mulch, or better still, ‘pollution mulch’, is usually produced using every bad practice possible. When mulch is piled near trunks, gas exchange decreases, stressing and ultimately killing the inner bark (phloem) tissue. Nandinas, Agapanthus’ and more, Heat tolerant Azaleas with more blooms, more often, Keep up to date with Ozbreed, including the state by state landscape newsletter, See all of our comprehensive, in depth research about plants and turf, Our library of informative and educational videos, For the breeder, home owner and landscape professional (including 3D graphics, top views and more), Our history, staff, sustainability policy and more, Copyright © 2019 Ozbreed Pty Ltd | Web Design, Composted Mulch with fines wrongly used as ground cover mulch, Composted Soil Conditioner Mulch used as soil conditioner, Non composted Land Cleared Tub Ground Mulch, No, generally creates bad microbe population, Mulch repels water and is causing plants drought stress, Provides slow releasing organic nutrients, Reduces the watering requirement of gardens. Once the inner bark dies, roots become malnourished and weakened, with a subsequent reduction in water and nutrient uptake. I believe future improvements could make it even better. Mulch with fine grade material has very poor airflow, and will remain wet for long periods, causing many problems, including crown rot. The entire health of the plant is thus affected. Most fungal and bacterial diseases require moisture to spread and reproduce. Australian Native Landscapes, Sydney. (May/June). Chunky Pine Bark: This attractive tan bark consists of 50mm curly chunks of clean bark. Mulch Problems. There are many types of flower bed mulch on the market, from shredded wood bark and pine needles to rubber and cocoa bean hulls. Soil Conditioner mulch is generally made up of well composted fines. Phloem death may also occur when pop-up sprinkler heads continually saturate the mulch placed against the plant’s trunk. I admit this is purely subjective, but I think the pine straw mulch looks … Many believe mulch spread on top of the ground will provide nutrients into the soil. Chunky ground cover mulch with NO FINES (No more than 5% of fines), lets the water freely flow through to the ground below, but still helps keep the soil below cool, reducing the amount of water evaporation from the soil into the air. We will bring you this research in the next issue of Landscape Manager. To achieve the above benefits, only professional, well composted soil conditioner mulch derived material should be used. Coarse grade mulch with no fines has good airflow, and as such does not act as a soil. Pine bark is long lasting, and when it does break down it enriches the soil with organic material. This type of mulch is usually too poor to fit into either category of ground cover or soil conditioner mulch, and really should not be used at all. Once this mulch is ‘ready’, it is usually spread by the landscaper on site, and then planted with plants; often resulting in major plant loses due to disease. Visually look for the presence of a root flare; if not visible, at least some may be partially buried and must be exposed. Inner bark (phloem) death comes from the piles of mulch placed directly against the stems/trunks of trees and shrubs. Pine nuggets take longer to break down; therefore, last longer in the garden than finely shredded mulches. So unless land developers are willing to undertake professional standards, the reality is that soil conditioners should be made by specialists off site. Pine needle straw mulch can be used with sloped locations. Termites and Pine Bark Mulch November 15, 2014. This mulch with fines had many major instances of Phytophthora occurring, which lead to many plants dying, particularly, but not limited to any areas near paths where water ran off the path and caused water logged conditions. The fine and medium sized products are the worst choices. Symptoms appear as yellowing of foliage, often with prominent green veins. The crazy aspect is that the people organizing this mulch, claim they do it for the environment, recycling rather than burning it. Wood chunks are preferable to bark. Wet soils may not need any mulch. One of the greatest aspects of using these products is too increase the presence of beneficial fungi and bacteria, which in turn help displace bad micro-organisms. Many believe that by spreading mulch over the top of the ground, weed invasion is reduced. Generally, contractors with little professional mulch making experience are producing this mulch. Mulches from broadleaf trees and shrubs. Unlike natural mulches, rubber mulch doesn't decompose, so it's "sustainable." The disease spreading implications of not banning this practice are immense, and I am surprised the various state quarantine, agricultural and land and water conservation departments have not stepped in to stop the practice. This all has to be done by qualified people that understand trees and mulch. Rubber mulch keeps the soil surface cool by trapping all of the sun's heat atop it where your feet are. The soil pH, or acidity level, may also be changed by the continuous use of the same type of mulch. 15-40mm Forest Blend (Currently the best recycled product): This is a product available from Australian Native Landscapes in Sydney (Ph: 02 9450 1444), but if you live elsewhere, I am sure other mulch makers could create something that fits the specification. If the trunk flare tissue is not sufficientlly hardened off before freezing weather arrives, the tissue may die, the roots may starve, and the plant will decline. Eg: Make 20 to 40mm, or make the pieces chunkier. Myth four: All mulches spread over the ground result in healthier better looking plants. (Fines are the smaller particles, often with soil like texture). with Rutgers websites to: [email protected] or complete the Report Accessibility Barrier or Provide Feedback Form. Unless poor mulching practices are stamped out, humid climate states such as Queensland and NSW, will find themselves with a very small range of plants that can survive, if any. Decomposing bacteria need an amble supply of nitrogen to break down the mulch. Contractors planting thousands of plants find this hard. The challenge is for recycled mulch companies, to come up with something that looks and works similar to hardwood chip. The main recommendation from the Agricultural department was; ‘Mulches with better air-filled porosity would be better alternatives as they suppress some diseases.’. It also shields the soil, keeping it moist and preventing it from washing away. The chip is generally 30mm in size. Think about starting a fire with two sticks, it is the fine pieces of wood that ignite easily, not the big pieces of stick. Mulch reduces weeds by blocking light from the soil below, preventing seeds from sprouting. This mulch is then usually left in piles, to supposedly ‘compost’, which it will not do unless it is turned regularly. Copyright © 2020 Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey. Most roadside sites or land development sites however, would not have the patience or expertise to undertake such an extensive process. Often this scenerio is accompanied by bark beetles and borers, that are also attracted to stressed plants, expedite the decline, and also allow entrance of other fungal pathogens into the plant. It should have an organic matter (%) of 98 to 100 with a bulk density (Kg/l) <0.35. A vacuum process is used to free this product of all the wasteful fine wood dust and small pieces that often makes up 30% of normal pine bark. A recycled by-product from plantation timber. In general, soil conditioners should preferably be applied to a depth of 50mm, and then incorporated to a depth of 200mm using implements such as a rotary hoe, or power harrow. How does over-mulching kill trees and shrubs? This scenerio is similiar to composting, where temperatures within inner mulch layers may reach 120° to 140° F. This high heat may directly kill the inner bark/phloem of young plants, or may prevent the natural hardening off period that plants must go through in the fall in preparation for the winter. Too Much Mulch Causes Too Much Heat. Recently, an observation was made that showed mulch with too many fines can cause disease problems. Well composted mulches with fines do not cause this problem, but they do cause the other problems as discussed. If you want plants to do well in the landscape use the correct mulch, namely coarse grade mulch with no fines. Australian Native Landscapes, Sydney. The humus will help retain valuable moisture in the landscape. The large size deco bark is a fair mulch to use for shrubs and ground covers. It would be better to simply tub grind it repeatably until it is fine enough, than composted well and professionally, and used as soil conditioner. Currently there is nothing the same, but professional mulch companies are now offering good recycled products, with less than 5% fines, which hopefully can be 0% soon. A thin layer of mulch can certainly help to insulate plants and regulate soil temperature to prevent fluctuations. Rutgers Cooperative Extension, a unit of the Rutgers New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station, is an equal opportunity program provider and employer. Or after much rain they can still germinate in the top of the mulch, but the open air regions of the mulch make it very hard for the roots to reach the soil below, generally causing the weed to die soon after germination. All together the problem with dyed mulch includes soil contamination, water contamination, damage to the soil ecosystem, and the inability to break down and add nutrients to the soil. 88 Lipman Drive, New Brunswick, NJ 08901-8525 Sometimes, plants cannot tolerate micronutrient toxicity, becoming stressed and killed by secondary disease organisms and insects. Not only are many projects using the wrong type of mulch, but too many are using a new and very dangerous form of mulch; non composted tub ground mulch (Raw Mulch) which is often disease ridden, and is produced by land cleared site wood and leaf material, that is not even composted correctly. Mulches with lots of fine grade material that are used for ground cover actually act as a potting mix, or seed raising mix. You can get rubber mulch in almost any color imaginable. Pine Bark Mulch. Soil conditioners are used essentially to add organic matter to sandy soils and to improve water holding in the soil. When soil oxygen levels drop below 10%, root growth declines. Unknown to many, there are two major categories of mulch. Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey An uncomposted 100% recycled wood waist, with a particle size of 15mm to 40mm, with no fines, and good air filled porosity. Basic soil science suggests only coarse grade mulch with no fines should be used as a ground cover mulch. So far I have been told this is difficult, but achievable, and it would have to be done by professionals. This article has listed many reasons why mulches with fines should not be used for covering the ground. When it rains, water drips off the tips of the outermost … (Phone; (07) 3373 4900), Botany Humus Mix: This humus product is ideal for conditioning nutrient depleted soils. In fact poorly composted mulch with a high degree of fines, typical of most non composted tub ground land cleared raw mulch actually causes nitrogen to draw down, locking up nutrients needed for plant growth. The ground cover mulch would not need to be composted if diseased trees were taken out first. These wrongly used mulches provide none of the benefits that people expect from ground cover mulch. Ground cover mulch should be chunks of wood or bark. In Queensland and other areas, where humidity is extra high, even 5% fines can have bad effects, so zero fines are always safer. I have never seen onsite tube ground mulch turned and composted correctly. Mulch and plant samples were sent to the NSW agricultural departments Plant Health Services, where both the mulch and plants were found to have both the Phytophthora and Fusarium fungi growing. This often goes unnoticed until the following spring when the "tree doesn’t look good." Pine Bark mini nuggets: Medium (25mm) graded pine bark. However with new work cover laws, large wood chippers are often thought to be dangerous, so in practice this is hard to do on site. It stays in place because the straw lodges in the soil, building upon itself to create a stable layer of protection. Manufactured mulches such as coarse grade hardwood chip, or bark nuggets or other chunky mulches with no fines are ideal ground cover mulches, as are newly available recycled mulches meeting the appropriate standards, and containing less than 5% fines. Greenlife mulch and compost: 100% recycled green waste. In particular, pine bark mulch is quite acidic (pH of 3.5 to 4.5), and can cause the soil to become acid with constant use year after year. Well composted fine grade mulch at least has any disease composted out of it with heat from the constant turning and composting. Research shows that an amazing number of plants have rapidly improved in color and vigor within months of root collar excavations. It breaks down quicker than pine straw, so it seems to not last as long. For these native plants, products such as Greenlife® `Mulch & Compost™’ available from Australian Native Landscapes are recommended. Finer textured mulch, such as double shredded mulch, may need only a 1- or 2-inch layer. With water occupying most soil porespace, air content is mimimal and diffusion of oxygen is essentially blocked. Very fine particles of pine bark mulch can rob nitrogen from the soil. Incorporate into the soil. Mulch at this stage should be graded into separate mulch products and then treated correctly. When it is dry, all it takes is one careless person to through a cigarette butt on the unprocessed tub ground mulch, and a major fire can be born. Plants considered tough and resistant to disease have died in these conditions. (It is on top of this conditioned soil that the specialist ground cover coarse grade mulch with no fines can be used.) This is considered a temporary condition. Whether it is hard wood chip or any type of mulch, placing it on top of jut mat can lead to prolonged damp conditions, greatly increasing the incidence of disease, particularly root rot. Off the Leaf newsletter #303. On a positive note, properly manufactured hardwood mulch releases alkaline benefits to soil as it decomposes, raising the PH level a bit. They should give the customers what they want, and not force customers to use what they produce. Repeated applications can contribute to waterlogged soil/root zone by slowing soil water loss via evaporation. Open mulches with lots of airflow allow weed seeds that blow in to either fall to the bottom of the mulch, thus smothering their growth. Obviously poorly composted soil conditioner could have the opposite effect, consequently only buy professionally made product. Ground cover mulch with fines create ideal conditions for disease to live and prosper around the crown of the plant, often causing, or enhancing root rot diseases in many plant varieties. Some mulches heat the soil as a function of solar radiation absorption more than bare soils. When organic mulch is placed too close to your house, it can provide pests with hidden opportunities to make their way into your home. Wood, including bark from larger, mature trees can be chipped and applied as a fresh mulch on both unplanted areas and around plants on well-established beds. Pine straw looks better. Mulch can lower soil pH slightly. Be sure to take these aspects into consideration as well. Well composted fine grade mulch reduces the disease problem, but only slightly. They are light and fluffy, so spreading them around is a piece of cake, and they don’t compact much as they decompose, so you don’t have to worry about them becoming too thick or forming a rain-impervious mat. Fire is another reason to only use coarse grade mulch without fines. I have been informed that pine wood chips attract termites. Now they use professionally produced mulch, and only the uninformed use what they now call ‘FREE MULCH’. What needs to happen is either we go back to the way the ground cover mulch used to be made from land clearing operations, which was to remove all leaf material and sticks etc, and chip the trunk parts of the tree, making sure to reject any diseased trees. This so called cheap or free mulch causes major problems; in fact it would be better to use no mulch at all, than use this ‘Pollution Mulch’. Look for symptoms of leaf yellowing on new growth. The dangers of incorrect use of mulch or poor quality mulch must be heeded, otherwise mass planted landscape projects are in risk of failing all over the country. (It is not from the export wood chip industry) It is also reported to deter white ants and termites from your garden. Composted sawdust, composted pine bark, spent coffee grounds, composted organics. The strong texture makes it look great in your garden as it lasts a long time. The interlocking nature of the mulch gives it more stability when compared to other products of its type. Most standards allow for 5% fines, which is the absolute maximum that should ever be allowed. To produce soil conditioners from mulch and other waste products, a thorough composting procedure must be adhered to, with solid quality control inspections. It will help get rid of the land cleared waste, it will improve the soil, and it will allow the mass planted areas to live. Another benefit of using chunky mulch with no fines, is that it is less prone to wind and water erosion. The trees are ground into chips or shredded. It is a leading cause of death of azalea, rhododendron, dogwood, boxwood, mountain laurel, hollies, cherry trees, ash, birch, linden, spruce, and many other landscape plants. Unfortunately, by the time the symptoms are noticed, it is generally too late to correct the problem. After the soil becomes acidified, some nutrients are not available to the plant, and others, such as iron, manganese, and zinc, become readily available at high, toxic levels. At this point, the plant is usually in a state of irreversible decline, and will most likely die. Myth two: All mulch inhibits weed growth. All they are doing is polluting the environment. Following is information about the different forms of mulch, why some can be a problem, and how to prevent that. Even of higher importance, is to stamp out the practice of using incorrectly composted and poorly graded ‘Cheap, Free or Raw’ mulch, which is produced by tub grinding garden and land clearing waste (Not to be confused with composted recycled organics).

pine bark mulch problems

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