rubber mulch

Rubber Mulch: Playground Mulch and Its Uses

If you’ve wanted to try rubbing mulching or are just curious as to what rubber mulch is, then read on.  This article will give a review of what this type of synthetic mulching is and the pros and cons to it.  I’ll also cover where to get rubber mulching and why or why not it may be right for you.  I hope that by reading this article you will be better equipped to make the decision as to whether rubber mulching is right for you or not.

What Is Rubber Mulch?

Rubber tire mulch is a type of landscape rubber mulch used in gardens.  It is made from recycled tire rubber.  This type of mulch is a sustainable type of mulch that can be used in gardens and landscaping.  Many people like using shredded tires for mulching their gardens, around trees and as a weed barrier.

Why Try Recycled Mulch?

“Why should I use rubber mulch?” is a question that may be running through your head. Rubber mulch is a type artificial mulch that will provide several advantages over plant based mulches. I’ve put together just some of the reasons that you may want to give it a try.

This synthetic mulch made from shredded tires for landscaping will save you time. While natural mulches often need to be replaced every year, a rubber mulch will last for many years.  Reviews of rubber mulch show that this type of ground cover will last for many more years than natural mulches.

Rubber Tire Mulch Pros and Cons

Pro:  Americans generate about 290 million scrap tires a year.  Using rubber ground cover is a great way to recycle.  By using the rubber chips for landscaping,  people are using a resource that is normally discarded and turning it into a useful material.  This is one of the biggest advantages to rubber mulch.

Con:  Rubber mulching will cost more than traditional mulching.  Though it is cheaper in the long run, the out of pocket initial expense may be rough on your pocketbook.  Some people never try rubber mulching simply because of the price.

Pro:  Rubber mulching will stay put.  This is a huge advantage.  While others types of mulching can get blown away or swept away in heavy flooding this fake shredded rubber mulch will stay put.

Con:  Shredded tire for mulch may stay put initially but it will eventually work its way down into the soil.  Though the rubber bark will not float away it will compact and eventually be in places you may not want it to be.

Pro:  This synthetic mulch made from shredded tires for landscaping will save you time. While natural mulches often need to be replaced every year, a rubber mulch will last for many years.  Reviews of rubber mulch show that this type of ground cover will last for many more years than natural mulches.

Con:  The initial expense of rubber mulching costs more than traditional mulching.

Pro:  Does Rubber Mulch Float? No. Rubber mulching will stay put where you placed it. This is one of the benefits of rubber mulch.  This type of mulching is especially popular with people who live in places where flooding happens frequently.

Con:  Rubber mulching does not provide the nutrients nor organic material that the earth needs.  Some will argue that everything we place in the soil should be used to nurture it for generations to come. Tire mulch will not provide much needed nutrients to the soil.

Pro:  Rubber mulching is easy to put down.  Commercial rubber mulching should come with easy step by step directions about how to properly install it.  It is not hard to put down this type of mulching. Even a beginning landscaper can easily put down rubber mulching.

Con:  Rubber mulching must eventually be removed.  This synthetic mulching will not biodegrade like natural mulching will.  People who care about the environment use this as a big point when showing why this type of mulching is not good.  Will people really remove it or will it just lay in the earth is a question that environmentalists ask.  There are people who make it their mission to educate on what they believe are huge risks to the environment for those using rubber mulching.

Pro:  The finished product when put down properly can have a pleasing look. Many people feel that it is has a neat and well-kept appearance.  Rubber mulching is normally uniform in color. Many people enjoy how it looks.

Con:  Some say that rubber mulching has a fake look to it.  Those people that are hardcore naturalists say that it makes an outdoor and natural area look fake.  Rubber mulching does not have even a fake natural look to it.

Pro:  Rubber mulching is springy.  It provides a safe place to fall for children on playgrounds.  When accidents do happen they are less likely to be as serious when kids fall on a soft and springy surface.

Con:  Rubber mulching can be picked up by birds and other animals. Though some say it is safe for the environment, others will show how birds and small animals digest the small bark pieces.

Pro:  Rubber mulching is clean.  Some like that it is an easy substance to handle.  When working with the mulching, you don’t get your hands dirty nor poked by any sharp pieces. The metal and wire inside the tires have been removed before the mulching was made.

Con:  Rubber mulching will not have a natural scent.  Many people like the smell of cedar or pine chips. This type of mulching will not give off a natural scent. Also, the natural fragrance after the rain will not be present with synthetic mulching.

Pro:  Because rubber mulching does not freeze in cold temperatures, it can be used year round.

Con:  Care should be taken in hot weather so that the mulch doesn’t get too uncomfortable on the skin. This type of mulching is often used on playgrounds.  Because it is not natural, it will retain and give off heat more than natural mulching.

Pro:  This type of mulching will keep a neat appearance. When kids run through a playground they often accidentally and sometimes on purpose kick up the mulching.  Tire mulching will stay in place much better than natural mulching.

Con:  Rubber mulch does not retain moisture naturally.  Adequate drainage must be placed beneath the area.

Is Rubber Mulch Safe?

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has endorsed the use of rubber mulch on playgrounds.  The EPA has also conducted an air study on playgrounds that use rubber mulching.  The study was conducted in October of 2008.  The conclusion found was that concentrations of tire crumb were below harmful standards.  The study was limited though so no definitive conclusions have been made.

Although rubber mulch is considered to be safe by some, the rubber does contain eco-toxic materials.  Trace amounts of various materials picked up while the tire was being processed is contained in the tires. It also is a hazard if ignited because it is flammable.

How To Install Rubber Mulch

First, excavate the area where you want to place the rubber mulch.  It helps to grade the area with a rake.

Second, lay down a permeable landscaping fabric down over the entire area.  This will be important so that weeds are kept out. Also, this type of mulching will need help with drainage.

Third, Install a type of edging around the mulched area.  Secure the landscape fabric by anchoring the edges.  It helps to dig a trench with the material and edging deep enough to bury it. this will ensure maximum stability.

Fourth, Spread the layer of the rubber bark chips down and smooth it out with your rake.  Make sure to cover the entire area and then tamp it down.  Make sure to tamp well in areas of higher traffic, such as walkways or play areas.

More Facts On Rubber Mulch With Warnings

Do not use rubber mulch near edible plants. Never use it in your garden. The benefits of rubber mulch do not extend to your food growing.  It is strictly a landscape mulch to be used only for landscaping.  There have not been enough tests to prove that this type of mulching is safe around edible plants.  Some tests have in fact proved otherwise. The mulching does give off small amounts of toxic substances.  It’s better to remain safe and keep it away from your garden and edible plants.

You can use rubber mulching in flower beds, but only if you will not be eating the flowers.  Many people like to use edible flowers in their salads and even on cakes. Do not use rubber mulching around flowers that you will be eating.  Rubber mulch should be used as a ground cover, not as a fertilizer.

Where To Get Rubber Mulch

You can usually get rubber mulch where you purchase landscape mulch.  Home Depot, Ace Hardware and most local hardware stores will have rubber mulch.  When doing an internet search of where to find it, you may want to also search the following:  ground tires mulch, recycled rubber mulch, rubber bark mulch, rubber wood chips and shredded tires for landscaping.

There are many companies who put out rubber mulch. One being GroundSmart.  This is one of the more popular rubber mulches out there.  Groundsmart rubber mulch reviews show it gets rated high by customers.

Final Thoughts:

If you’ve been wondering about rubber mulch vs. regular mulch or rubber mulch vs. wood mulch for your landscaping needs, I hoped this review on helped.  Make sure to shop around and ask questions.  Ask neighbors who have used rubber mulching.  People who have had first hand experience are going to give you the most honest answers.

Also, you may want to consider going small the first year. Try one area and then if you like how this type of mulching worked, you can always go bigger next year.  It’s better to not invest a lot in something you want to scrap the next year.

Remember that you can always go back to natural mulching. This isn’t a forever and ever decision.  Give it a try and move on if it’s not for you.  You can read about it in detail but you will never know until you try.  While researching to write this article I found just as many advantages as disadvantages.  Some people swore by it and others said never or never again would they try rubber mulching.

Be careful with purchasing any rubber mulching that has been untested.  There may be hazardous materials contained such as sharp metal and lead in untested mulching.  Don’t gamble with you or your children’s health by going the inexpensive and untested route.  You may be purchasing toxic and unsafe items if you do not buy certified and tested mulching.

Have fun and good luck in your landscaping adventures.

Mariann Foster

I am one of our content writers for Everything Backyard. I am a mother and business owner of Big Horn Mountain Alpacas in Wyoming. I love farm life, cutting my own firewood in the mountains, and participating in local trail run races.

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