Is Rubber Mulch Safe for Plants? – the Ultimate Guide
Is rubber mulch safe for plants? Rubber mulch is generally safe for plants, but I did some research and included the details in this guide to help shed some light on the matter.
Yes, rubber mulch is safe for plants when you keep the layer thin and monitor your soil conditions. Although rubber mulch is a fantastic product that reduces the amount of landscaping work required, it does have some disadvantages.
When it’s all said and done, you’ll be equipped with all the knowledge required to determine whether using rubber mulch in your garden is the best option.
Table of Contents
The Pros of Rubber Mulch
It offers effective heat insulation. Compared to wood chips and other organic materials, rubber mulch is more effective at protecting plants from heat. In “indoor” gardens like sun-rooms and solariums, it is especially beneficial because it does not break down and emit a rotting smell.
It won’t entice bugs. Rubber is not a desirable material for insects to nest in or gnaw on, unlike soil and wood. Ants and termites in particular fall under this category. Some people even use rubber mulch around their homes as a sort of insulation to ward off insects.
It prevents weed and fungus growth. Rubber mulch actually has the ability to aid in preventing fungus growth in plants because it does not absorb water. The shredded rubber tire “nuggets” are non-porous so water and fertilizer passes through it down to the soil it rests on. Weeds cannot grow on rubber and cannot penetrate the mulch layer to the soil.
It lasts forever. While rubber does not last indefinitely, it does deteriorate very slowly, so you can expect to use the landscaping material for many years without having to spend money or hassle topping it off every year.
It stays in Place. Since rubber mulch weighs more than organic mulches (and water), it resists easy displacement and won’t float away during heavy rain.
It presents more design alternatives. Rubber mulch expands the options for enhancing existing landscape elements because it is available in a wide range of earth tones and designer colors. Rubber mulch tends to maintain its color for up to ten years, unlike colored wood mulch.
It requires little maintenance. Because rubber mulch is more dense and durable than organic mulches, it requires less upkeep and replenishment, which saves both time and money.
It offers twice as much coverage. While initially more expensive, rubber mulch can effectively control weed growth with a 1.5 inch depth as opposed to 3 inches of organic material.
It is a choice that respects the environment. Tire recycling is used to create rubber mulch for landscaping. In addition to reducing landfill usage, using this material doesn’t harm any trees.
The Cons of Rubber Mulch
It doesn’t break down. Because rubber mulch is not organic, it cannot decompose and cannot provide the soil with organic matter.
The chemical residues it contains have the potential to harm plants. Contrary to common belief, both rubber mulch and wood mulch can contain chemicals. Some wood mulches are produced using commercial pallets, some of which may have had contact with chemicals. Chemicals are used in the production of rubber, of course. Both studies and mulches themselves vary. Zinc is the most frequent chemical discovered in rubber mulch that may have an impact on soil. Natural soil contains zinc, and too much or too little of it can have an impact on the soil’s quality. In some US regions, the native soil contains adequate or even high levels of zinc, whereas in other regions, there is a zinc deficiency. Before choosing the product that will work best for your landscaping project, you may want to check the zinc levels in your soil if you are unsure.
It doesn’t feel or appear organic. Despite the wide variety of natural colors available, some people prefer the authentic look and feel of real soil, wood, or stone.
Doing your homework before making a purchase is crucial. The secret to choosing the best option for your specific landscaping and gardening projects is to carefully weigh the pros and cons.
How is Rubber Mulch Made?
Tire recycling is good for the environment because it reduces the amount of waste that ends up in landfills and the harmful pollution that comes from burning tires. Rubber mulch is made by recycling old tires.
Tire recycling first became popular in the early 1990s so that they could be used as a softer playground surface. After some time, businesses mastered the process to turn tire rubber into what looks like wood chips.
The tires are first processed through a shredder. Strong magnets are used to collect small wire fragments from the tire tread bands after the material has been shredded.
After the rubber has been cleaned of any impurities, it is dyed, sealed to stop the dye from fading or transferring, and then placed in bags for transport and sale to home improvement stores across the nation.
How Long Does Rubber Mulch Last?
If not for the lifetime of your house, rubber mulch can last for well over ten years. Given that synthetic rubber can take up to 50 years to decompose, it stands to reason that it should function flawlessly for 10 to 15 years in a garden environment.
People take their planter beds’ appearance into account when thinking about how long rubber mulch will last.
You should add a new layer of mulch to keep your garden looking tidy once the old one fades and starts to look unappealing. The majority of businesses offer a 10- to 12-year warranty against color fading in rubber mulch.
The only other reason you might need to replace the rubber mulch around your landscaping is if it washed or was blown away by severe weather, like intense flooding or hurricane-force winds.
Rubber mulching materials don’t perform as well as organic mulching materials. Weed growth is more effectively stifled by sawdust, wood chips, and straw. Rubber mulches are often marketed as “permanent” mulches but this is misleading. Rubber decomposes eventually in a similar way to organic mulches, though it might take a little longer. Tire composites release a wide range of toxic substances as they deteriorate, which can harm or kill your landscaping plants. Both drinking water systems and aquatic life could be at risk from these.
You can choose from a variety of organic mulches that are safer than rubber and that can improve your soil’s health. Lawn clippings, straw, conifer needles, chopped bark or hardwood, and leaf mold are examples of common materials. Some degrade more quickly than others, but over time, these are broken down by soil microbes into beneficial plant nutrients and organic compounds that work their way into your landscape soil, improving its health and structure. You can make your own mulch from garden waste or buy it at a garden center. When compared to rubber mulch, organic mulch generally costs less.
Does Rubber Mulch Get Hot?
Unfiltered sunlight will cause rubber mulch to heat up and absorb heat.
You definitely wouldn’t want to walk across rubber mulch barefoot because tests on an 89°F day revealed that it reached 154°F!
The surprise is that other items outside also reached high temperatures, including a wooden deck at 149°F and a plastic lawn chair at 140°F.
Rubber mulch isn’t significantly riskier than other surfaces, and compared to your wooden deck, you’re less likely to need to walk on it.
Does Rubber Mulch Attract Bugs?
Since there is no moisture or food to support life, the majority of bugs do not find it advantageous to live in or feed on rubber mulch.
For natural wood, ants and termites will search elsewhere, and other insects will either flee or burrow into the ground to find organic matter.
Only female Asian cockroaches or insects that are in the nymphal stage of development have been observed to enjoy the environment rubber mulch provides.
The tiny spaces between the chunks of rubber mulch that offer roach larvae a safe haven are what attracts these insects to it.
Is Rubber Mulch Flammable?
A dense, black cloud of smoke can be produced when rubber mulch ignites under the right circumstances.
Contrarily, it takes work to set rubber on fire, so ignition requires a lit cigarette or prolonged contact with a direct flame. A car tire won’t catch fire until temperatures reach over 700°F.
If rubber mulch does catch fire, the heat will be intense, and it will be challenging to put out the flames.
Is Rubber Mulch Toxic?
Car tires are made of synthetic materials, and as a result, rubber mulch contains toxic chemicals.
The sealing of the mulch to stop color fading after dying aids in preventing toxic chemicals from leaking into the soil, though some will eventually leak out.
Concerning things can happen on sunny days when the rubber mulch bakes in the sun’s ultraviolet rays. In particular for those who are already sensitive to environmental conditions, toxic gases can develop.
To be safe, try to limit your use of rubber mulch, especially in backyard play areas for kids, as the smell is frequently odorless.
Can You Put Rubber Mulch over Wood Mulch?
Sure, you could lay down a layer of rubber mulch directly on top of the wood mulch, but that might not be a good idea.
Weeds will grow as wood mulch decomposes and fills in the tiny gaps in the rubber mulch.
Rake up wood mulch or spread a fabric weed barrier over it before applying rubber mulch if you want to reduce weeds in the future.
Is Rubber Mulch Better Than Wood?
Wood mulch outperforms rubber mulch in terms of plant health.
As it decomposes and releases beneficial minerals and nutrients into the soil, wood mulch is an organic material.
Wood retains more moisture and supports the development of fungi and bacteria that maintain the health of soil ecosystems.
So, Should You Use Rubber Mulch for Plants?
It’s debatable whether rubber mulching should be done. Recycling used tires and preventing their disposal in landfills seems like a responsible environmental practice. But there have been numerous reported issues with shredded rubber mulches. You might discover that they are more trouble than they are worth. In general, it is safer to use organic mulching materials.
I’m grateful you read it.