Exterior, Playing In the Dirt Again

7 Reasons for Using Rubber Mulch

Michelle from Dream Home DIY had me thinking about mulch the other day.

Oh yes, my life is that exciting.  Until recently, I didn’t know that rubber mulch was possible for home landscaping.  I’ve been using wood mulch sparingly in the front garden, but it’s getting annoying.  I don’t weed like I should, the mulch doesn’t block them for me like it should, and it gets all over the place when the wind blows.

And perhaps most importantly, the idea of putting a smorgasbord of wood around my cedar sided home to tempt termites gives me the heebies.  But once I’d finally found out that there was a rubber alternative, I knew it would be the right choice for me:

1.  It’s the last bag I’ll have to buy.  Rubber mulch keeps for 10-20 years and doesn’t require as much upkeep as wood mulch.  Score one for the lazy landscape girls like me.

2.  It’s green.  Rubber mulch uses recycled materials – like the flat tires I kept having problems with before I bought Rose.  At least parts of them don’t have to wind up forever on the side of the road.  Plus, many of them are certified and non-toxic (and for dogs too) – just do your homework and choose a good brand.

3.  It’s like good lipstick.  The color (which comes in a variety of options) doesn’t fade.  In the Georgia sun, this is quite a nice perk.  And the color is usually warrantied for 12-15 years!

4.  It’s fake, but not too fake.  Even though it’s rubber, it mimics the look of wood mulch.  Meaning I don’t embarrass myself even more in front of my neighbors.

5.  It will save me money.  The cost is a little pricier, but given that it doesn’t break down like regular wood mulch, it’s actually a better value over time.  The wood kind is under $4, and the rubber is about twice (or maybe 3x) that – so I’ll recoup the greater cost in as little as two years when it can be kept for ten.

6.  It resists bugs.  Wood mulch is a gateway drug to cedar sided homes like mine.  Rubber doesn’t harbor insects (like termites), so this is my number one reason why I’m doing rubber over wood-based materials.

7.  It’s heavy.  Rubber mulch doesn’t blow away and can be kept at a shorter depth than the wood kind – meaning you use less product and cover more ground.  This too helps alleviate the increased cost.

There are a number of naysayers that will discourage the use of rubber in landscaping with the assumption that the chemicals from the rubber leach into the ground and will kill your plants, or the rubber blocks out all moisture and will smother your plants instead.  However, multiple reputable organizations like the EPA have endorsed rubber mulch as an appropriate recycled use of rubber tires.  And if plumbing (or the attempt at it) has taught me anything, it’s that water has no trouble with just about anything on the planet.  I say go with what works for you.  In my case, that means as little effort as possible.  Busy girls have things to do!

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  1. says

    Oh! I have never heard of rubber mulch before, and I'm definitely intrigued by it. I feel like it might discourage mice from burrowing into the ground around the side of our house and getting into the basement? Hm…

  2. says

    I love Rubber mulch. It's used in playgrounds most often, so that's where I became familiar with it when I taught preschool. Chase and I use it around the “bed” near the A/C unit and the hose. It's GREAT stuff and soooo cost effective! :)

  3. says

    It's actually not that great because:
    1) Unlike natural mulch it doesn't decompose and improve the soil for your plants. In the wild that is what they need so if you use synthetic mulch you need to do more work to keep the soil healthy.
    2) You will still have to try to remove all of the tree and plant debris that falls in the mulch each fall. In natural mulch it's not such a big deal because you're continuously adding new mulch.
    3) Thin layers of any mulch = more weeds. It doesn't matter the material.
    4) Dark heavy rubber will absorb sunlight and can fry your plants. Rubber mulch is used in places where you don't want any plants to grow like playgrounds and in very thick layers.
    5) It is hard to keep it from mixing with the soil. I'm guessing you'll be using a weed fabric of some sort underneath but fabric just leads to a mess down the road. All of that gathers on top of the fabric decomposes and creates a place for weeds to grow. Plant roots and insects move the fabric and bring dirt up onto the top as well.

    We learned all of this the hard way when we though rocks were the answer to no maintenance flowerbeds. Instead we were doing a lot of back breaking work removing all of the rocks and fabric two years later to put in good old cedar mulch.

  4. says

    Ah, now there's the kind of response I was expecting! :) And I do appreciate the opposing opinion (it lets other readers make the best choice for their own needs).

    The biggest reason I'm going with rubber is that cedar or other wood-based mulches will harbor termites more than the rubber kind – something I've already had to repair at the UDH when I moved in, and never want to again. For that peace of mind, I'm willing to pay a little more and experiment with a product I find intriguing. And if weeding is inevitable (which let's face it, I don't do regardless of the type of mulch), I figure if it actually kills off anything, it may do the same for one or two weeds ;)

    Ultimately, it's up to you which direction you go. If I recoup the cost of the rubber stuff in two years (I bought three bags last night for $15 as opposed to the $10 cedar would have cost), I figure it's worth the gamble. I don't find gardening of any kind to be an enjoyable experience – if it were acceptable to use nothing but fake plants outside the house, I probably would!

  5. Sam Bogale Calgary Alberta says

    Great article with great tips – I think I will definitely use rubber mulch from now on!

    • says

      Perhaps on a house that had seen better upkeep for the 20 years prior to buying it, but termites and wood rot had already done considerable damage to the exterior. Good to know that cedar mulch is an option though!

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