Rubber Vs. Wood Mulch

Mulching is a highly beneficial process for gardeners. It not only helps preserve the life and health of the plants, but it also saves the gardener time and energy in maintaining the garden. Mulching slows the process of weed growth so the gardener can avoid heavy regular weeding. It also allows moisture to remain in the soil for longer periods of time which helps the plants grow and thrive. Mulching is an alternative for chemical weeding products so it is especially beneficial when using it on edible plants and vegetables. Wood mulch has long been a favorite of gardeners everywhere but rubber mulch is now gaining in popularity. So, what are the pros and cons of using either wood mulch or rubber mulch?

Since wood mulch is the most popular form of mulch it is widely available in garden stores, home improvement stores and super centers. Rubber mulch may need to be purchased at specialty gardening stores and can more expensive. If comparing process on a per cubic foot basis, rubber mulch costs approximately $14 while wood mulch is about $2. However, with rubber mulch, you will not have to use as much as with wood mulch so there may be an overall cost savings with that. Wood mulch breaks down over time while rubber mulch does not. So, you can use less and not have to replace it or replenish it as often.

With wood mulch, it is recommended to use it for approximately three inches deep. It also needs to be replaced annually after it breaks down. However, rubber mulch does not break down so it saves both time and money by eliminating the need for annual mulching. Also, rubber mulch only needs to be approximately one and a half inches deep by comparison.

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The thought of using rubber mulch may seem unappealing from an aesthetic perspective, but actuality it looks very similar to the wood mulch. Exposure to sun will fade the wood mulch faster than the rubber, but both will eventually fade over time. Rubber mulch also has a tendency to last longer through the elements. If you have an outdoor garden, your plants will be exposed to wind and rain. Wood mulch has a tendency to float in standing water and drain away. It also has a tendency to blow away in high winds. Rubber mulch, on the other hand, has more staying power. It neither blows away in wind nor floats off with water.

So, how does rubber mulch compare to wood mulch for weed control? The results are about equal. They both do the job as intended, greatly slowing or even eliminating weed growth. However, as rubber is not an organic material, it is not suited for organic gardening. If you are determined to have a completely organic garden, you may want to stick with wood mulch. However, if using rubber is a viable option, it will certainly do the trick.

As far as effectiveness is concerned, both wood and rubber mulch will do the job well. The advantage of rubber mulch over wood is the staying power, ability to weather the elements better, the need to use less of the product and less need of replacing it over time. The disadvantage is cost, but this may be offset by the ability to use less and have it last longer. The advantages of wood mulch over rubber is it is often deemed more aesthetically pleasing, it is cheaper on a per cubic foot basis and it is an organic material. The disadvantages are that you have to replace it annually and use more.

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Mulch match: Rubber stacks up well against wood. ConsumerReports.org.