Rubber Mulch – Is it Safe For Your Flower Garden?
In a desperate attempt to reduce the work involved by having to replace mulch every year in my flower garden, I began to do some research on rubber mulch. What I found is that there has been lots of controversy about having rubber mulch around your garden because, according to some gardeners, rubber mulch may leach chemicals that could kill your plants. In a report written in 1997 by Rufus Chaney, who is an environmental Chemist for the U.S.D.A. Agricultural Research Service, he says that in his studies, small amounts of zinc in rubber mulch could leach into the soil over time.
The next report I read came from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission which tested gravel, wood chips, and rubber mulch and they gave rubber mulch the highest shock absorption ratings when used as playground covering. This is good news for parents and teachers alike as it will provide safety and minimize the cuts and bruises children get while at playgrounds.
Several other studies that I read stated that rubber mulch is non-leaching, non-flammable and non-toxic to plants, animals and pets. The problem with these studies is that these were done and sponsored by the companies that course of action the mulch so I do not know if we should believe this or not. And, the arguments continue between the environmental agencies and the companies that manufacture rubber mulch.
So, we now know that rubber mulch is good if used in playgrounds and other non-garden related areas, but what about a flower garden? First, take a look at what rubber mulch is. It is made from old rubber tires that had the steel bands removed. It does not matter the size, quality or make of the tire, any old tire will do. It does not matter if the tire came from a truck or a passenger car. The rubber from these tires is then made into nuggets consequently creating rubber mulch. Next, we will discuss the advantages and disadvantages of using rubber mulch.
o it is recycled material which benefits the ecosystem
o it insulates the soil protecting it from heat
o does not absorb water so it keeps the soil moist
o prevents weeds since seeds will dehydrate in the mulch prior to reaching the soil
o shredded rubber mulch can be used as landfill
o does not wash away during heavy rain
o does not decay
o does not sink to the ground
o does not attract termites, ants and other garden insects
o can be purchased in different colors to add beauty to a garden or scenery
o no need to remove old mulch year after year from the garden
o saves time and money tending to garden needs
o it is more expensive than regular wood mulch
o may leach chemicals into the soil
o does not provide soil with any organic matter
o some gardeners have reported that it killed some of their plants
o may produce bad odor when spread in the garden
By reviewing the lists above, it is obvious that the advantages of using rubber mulch are much greater than the disadvantages. But, should we take a chance and use it on our flower gardens? That is a decision that each individual gardener needs to make.
As for me, I took a chance and bought rubber mulch in March of this year and replaced the old wood mulch in my flower garden. I must let in that I was a little nervous at first, but it was a time and money saving decision that I had to make. I expected some bad odor to permeate all around my garden, but there was none. Time will tell if the rubber mulch will damage some of my plants but so far, my flower garden is doing well and the rubber mulch looks great.