If you ask a bunch of gardeners what they think of rubber mulch, you’re likely to get a colorful answer. The controversial landscape material, made from recycled rubber products, can seep chemicals into the soil, heat the ground and scorch plants. From the front, it provides a spongy, shock-absorbing surface, making it ideal for sidewalks and play areas. It also helps curb weeds, requires little replacement and is as easy to install as traditional mulch.

  • Dig the area where the rubber mulch is placed to remove weeds and weeds. Level the area at a slope of about 1 inch every 10 feet away from your house or any nearby buildings to enhance drainage and prevent standing water near buildings.
  • Spray the ground with herbicide and lay permeable landscape fabric throughout the area. Avoid using plastic under mulch as it is impermeable to water and can cause moisture problems or become a breeding ground for fungi.
  • Install a border around the soiled area and secure the landscape cloth with the border. Dig a trench as wide as the edge material and deep enough to be half buried to ensure maximum stability.
  • Lay an even layer of 2 – to 4-inch rubber mulch and flatten it to cover the entire area. Gently tamp mulch in the play area or walkway to create a solid, stable surface.

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Advantages and disadvantages of rubber mulch

The Pros:

  • It provides good insulation. Rubber mulch does a better job of insulating plants than wood chips and other organic materials. It is especially beneficial in “indoor” gardens such as sunrooms and solariums, as it does not decompose and give off a putrifying smell.
  • It doesn’t attract insects. Unlike soil and wood, rubber does not attract insects to build nests or gnaw on it. This is especially true for ants and termites. Some people even use rubber mulch as a kind of insulation around their homes to keep insects out.
  • It keeps weeds and fungi from growing. Since rubber does not absorb water, rubber mulch can actually help prevent fungal growth on plants. The “block” of shredded rubber tires is non-porous, so water and fertilizer fall through it into the soil it’s in. Weeds cannot grow on the rubber and cannot penetrate the mulch to reach the soil.
  • It can go on forever. Well, maybe not forever, but since rubber is very slowly deteriorating, you can expect to enjoy the landscape material for many, many years without having to make up for its cost and hassle every year.
  • It stays the same. Because rubber mulch is heavier than organic mulch (and water), it does not shift easily and does not float in heavy rain.
  • It offers more design choices. Available in many earth and design colors, rubber mulch offers more options to compliment existing landscape elements. Unlike colored wood mulch, rubber mulch can often retain its color for up to a decade.
  • It is a low maintenance option. Compared to organic mulch, the density and durability of rubber mulch translate into less maintenance and replenishment costs, saving both time and money.
  • It provides twice as much coverage. While rubber mulch is initially expensive, it requires only 1.5 inches of depth to effectively control weed growth compared to 3 inches of organic material.
  • It’s an environmentally friendly option. The rubber landscape mulch is made from recycled tires. Using this material not only helps prevent landfills, but also does not require the sacrifice of trees.

The Cons:

  • It doesn’t decompose. Rubber mulch is not organic, so it does not decompose and does not provide organic material for the soil.
  • It contains chemical residues that can be harmful to plants. Contrary to popular belief, both wood mulch and rubber mulch can contain chemicals. Some wood mulch is made from industrial pallets that may have come in contact with a variety of chemicals. Of course, rubber is made with chemicals. The mulch itself varies from study to study. The most common chemical in rubber mulch that may affect the soil is zinc. Zinc is naturally found in soil and too much or too little can affect soil quality. Native soils in some parts of the United States have sufficient or high levels of zinc, while others are zinc deficient. If you are unsure, you may wish to test the zinc content of your soil before deciding what product is best for your landscape project.
  • It doesn’t look or feel organic. Although there are many natural colors to choose from, some people prefer a natural look and feel, such as real soil, wood or stone.

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How to Install Rubber Mulch
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