By Andrew Wright

The increasingly-used practice of mulching offers valuable benefits to both soil and plants, and is something that is encouraged. In a few parts of the country it comes with a caution, though. That's because of the main ingredient of a widespread type of mulch in these parts being a shredded sawmill waste product, hardwood bark. The sawmills had complications dumping the waste bark which resulted from the procedure of denuding the logs before sawing them.

Presenting the bark to be a mulch was genuine genius, but unfortunately the product is not always safe for garden use. The lumber mills stack the bark up high to avoid wasting space, and with little demand for the mulch in winter the piles get really high. The risk for your garden arises from the mulch getting compacted too tightly by the front end loaders having to drive up onto the heaps. The bark material will not decompose unless it's given oxygen, and time, which is achieved by air passing through it. When compressed too tightly, the flow of air is inhibited and the waste matter becomes increasingly hot, to the extent that it could spontaneously combust.

The mulch may become toxic on account of the build-up of the hot gases which cannot escape. Digging into the mulch and distributing it releases a terrible stink and also poses a danger to your plants. Your plants could be burn-damaged by the hot, poisonous gas which escapes from the mulch. Spreading this stuff around your plants could cause them to end up brown in as little as few minutes. When you happen to get a mulch pile like this and it gets dumped on your yard it could turn the grass brown. You might be completely unsuspecting, and only be informed that the mulch was bad when you discover the damage.

The unhealthy mulch carries a strong odor once you get down to it in the pile, but so does the good mulch, and the scent is different, but you may not be able to tell the difference. A darker color could also indicate the mulch being bad, and if you would like to be safe then you could check it by surrounding a sacrificial plant with some of the mulch. Make certain that you take mulch from inside the pile, rather than on the edges. Inspect the plant after at least 24 hours; if perhaps no damage has taken place the mulch may be used with confidence.

Although it isn't the end of the world, this kind of problem is rather prevented than experienced. Think about putting mulch around your plants with the best of purposes, only to discover they had been burned. Stay away from toxic mulch by getting from a place you have confidence in and who can give you some type of guarantee or assurance - you do, after all, want to get the benefits of mulching.

About the Author:

blog comments powered by Disqus