The higher cost of rubber mulch at installation is offset by the fact it requires less frequent replacement compared to organic mulches, so you may save some money in the long run. Rubber mulch may also require more effort to install since it doesn’t decompose. For planting beds, the soil must be fully amended prior to installing the mulch. A protective barrier between the mulch and soil is also necessary to prevent the rubber from working its way deep into the soil.
Rubber mulches have the benefit of retaining moisture in the soil because they block evaporation and prevent the soil from overheating. Moisture from rain or irrigation can make its way through the mulched area to soak into the soil beneath. The mulch itself isn’t porous enough to hold any moisture on its own and it won’t wick moisture from the soil.
It’s no secret that mulching improves water retention and prevents weeds in the soil. Most mulches are made of organic materials, such as wood or straw. Rubber mulch resembles wood chips but supplies a longer-lasting synthetic mulch option. Rubber has both advantages and disadvantages, which it’s vital to understand before deciding if rubber mulch is the right choice for your garden.
Toxicity concerns from chemicals leaching from the rubber are the main disadvantage of rubber mulch. Heavy metals and rubber leachates can pose a health hazard, so it’s best to avoid using rubber mulch in vegetable or edible plant beds. Some ornamentals may also be sensitive to the zinc leached from the mulch, which leads to stunted growth and eventual plant death. Unfortunately, the chemicals may leach further than a garden bed and could taint groundwater sources.
Mulches suppress weed growth by blocking the necessary light most weed seeds need for germination and early growth. A sufficiently deep layer of rubber mulch, usually 2 inches or more, provides similar weed suppression capabilities as wood mulch. Although this weed suppression ability provides a distinct advantage, there is one disadvantage. Unlike natural mulches that can be tilled into the soil mechanically and replaced if weeds breach the mulch and become a severe problem, rubber-mulched areas must be weeded by hand.
Properly installed rubber mulches rarely require replacement and can last for 10 years or longer. It’s heavy enough that wind won’t blow it away, which is a problem with some lighter natural mulches. The mulch doesn’t break down or decompose, which is both an advantage and a disadvantage. Although it doesn’t require replacement, it also won’t supply any nutrients to the soil through decomposition. The mulch can also work its way into the soil if a fabric barrier isn’t installed beneath it, making it impossible to remove it completely.
Jenny Harrington has been a freelance writer since 2006. Her published articles have appeared in various print and online publications. Previously, she owned her own business, selling handmade items online, wholesale and at crafts fairs. Harrington's specialties include small business information, crafting, decorating and gardening.
And because it is an inorganic material, rubber mulch does not decompose with regular watering and breed fungus in the process. This adds another layer of protection for your flowering plants.
That being said, although rubber mulch offers more weed protection than traditional organic mulch, we still recommend laying a fabric roll between the rubber mulch and the soil to ensure no weed growth.
First of all, it does its basic job of retaining moisture in the soil. The rubber allows water to pass through it without absorbing any itself. The same goes for fertilizers; they go straight into the soil and provide nutrients to the plants as they should. Other organic mulches absorb and retain moisture, inhibiting full penetration of fertilizer and creating an ideal “bed” for weed seeds and spores to germinate.
Aside from providing protection for playground and athletic surfaces, rubber mulch is quickly becoming a popular option for landscaping projects due to the benefits it offers for gardens and landscapes. One of the most important benefits is weed control. But how does rubber mulch prevent weeds from taking over your lovely flower garden and turning it into a woeful mess? Let’s take a closer look at its characteristics to understand the process better.
Also, while all types of mulches control weed growth to a certain degree, rubber mulch has the unique ability to trap airborne weed seeds or spores, and dehydrate them before they have a chance to germinate in your garden soil. Of course, before using rubber mulch, you will need to make sure that your soil is weed-free in the first place. Rubber mulch cannot prevent weeds from germinating and sprouting when it is already in the soil to begin with.
Aside from providing protection for playground and athletic surfaces, rubber mulch is quickly becoming a popular option for landscaping projects due to the benefits it offers for gardens and landscapes. One of the most important benefits is weed control. But how exactly does rubber mulch prevent weeds from taking over your lovely flower garden and turning it into a woeful mess? Let’s take a closer look at its characteristics to understand the process better.
Lastly, you will only need to use half the amount of rubber mulch as you would normally use for organic mulches. The latter may cost less initially, but displacement, decay, and other weed-related dilemmas can have your gardening expenses pile up year after year. While this does not directly contribute to weed prevention, the money you will save in the long run (from annual mulch replacements) can go to other gardening projects.
The introduction of rubber mulch to the market has changed the way many people do landscaping and gardening. In the process it has created some polarization between those who think it is a good idea and those who don’t. People who are skeptical about its effects give reasons ranging from lack of organic “aesthetics” (look and feel), to fears about poisoning their plants with unseen chemicals. On the other hand, those who think that rubber mulch has specific benefits for gardening also offer good reasons (chief among them being the reduction of carbon footprint).
It is a low maintenance option. When compared to organic mulches, the density and durability of rubber mulch translates into less maintenance and replenishment costs saving both time and money.
It contains chemical residues which can be harmful to plants. Contrary to popular belief both wood mulch and rubber mulch can contain chemicals. Some wood mulches are made with industrial pallets that may have come in contact with various chemicals. Rubber of course utilizes chemicals in the manufacturing process. Studies differ as do mulches themselves. The most common chemical in rubber mulch that is found to potentially affect soil is zinc. Zinc is found naturally in soil and too much or too little can affect soil quality. Some areas of the US have sufficient or even high levels of zinc in the native soil whereas other areas have a zinc deficiency. If you are uncertain you may wish to test your soil for zinc levels before making a decision on what product is the best fit for your landscaping project.