Natural Mulch compared to Dyed Mulches for Your Garden and Landscapes

dyed mulch nuggets

Dyed Mulch Safety In Your Garden and Landscaping

Although the landscaping firm where I work has a wide variety of mulches and rock to fill landscape beds, I always recommend utilizing natural mulches. Although, rock requires less regular topping and replacement, it does not help the soil or plants.

In reality, rock heats up and dries up the soil. Colored mulches may be highly aesthetically beautiful and draw attention to landscaping plants and beds; however, not all dyed mulches are safe or beneficial for plants. Continue further to understand more about plain mulch and colored mulch.

Is Colored Mulch Harmful?

Customers occasionally ask me, “Can you tell me if colored mulch toxic?” Several colored mulches come colored with safe dyes, such as iron oxide-based red dyes or carbon-based dark brown and black dyes. However, specific low-cost colors may include dangerous or poisonous compounds.

In general, if the price of dyed mulch appears too good to be true, it is, and you should spend the extra money on safer  and better quality mulch. However, this is uncommon, and it is generally the wood rather than the dye that causes worry about the safeness of mulches.

While most natural mulches are derived directly from trees, such as double or triple shredded mulch, cedar mulch, or pine bark, many-colored mulches arrive manufactured from recycled wood, such as old pallets, decks, crates, and so on. These recycled treated wood pieces may include chromates, copper arsenate, or both (CCA).

Although using CCA to treat wood was prohibited in 2003, this wood is frequently obtained from demolitions or other sources and repurposed into colored mulches. As a result, helpful soil microorganisms, beneficial insects, earthworms, and young plants can potentially die from CCA-treated wood. It can also injure individuals who spread the mulch and animals who dig in it.

Dyed Mulch Safety in the Landscaping

Aside from the possible hazards of colored mulch to dogs, humans, or young plants, dyed mulches are harmful to the soil. They will help maintain soil moisture and protect plants over the winter, but they will not enrich the soil or contribute helpful bacteria and nitrogen as natural mulch.

Dyed mulches degrade significantly more slowly than natural mulches. Nitrogen is a requirement for the breakdown of wood. Colored mulch in gardens might deplete the nitrogen required by plants.

Pine needles, natural triple or double-processed mulch, pine bark, or cedar mulch are better alternatives to colored mulches. Because they are not colored, these mulches will not fade as rapidly as colored mulches and will not need replenishing as frequently.

If you want to employ colored mulches, merely investigate the origins of the mulch and nourish plants with a nitrogen-rich fertilizer.


hardwood dark mulching

Which Natural Mulch Is the Best?

There are several natural mulches available, with pine straw, hardwood bark mulch, and old hay being the most common. Which option is choice for your garden?

Mulching with pine straw

Weeds can be controlled with pine straws. It has a habit of forming a thicker mat and bummer to the plant that attempts to grow through it! However, pine straw may not be appropriate for everyone’s garden. It can render your soil acidic over time, making it impossible to grow anything. On the other hand, some plants thrive on acidic soil. If your flower garden consists of these acid-loving plants, pine straw is not only OK but ideal.

Making use of hardwood bark mulch

Most gardens develop plants that prefer neutral to sweet soil (alkaline). The optimum mulch for such plants is hardwood bark mulch. It decomposes into a sweet-smelling , rich black earth while remaining immaculate. Furthermore, hardwood bark mulch is the finest for soil amendment. The downside is that it’s pricey, especially if you buy it from a garden center (and the bags aren’t huge).


natural mulch pile

Natural mulching with hay

On the other side, old hay is dirt cheap. Farmers cannot feed their livestock if the hay becomes damp and rotten; it might kill them. That ruined hay, on the other hand, is just what your garden requires. Your garden will probably prefer it over fresh, unspoiled material, and your vegetable garden will probably prefer it to hardwood bark mulch. You can sometimes obtain an entire bale of ruined hay for a few dollars.

Of course, the issue with old hay is that it comes from grass (or grains). Grass in a garden is a weed, and hay is full of its seeds and any other weeds that may have been combined. So what should a gardener do?

In her ostensibly renowned “No Work Garden Book,” Ruth Stout offers an easy solution: add more hay. Hay stacked around plants to a depth of roughly a foot (31 cm.) is too dense for weeds to pass through, even its weeds. As a result, it’s an excellent choice for vegetable beds (and it does work).

However, it has the unintended consequence of making the flower beds seem messy, and an untidy flower bed might as well be full of weeds.

So, what is the most incredible natural mulch option?
What is the most acceptable gardening solution? In general, use a bare bark mulch for the flower gardens. It isn’t as lovely as hardwood bark mulch, but it’s also less costly. Spread it 4 to 6 inches (10-15 cm) thick around your flowers, covering the entire bed.

Find a farmer and buy as much of his old, ruined hay as you can afford for the rear garden and vegetable garden. Spread it out 8 to 10 inches (20-25 cm.) at first, then expand it to a foot (31 cm.) if some daring weeds poke their heads out (but be careful to pick the weeds out; otherwise, they’ll keep growing like the proverbial beanstalk).

Gardens should ideally be mulched twice a year, once in the spring and once in the fall. It’s not an exact science: mulch your garden when it starts to feel warm; mulch it when it starts to feel chilly.

Mulch provides several advantages for your garden. So what exactly are you waiting for? Begin mulching!