Are you looking for a durable and eco-friendly alternative to traditional landscaping materials? Then rubber mulch is just for you. Made from recycled rubber tires, this versatile and long-lasting material is a perfect alternative to wood mulch. So why settle for ordinary mulch when you can go green with rubber?
But rubber mulch isn’t all rainbows and unicorns. In fact, it has plenty of downsides as well. In today’s article, you’ll learn all about the pros and cons of using rubber mulch in your garden.
If you want to learn more about other types of mulch, check out our mulch articles. You’ll be impressed with how much we’ve written about it.
What is Rubber Mulch?
For starters, let’s cover the basics.
Rubber mulch is a mulch alternative that’s made from recycled rubber tires. To make this mulch the tires are shredded into small pieces and then treated to remove any metal and fiber, leaving behind safe material that can be used as a sustainable landscaping solution.
Rubber mulch is a popular choice for playgrounds, landscaping, and gardening because it is highly durable, long-lasting, and requires minimal maintenance. It also offers a variety of benefits, including weed suppression, moisture retention, and improved soil quality.
But, let’s not get ahead of ourselves, because we’re covering the benefits of rubber mulch next.
Benefits of Rubber Mulch
While we’re talking about the pros and cons of rubber mulch, let’s start with the good stuff. Here are the top nine benefits of rubber mulch:
Insulates Against Heat
One of the biggest benefits of rubber mulch is its insulation. Specifically rubber mulch is prime for protecting your plants against extreme heat.
Compared to wood chips and other organic materials, rubber mulch is more effective. That’s because rubber materials can absorb heat and keep your plants cool. We think that rubber mulch is especially useful in “indoor” gardens because it doesn’t decompose or smell unpleasant.
Of course, other types of mulch can still insulate your plants. If you want a cheaper, homemade alternative, we recommend cardboard mulch.
Keeps Insects Away
The second benefit of rubber mulch is that it’s insect repellent. Unlike most other mulching materials, rubber mulch doesn’t attract any critters.
Some people take it one step further and put rubber mulch around their homes. It keeps specifically pesky insects like ants and termites away from their home.
Prevents Fungus and Weed Growth
Rubber mulch can prevent fungus growth in plants. That’s because rubber mulch doesn’t absorb water, unlike other types of mulch.
Since rubber mulch is non-porous, water and fertilizer can travel through them and reach the soil beneath them. Additionally, just like other types of mulch, rubber mulch prevents weed growth.
Another prime benefit of rubber mulch is that it can’t be destroyed. While most other types of mulch decompose after a few months to a year, rubber mulch doesn’t go anywhere.
We think this makes it great for a decorative option rather than a practical one—since rubber mulch won’t provide nutrients to your plants.
It Doesn’t Move
Rubber mulch remains put. Rubber mulch is much heavier than any organic mulch or water, so it won’t easily shift or float away during a downpour.
This makes rubber mulch a great alternative for the bottom of a garden bed! Of course, there are plenty of other options, read about them here!
A Ton of Design Options
Rubber mulch comes in a ton of design options. It comes in different colors, such as neutral and earthy hues. We love that rubber mulch tends to maintain its color for up to ten years, unlike colored wood mulch—meaning you’ll have no need to replace it.
Rubber mulch requires little upkeep. It won’t decompose, and the most you need to do is rake it back into place after a storm. However, because it’s heavier than other mulches it’s rare that you’ll need to do this.
Because rubber mulch is denser and more durable than biological mulches, it requires less upkeep and replenishment, saving time and money.
Red mulch is another durable alternative. You can read all about it here.
More Bang for Your Buck
Rubber mulch offers twice as much coverage as normal mulch. While initially, it is more expensive, rubber mulch can effectively control weed growth with a 1.5-inch depth instead of 3 inches of organic material.
You pick up some rubber mulch here. While yes, it is expensive, remember that it will last forever.
More Environmentally Beneficial
Lastly, rubber mulch is perfect if you want to stay eco-friendly. Rather than chopping down a tree, you’re saving tires from a landfill. In fact, if you have your own used tires, you could probably make the mulch yourself, however, we’re not going to cover that today.
There’s no denying that rubber mulch has plenty of benefits. If you’re interested in buying some, I highly recommend this option!
Disadvantages of Rubber Mulch
As we move along talking about the pros and cons of rubber mulch, we talk about the disadvantages. As we said before, while it has a ton of pros, there are also a ton of cons. Here are the top three:
It Won’t Decompose
While this was also a benefit, the lack of decomposition is also a con to rubber mulch. That’s because, for most plants, you want to provide them with nutrients.
Other types of mulch (like newspaper) give your plants exactly that as they decompose. So, when you’re using rubber mulch, you’ll need to give your plants fertilizer. Luckily, you can pick up one of our favorite fertilizers right here (it’s safe for virtually all plants—fruit trees, vegetables, and even houseplants).
It Has Harmful Chemicals
Contrary to popular assumption, chemicals can be included in rubber mulch. The most common chemical found in rubber is zinc.
Zinc occurs naturally in soil and can impact soil quality depending on the amount present. In some US regions, the native soil contains enough or even high quantities of zinc, whereas, in other regions, there is a zinc deficiency. If unsure, you can want to check the amount of zinc in your soil before choosing the appropriate mulch.
It’s not Organic
The last con is simple. Rubber mulch is not organic or natural. It’s a made-made product that’s not perfect. However, it will last forever, so really, if that’s what is important to you, then it’s a win.
Is Rubber Mulch Right For You?
Your needs will determine if rubber mulch is the appropriate choice for you or not, particularly if insulation or insects are a concern.
Rubber mulch has some obvious downsides, such as harming soil health and heavy metal contamination, so you will need to consider the advantages and disadvantages.
Interested in reading more about organic gardening? Check out all of our resources!