Mulch is not all created equal. Let’s take a look at what makes them different.
The Good. Dyed or treated mulches will typically last longer than untreated mulches. By the vary nature of being treated, most pests are not interested in them. Carpenter ants, for example, are looking for a dry, solid home and much prefer large solid areas of wood like tree trunks and beams of houses. In order to have dye adhere to a wood product, the wood must be dry. Environmentally speaking, most dyed mulches are made from reclaimed wood from manufacturing or recycled pallets. This relieves a heavy burden from our landfills. Dyed mulches are usually passed over a magnet to remove any nails or ferrous metals. These mulches will typically break down over a 3-4 year period
The Bad. In order to have dye adhere to a wood product, the wood must be dry. Virgin wood not a good source because it is usually wet. Since dyed mulches are made from recycled materials, you may see some pieces of wood in your mulch that are painted a different color than the mulch (such as a blue spot in your black mulch) from time to time. The quality of the mulch can vary widely from manufacturer to manufacturer based on the quality of the raw material sources. You may find small amounts of non-organic material such as plastic. Dyes can and will run off, which may leave stains on your clothing or concrete if you are not careful.
Playground Mulch vs Natural Mulch
Natural Mulch. Natural mulches are typically made from tree roots, barks or tops that have been ground twice. They are typically kept close to their original source which can reduce transmission of non-native pests (such as the emerald ash borer) between forests. They are environmentally friendly because they are typically not treated by any dyes or chemicals. Natural mulches are preferred for weed control in gardens where you will be working in the soil often. Untreated mulches will decompose into beautiful compost for your plants in one to two years. Bark and cedar mulch can last as long as treated mulch. On the downside, in order to darken the color of natural mulches, they are generally ground finer and aged. This aging process will shorten the life of the material on your site. Bark and cedar mulches are very expensive due to transportation and processing charges.
Playground Mulch. Playground mulch is more course than natural landscaping mulch. It is made from virgin wood so the risk of contamination by foreign materials is very low. The course nature of playground mulch leaves air spaces between the pieces of mulch which will compress to absorb impact. In order to see the maximum energy absorption from playground mulch, it should be installed at a depth of 12 inches.
Topsoil and Fill
What’s the difference? Organic matter. Topsoil is topsoil because it contains organic matter. If there is no organic matter in it or less than 2% organic material in it, it is simply not topsoil. It is considered fill or dirt. Pennsylvania defines topsoil for contract purposes through publication 450 (which can be found here). Without boring you to death on particle size and soil classifications, lets suffice it to say that the Pocono mountains are not known for their topsoil. We have rocks and clay.
Because there is no close reliable source for topsoil on top of a mountain, most soils are imported from the valleys that surround us. They are often amended with sand and additional organics to make them best suited for growing. Too much sand and they dry out quickly, too much clay results in a lack of oxygen to the root structure of your plants.
Prices for fill and soil materials vary widely by region. Because our local service area is known for a an abundance of clay and rock, screening and hauling are a necessity for obtaining high quality landscaping products. Fill materials that are screened are the best for landscaping projects unless you are filling over one foot deep.
We typically have access to the following materials:
- Berm, clay based
- Fill Dirt, 1″ screened
- Mushroom Compost
- Raingarden Soil Blend (Special Order)
- Topsoil, Premium Composted (Black Gold)
- Topsoil, 3/4″ Screened
- Topsoil, Unscreened