Facts About Hardwood Mulch
Hardwood mulch is not quite as common as softwood bark mulches, although this can depend to some extent on where you live. Pecan shell mulch, one of the best types of mulch one can buy, is usually only sold in areas where pecan trees are abundant. Hardwood mulch may not be available in areas where most of the processed lumber is softwood, but is still available over a wide area.
The most common organic mulch is probably pine bark mulch, which is available shredded or in nuggets. Hardwood mulch normally comes in shredded form and the wood most commonly used is oak and maple, and occasionally cherry, though many different hardwoods can be used.
A Choice Of Colors - One of the advantages of hardwood mulch is that it comes in different colors. Some producers of hardwood mulch blend several types of wood together to get various shades of brown, from light to dark. Both wood and bark are used in the production of hardwood mulch. Custom colors can be produced by adding dye to hardwood mulches, which can be very attractive, although the color usually fades after the first year of use unless the product is of the highest quality.
Shredded hardwood mulch comes in various sizes, usually rough shred, double-shredded, and triple-shredded, with rough shred being the least fine mulch and triple-shredded the finest. The finer the mulch, the better job it will do to hold in moisture and prevent growth of weeds. On the flip side of the coin, the finer the mulch, the quicker it will decompose. Rougher mulch is usually used around trees and along driveways or walkways, while the finer shreds are used in the garden around plants to keep the soil moist and keep the weeds down.
Avoid Overly Fine Hardwood Mulch - One of the disadvantages of a hardwood mulch as compared to a softwood mulch is that hardwood trees contain a higher concentration of cellulose, which leads to small pieces of wood or bark in the mulch to rot more quickly than is the case with a softwood. This can lead to mold problems, especially if the mulch tends to be damp much of the time. The finer the mulch, the greater the problem can be. The growth of mold or fungi has the effect of using up nitrogen that would otherwise go to the plants, leaving plants nitrogen-starved in some instances. Screening the mulch to remove the finest pieces along with any dust is often done when mulch is first being prepared to minimize rotting and eliminate the mold problem.
How Mulch Helps The Soil - As is the case with a softwood mulch, a hardwood mulch will help in preventing soil compaction and crusting of the top layer of the soil, and thereby facilitate the absorption of water into the soil. Mulching also helps to build up soil, as when the mulch decomposes it simply converts into topsoil, adding nutrients to the existing soil in the process.
Mulching Is A Natural Process - Although we mostly purchase mulch, either in bags or in bulk, mulch is constantly being created in nature, especially in woodlands, where leaves, twigs and dead plant life constantly add mulch to the soil and build up topsoil in the process. While we normally think of hardwood mulch or any other mulch as being purely decorative, if it is an organic mulch it adds so much more, not only beautifying and protecting plants, but adding to the quality of the soil as well. If you don't want rock, plastic, or some other type of inorganic mulch in your garden, and are looking for a mulch that is often available in several color choices, give some consideration to a quality hardwood mulch. You won't be disappointed.