Is Rubber Mulch Safe For Trees

Is Rubber Mulch Safe For Trees? + [Should I Use It?]

Gardening with rubber mulch needs ultimate care, especially if the garden has trees. In the first place, Is rubber mulch even safe for trees? Or, how do you apply it safely to the trees? 

Rubber mulch, made from recycled tires,  is a good option for long-term mulching. However, some people believe that rubber mulch is dangerous when planted beside trees.

Is rubber mulch safe for trees? You ask.

Rubber mulch is not entirely safe for trees. Even so, it isn’t good to put rubber mulch close to trees. Again, when rubber mulch gets old, about 6 – 7 years after application, it becomes toxic to trees. It causes decay on tree stems leading to death. Rubber mulch rings can harm your trees, too.

This article discusses the impacts of rubber mulch on your trees and how to apply it in forestry areas.

Also Check: What To Do With Old Mulch

Is Rubber Mulch Safe For Trees?

Rubber mulch is not safe for trees. Although many gardeners prefer it because of its durability, they forget about the inconveniences it causes. Some trees mulched with rubber dry up after 3-4 years.

Many people say that rubber mulch doesn’t decompose. That’s a clear lie! Although it doesn’t decompose as fast as natural mulch, rubber mulch decomposes slowly by slowly. That decomposition releases chemicals that contaminate the soil.

Rubber mulch turns tree leaves into yellow, slows tree growth, and increases the tree death rate. If you’re at risk of experiencing wildfires, you must avoid rubber mulch completely. It’s more likely to catch fire and less likely to extinguish than other types of mulch. You may end up blowing your forest up.

There are two remedies to that.

  • You completely shift from using rubber mulch under trees.
  • You apply the rubber mulch and maintain it carefully.

Is Rubber Mulch Good For My Trees?

Just like other types of mulches, rubber mulch can be good for your trees as long as it hasn’t decayed yet. However, you must be careful how you apply and maintain it to avoid ruining them.

Rubber mulch inhibits weeds’ growth by cutting sunlight from reaching the soil. It also prevents any airborne weed seeds from landing on the soil. It does this for a longer time than other types of mulches. 

It also stays in place even under high storms and winds. Therefore, it’s suitable for trees even on a slope because of its ability to avoid erosion.

Rubber mulch doesn’t attract termites and insects that destroy your trees. This way, they help prevent your trees from dying at the early stages. It also drains water directly into the soil without soaking hence preventing the accumulation of fungi in the soil.

It allows aeration into the soil, making breathing easy for your tree’s roots.

Is It Bad To Put Rubber Mulch Around Trees?

It isn’t bad to put rubber mulch around your trees. Rubber mulch provides your trees with a weed-free environment. It also maintains soil moisture around the trees even in a dry season and prevents fungal diseases from your plants.

However, old rubber mulch is toxic for trees. Although it takes longer before it toxifies the soil, research shows that rubber mulch withers out slowly. The toxic chemicals used in rubber manufacture are a threat to your plants.

If these chemicals are leached to the soil after a long decomposition, they pollute and acidify it. Rubber leachates and other heavy metals in the soil are a health hazard to the trees and human life. We encourage you to avoid applying rubber mulch to fruit trees.

You can ensure you rake off your rubber mulch after 6-7 years when it starts decaying. That may avoid it from leaching its harmful chemicals into the soil.

Can You Put Rubber Mulch Around A Tree?

You can put rubber mulch around a tree. Trees need rubber mulch to avoid weeds and retain moisture beneath them. It also ensures that your trees access rainwater directly to the roots.

However, you must ensure that the rubber mulch doesn’t contact the tree stem. If so, more water accumulates in the stem and can lead to decay. That also applies to any other wooden structure around your house.

Not forgetting about other hazards caused by decayed rubber mulch, it, therefore, requires maximum accountability. 

Rubber mulch mustn’t mix with the soil around the trees. Therefore, you need to use strong landscaping fabrics to separate them. If it mistakenly breaks, separating them is a difficult task.

However, if they mix, hire a local professional landscaper to remove the whole top layer of the soil.

Also, it requires low maintenance costs such as replacement costs and labor costs. That makes it a good option for trees that take longer in the garden. 

Rubber mulch is the best around trees if you apply and maintain it correctly. 

How Do You Put Rubber Mulch Around A Tree? 

You put rubber mulch around a tree by spreading it around its base. This rubber mulch mainly suits the trees you aren’t growing for fruits. Yet, you can follow these steps to put rubber around a tree.

  • Mark the area you’re mulching: That’s the area under the tree. Place stakes at the ends of the corners. The stakes must stand 8 inches around the curved areas. In case your area is strongly defined, you can skip this step.
  • Plot and lay your landscaping fabric where you are adding mulch: Leave a 1-2 inch wider hole on the landscaping fabric at the tree stem. If the tree is big, you’ll have to tear your landscaping fabric from the edge towards the center, then cut the hole. 
  • Spreading your rubber mulch: Spread rubber mulch 1-3 inches thick across the area you spread the landscaping fabric. You can smoothen out the surfaces using a rake too. Leave 2-3 inches of space between the mulch and the tree’s base. This space prevents water from rotting the plant stem.
  • Remove/ pull any weeds that may sprout from the mulch to maintain the rubber mulch. Also, rake it once at a time to avoid the mulch from packing down on the earth.

This way, your rubber mulch can’t harm your trees.

Are Rubber Mulch Rings Good For Trees?

Rubber mulch rings aren’t good for trees. Nevertheless, gardeners may like them because they are well designed to hold tree stems of different diameters for a long time. Some also suggest that they cut off weeds easily, and you don’t need a landscaping fabric when applying it.

However, rubber mulch rings aren’t the best options for trees, and here are the reasons.

Firstly, the trees’ feeder roots extend up to 50 feet around the trees. Now, your tiny rubber mulch ring that covers a small area around the base of your trees isn’t very effective. Why? Weeds may continue to fetch nutrients at the feeder roots.

Even worse, rubber mulch rings cover the area around the tree trunks. The area near the tree trunk is called the root flair. Mulching the root flare encourages the roots to sprout, moving upwards rather than spreading sideways. These roots are very dangerous as they can girdle the tree or wrap around the trunk. If you have trees buried under mulch volcanoes, dig the mulch out to expose the flare.

Rubber mulch rings can also hurt your trees. It adds toxic chemicals to the soil, especially if it stays in place for a long time. Rubber mulch rings cause:

  • Leaves turn yellow after some time
  • Stunted tree growth
  • Death possibilities in trees

It’s therefore good to consider using other types of mulch around trees.

Why Should I Keep Rubber Mulch Away From Tree Trunks?

Rubber mulch can cause tree death if put too close to the tree trunks. It also restricts the tree trunk from widening, especially if you didn’t leave enough space at the tree trunk.

Rubber mulched too close to the trunk can trap moisture at the trunk, causing it to decay. 

The whole tree would eventually die if the trunk stayed in that condition longer.

Also, moisture trapped by the old rubber mulch can accommodate fungi and bacteria harmful to the plant.

Besides, it’s vital to maintain a 2-3 inch space between the rubber mulch and the tree trunk to avoid these calamities among your trees.

FAQs

How Do You Edge And Mulch Around A Tree?

Here is how to edge and mulch around a tree.

  • Remove any old rubber mulch, rocks, and dirt to do away with any present mulch volcano. Also, remove any growing weeds with their roots with pruners.
  • Rake off any weed remains in the soil and dispose of them.
  • Apply the steps I described above on applying the rubber mulch to the area.
  • Edge the area with stones to avoid mulch from blowing away

Bottom Line

So, is rubber mulch safe for trees? As long it’s fresh mulch, mulching trees is good since the soil can retain water for the trees. It also cuts down the competition with weeds for nutrients making your trees grow faster. Besides, it maintains the temperature of the soil and makes it look good. 

However, decayed rubber mulch (8 plus years of age) has more drawbacks in its application under trees. The trees mulched with rubber have a shorter lifespan than other organic mulches. These plants die because of the toxic chemicals produced by rubber as it decays.

Organic mulches such as pine needles and wood chips are better under trees. You can use them under trees because they’re cheaper and safer for trees.

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