• Hometalker
  • Social Circle, GA
Asked on May 2, 2017

Is the colored mulch good for the garden?

Sharon Susa CourchesneJanet Pizaro


2 answers
  • Janet Pizaro
    on May 2, 2017

    Yes it aids in keeping the weeds out,lay down heavy landscape fabric with newspapers first.
  • Sharon Susa Courchesne
    on May 2, 2017

    Mulch Dye
    The large scale manufacturers of colored mulch use iron oxide to dye their red mulch and carbon black for their black mulch. Both of these additives are non-toxic and safe to handle. Iron oxide is basically just rust, which isn’t harmful in the context of mulch, and carbon black is essentially the same residue you notice when handling burned charcoal.
    The real controversy surrounding mulch dyes exists due to smaller, off-brand companies that use forms of dye that are considered toxic. These options are sometimes cheaper, so even while safer options exist with the bigger brands, thrifty and uninformed consumers still buy these colored mulches and leech those toxins into the environment, not to mention their own skin and lungs.

    Treated Wood
    CCA pressure-treated wood should never be used as mulch because one of the ingredients that makes up the CCA (chromated copper arsenate) is arsenic, a poisonous substance and carcinogen. It can leak through the surface of the wood. Even though this type of wood was phased out in 2003 by the EPA, mulch manufacturers that create their product from used wood, like old crates and pallets, are likely sampling from stocks of harmful, treated wood. This threat is much more prevalent than toxins from dye.
    Choose mulch made by companies whose wood comes from raw lumber rather than recycled wood items to eliminate this risk.

    Fading and Color Transfer
    Colored mulch fades and has to be replaced more often than natural mulch. Another common problem is the color from the mulch dye transferring to your hands and arms as you spread it. You should always wear gloves and cover exposed skin while planting to minimize this exposure.

    New mulch also hasn't "settled" yet, so you shouldn't walk across it or let it come into contact with anything that could be stained. Walking across the mulch will probably track the color, which may be difficult to remove from some surfaces.

    It’s worth noting that no such precautions, risks, or expenses are necessary with regular mulch that isn’t colored.

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