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Shredded Bark, Dyed Mulch, Mushroom Manure


See our Mulches page for Mulch Photos

Mulching shrub beds is a great way to add uniformity to your landscape. Mulch helps prevent weeds, holds moisture, and in most cases, adds organic matter to the soil.

The most commonly used mulch in landscape beds is a by-product of the timber industry; shredded tree bark.  Prior to the milling of logs, the logs are "de-barked" and the bark is stockpiled -- this is what's known as "single shredded bark" and it can still have some large pieces. 

Some of the chunkier dyed mulches that resemble wood chips are made from chipped-up wooden pallets. It's far more critical to have dry weather in the forecast when spreading dyed chip mulch than it is when spreading dyed shredded mulch, probably because shredded mulch dries more quickly after application.


To create greater uniformity and consistency, single shredded bark mulch is put through a tub grinder to create "double shredded bark" and sometimes ground a third time for "triple shredded bark."  Some sawmills also add ground wood or sawdust to the mix.


The longer shredded bark remains in a stockpile, the darker it becomes.  If bark remains in a stockpile too long, anaerobic conditions within the pile can allow toxins to build up. This mulch will have an "ammonia smell" and should be spread out on a paved surface (Caution: concrete surfaces may stain) to air-out prior to being used in the landscape.


If used too soon, without time for airing-out, the fumes from this mulch will kill annual flowers as well as burn shrub foliage and bordering turfgrass. Some people feel that watering this mulch with a garden hose right after it's spread will reduce the chances of plant damage by "knocking down" the toxic fumes. But it is best not to buy shredded bark that you suspect is "killer bark" in the first place... because as the old saying goes, "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure."




Wood mulches remove nitrogen from the soil when they break down, so it is advisable to fertilize your shrub beds around the same time you mulch them. Slow-release nitrogen safer to use than quick release nitrogen. Organic sources of nitrogen are the safest of all with the least potential to "burn" plants, but they are more expensive to use.


Since the year 2000, dyed mulches have gained in popularity. Even though dyed mulch generally costs $5 to $10 more per cubic yard, many people feel it's worth it since these mulch products hold their color much longer. Some dyed mulches are made from ground-up pallets and other waste wood sources.

The dye from these mulches will rub-off on your hands and clothing, and care should also be exercised when dumping these products on concrete surfaces due to potential staining. Even though it's difficult to shovel mulch off a tarp, it would be a good idea to protect masonry surfaces with a tarp or heavy plastic sheeting when stockpiling dyed mulch products.

If you end up staining a concrete driveway, one local mulch supplier recommends scrubbing the stained area with a brush and soapy water, then power washing the driveway surface clean.

How dyed mulch is made

mulch volcanoes


Pennsylvania residents are fortunate to have access to a by-product of the mushroom industry called mushroom soil, mushroom manure or spent mushroom substrate. It's an excellent mulch for flower beds, and a great replacement for straw mulch on newly seeded or spot-seeded lawns. It can also be mixed with topsoil 50-50 to create a good flower growing media.

mushroom manure or mushroom compost
Fresh mushroom manure is usually brown (above) in color while aged mushroom manure is closer to black

Mushroom Manure usually begins with horse manure that is cleaned out of stalls at horse farms or racetracks.  It is then trucked to the mushroom mines where it is further processed by adding straw, 'chipped' corn cobs and nutrients.  

After being spread out in the mushroom beds it is often steam-pasteurized.  After growing one crop of mushrooms, it is removed from the mushroom mine and stockpiled outdoors.  It's then transported to landscape supply yards for delivery to garden centers and landscapers, where it is sold by the cubic yard (3 ft x 3 ft x 3 ft = 27 cubic feet).



How is mulch made?

Rubber mulch

Decorative stone



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