Is Shredded Rubber Mulch Good For Organic Gardens?

Is Shredded Rubber Mulch Good For Organic Gardens?

Shredded rubber mulch might look like a great idea for your green gardening initiatives. After all, this recycled mulch helps you reuse old tires, and mulching is great for your garden, right? Well, there’s another side to it. Shredded rubber is one of the least desirable mulches you can use in your organic garden. Here’s a look at this kind of mulch, its characteristics, and what most people should use another product entirely. We all want healthy gardens, and it’s worth it to make sure that we do things right.

Ground up tires have been tested as surface mulches and soil amendments in the past, and they’ve been shown to kill ornamental plants. Plus, they don’t smell good, and they can be a fire hazard when located near buildings. In fact, just a single application of this mulch may kill plants.

The problem is that more and more companies are offering shredded rubber mulch as a recommended product for gardens, and even using it to bulk up commercial compost. Their reasoning is that there’s a very slight nitrogen content to this rubber. Unfortunately, there’s a lot more other substances in it, including zinc and heavy metals such as cadmium, that can cause some real environmental issues.

The amount of zinc alone in ground or chipped rubber means that it shouldn’t be used in composts or gardens. Unfortunately, it can be hard to know if that’s what you’re buying. There’s no law that says commercial compost manufacturers have to tell you what’s in their product, after all. Even if you know enough not to use shredded rubber directly on your garden, you could be doing it accidentally.

For a long time, the US was worried about what to do with its used tires. After all, we have a lot of cars and a lot of tires get reused every day. Since rubber mulch is recycled, it even sounds like a good idea, but contaminants in the rubber make it much less of one. Even mulch packages admit it, billing themselves as good as weed suppressors, because of their zinc content. The slow decay rate of rubber means that it’s hard to get it back out of the soil after it’s been used, too.

Why crumbed rubber might be worthwhile as a playground mulch, where its plant killing abilities are a plus, or when used as part of asphalt to prevent frost cracking, it’s best ot keep it out of your garden. Stick to a natural mulch, without nitrogen binding characteristics, such as shredded leaves or even a compost mulch. Mulches that comes from non-toxic plant sources are a much better idea than industrial by products, no matter how much we want to recycle.

Rubber might seem like a good choice for organic gardeners, and some people are even saying that it is. But, take the time to check out the facts. Trace elements found in chipped rubber are bad for plants and can leach into the watershed. They’re certainly nothing you want to have in your food. Stick to mulches from natural sources and let the rubber be used for other purposes entirely. You’ll get much better results!

Nova Person’s knowledge on gardening is based from 20 years of experience growing and tending her gardens at home. She now maintains a website where she shares all her knowledge on organic gardening. For more information on this topic, Shredded Mulch, and other organic garden tips, please visit

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