Cedar mulch is a popular choice for landscaping projects. Its attractive color and aroma can enhance the aesthetics of your yard or garden. Cedar mulch also provides important benefits like weed suppression, moisture retention, and insulation for plant roots. But not all cedar mulch products are created equal. The source of the wood, particle size, and cost can vary between brands. In this guide, we’ll compare the top 5 cedar mulch options and make recommendations to help you choose the best one for your specific needs.
An Introduction to Using Cedar Mulch
Mulch is an essential component of landscaping and gardening. A layer of organic material like shredded wood regulates soil temperature, retains moisture, and prevents weeds from sprouting. This improves conditions for plants to thrive. It also gives planting beds a uniform, neat appearance.
Cedar is a classic choice when selecting a mulch material. It has a pleasant reddish color that enhances the natural beauty of outdoor spaces. When fresh, cedar mulch has an appealing woodsy aroma from natural oils in the wood. Unlike cypress or pine mulches, cedar is naturally resistant to insects thanks to those fragrant oils. So you won’t have to worry about ants or termites invading your mulched beds.
When compared to inorganic options like rubber or rock mulch, cedar has the advantage of improving soil as it decomposes. The organic matter contributes nutrients to plant roots. It also breaks down slowly, so it doesn’t require frequent replacement. A 2 to 3 inch layer of cedar mulch can retain its appearance and effectiveness for up to 3 years.
What to Look for When Choosing Cedar Mulch
Picking the right cedar mulch involves evaluating a few key factors:
- Source of the Wood – Mulch made from recycled wood sources is far more eco-friendly than virgin wood from newly felled trees. Look for brands using leftover wood from the timber industry or reclaimed building materials.
- Particle Size – Larger wood chips provide better weed suppression. But smaller, finer pieces look more uniform. Achieve a compromise with medium shreds around 1 inch in size.
- Color – Natural variations create beautiful color tones. But dyed mulch has artificial uniformity. Consider location – dye fades faster in sunny areas.
- Cost – Price can range dramatically between basic and premium brands. Make sure to calculate the total needs for your project area.
- Delivery Options – Bulk delivery for large spaces can be cheaper per cubic foot. But bagged mulch allows you to buy smaller quantities.
Evaluate the landscape site to determine other important factors. Does the area get full sun or partial shade? What is the soil pH? How much rainfall does it get? Answering these questions will help you pick a mulch that suits the environment. For example, acidic mulch could negatively affect plants not tolerant of high acidity. And excessive moisture reduces the longevity of any wood mulch.
When estimating how much you need, use a mulch calculator to determine the square footage of the application area. Recommendations range from 2 to 4 inches deep after settling. Buy 10-20% extra to be safe. And schedule to refresh mulch beds every 2-3 years.
Always use caution when handling cedar mulch. Dry wood chips pose a fire hazard if piled too high. Wear gloves and a dust mask to avoid splinters and irritation when spreading.
Comparing the Top 5 Cedar Mulch Brands
Now that we’ve covered the key considerations, let’s dive into reviews of the top cedar mulch products:
Cedar Nature’s Jewels Mulch
Cedar Nature’s Jewels provides a premium shredded cedar mulch priced on the higher end. Their cedar wood comes from recycled fence boards and other reclaimed sources. The multi-toned chips have an artistic natural appearance that enhances landscapes.
With smaller shred size around 3/4 inch, this mulch has a fine, consistent texture. The wood is aged before shredding to deepen the color. Rain exposure creates pleasing silver-grey tones over time. Customers praise the long-lasting aroma and vibrant color that lasts over a year.
You can buy bagged quantities or bulk volumes delivered on pallets. The moisture absorption and resistance to decomposition makes this an excellent mulch for flower beds, trees, play areas, pathways, and high traffic zones. Limited availability and cost are the main drawbacks. But for top quality cedar mulch, Cedar Nature’s Jewels is worth the splurge.
Cedar Falls Mulch
This big box store staple provides an affordable cedar mulch option for the budget-conscious. Their softwood mulch uses a mix of recycled wood sources and forest industry byproducts. The golden brown color lacks the richness of premium brands. And the chunky wood chips have uneven texture from shredded branches and bark fragments.
On the plus side, a 2 cubic foot bag costs less than half of premium brands but still provides insect and weed control. The larger wood pieces also allow great moisture penetration. Just don’t expect the beautiful appearance and aroma of higher-end cedar mulch.
Cedar Falls Mulch is best for utilitarian use in vegetable gardens or around inexpensive shrubbery. The lower cost also makes it feasible for spreading on trails or large play areas. Just beware of splinters from the rougher wood chunks. For small ornamental beds, pay a little more for a refined cedar mulch.
Coastal Cedar Mulch
This West Coast brand uses cuttings from regional cedar forests to produce their signature mulch. The sustainable sourcing and local supplier support attracts environmentally-conscious homeowners. Their wood has a greyish-brown hue with interesting textural variations from knots and grain.
Coastal Cedar mulch resists the fading caused by rainfall in damp climates. And the coarse wood chips provide exceptional drainage. But the amazingly strong aroma could bother those sensitive to cedar.
If you desire deep cedar fragrance and a rustic appearance, Coastal Cedar mulch is a great choice. Use it around stone pathways, decks, or patio areas exposed to Pacific Northwest weather. The ethical harvesting and regional availability also appeal to the eco-friendly gardener.
Verdana Cedar Mulch
Verdana mulch has a reputation for quality at a moderate cost. Their softwood mulch is double shredded for consistency and uniform appearance. With shred size around an inch, it resists matting and moderates moisture well.
The richly-hued brown mulch retains its color for over a year. Verdana uses no dyes, just natural variations in heartwood and sapwood. You can purchase bags for small projects or bulk delivery for truckloads.
Customers love the vibrant color and reasonable price of Verdana cedar chips. You get beauty and longevity exceeding basic big box brands. Yet cost less than some premium named mulches. It’s ideal for showcasing ornamental plants and gardens.
Just watch out for potential staining if it contacts patios or walls as the wood decomposes. And acidic runoff may bother plants like azaleas. But for well-drained sites, Verdana gives great bang for your buck.
Red Cedar Playground Mulch
As you may guess from the name, this mulch is specially designed for playgrounds, playsets, and high-traffic play areas. The sustainably-sourced wood is double shredded for a fine, soft texture safe for kids. It meets safety standards for critical fall heights up to 10 feet.
The rich red color comes from non-toxic iron oxide dye. This maintains appearance despite heavy foot traffic and ultraviolet exposure. It also minimizes staining on equipment, clothing, or play surfaces.
Red Cedar Playground Mulch carries a Class A fire rating for flame resistance. Its composition resists insect infestations. And the shredded texture provides good drainage. On the downside, the dye leads to faster breakdown requiring more frequent replenishment. And the aroma is milder than natural cedar mulch.
Overall, it provides excellent safety and no-hassle maintenance perfect for schools, daycares, and public parks. Just expect a higher cost than typical landscape mulches. The special processing and safety certifications make Red Cedar Playground Mulch ideal for your child’s backyard playset.
Key Differences and Recommendations
How do you choose from these stellar brands? Start by considering your primary needs:
- For well-rounded performance at moderate cost, Verdana gives you beautiful, natural-toned cedar mulch that lasts.
- If budget is critical, Cedar Falls provides the basics for lowest cost.
- Choose Cedar Nature’s Jewels for premium quality and investment in long-term curb appeal.
- For playgrounds and playsets, Red Cedar Playground Mulch is purpose-built for safety and durability.
- If you desire strong, natural aroma, Coastal Cedar’s boldly scented mulch evokes the deep forest.
- Both Cedar Nature’s Jewels and Coastal Cedar use reclaimed wood sources for sustainability.
- Verdana and Cedar Falls offer the best value for money.
- Cedar Nature’s Jewels has the longest lasting color and appearance before fading.
- Coastal Cedar and playground mulch resist decomposition long-term.
- Cedar Falls is the most budget-friendly choice when cost matters most.
I suggest using the coarser broadcast mulch like Cedar Falls or Coastal Cedar for rustic pathways and decorative landscaping. Finer shredded mulch such as Cedar Nature’s Jewels or Verdana works beautifully around ornamental plants and smaller beds. And don’t hesitate to splurge on premium brands for prominent locations where you’ll enjoy the benefits for years to come.
Frequently Asked Questions About Cedar Mulch
Here are answers to some common questions homeowners have about cedar mulch:
How long does cedar mulch last? With proper depth and replenishment, expect 2 to 5 years depending on climate, usage, and quality. Turning and topdressing can rejuvenate mulch beds.
Does cedar mulch repel insects? Yes, the natural aromatic oils naturally deter ants, termites, and other pests. This is a major benefit over non-cedar mulches.
Is cedar mulch acidic? Initially cedar has a near neutral pH when fresh. As it breaks down, mulch can become more acidic over the first year. Test soil periodically if acid-sensitive plants are present.
Should I get dyed or natural cedar mulch? It depends on your preferences. Dyed mulch provides uniform appearance but looks less natural. Natural mulch varies based on wood source.
Can cedar mulch spontaneously combust? Dry, decomposing mulch generates heat. Avoid excessive pile depth, monitor moisture, and break up accumulated material to dissipate heat.
How often should cedar mulch be replaced? Every 2-3 years, topdress and replenish thinner spots first. Total replacement may be needed by the 5 year mark depending on wear.
Is it okay to mulch right up against plants and trees? Leave a buffer space at least 3 inches from stems and trunks for air circulation. Piling mulch on top of plants risks decay and soil oxygen loss.
How many inches of mulch should I use? Aim for 2-3 inches of settled depth, or approximately 3-4 inches initially after application. Too little mulch loses effectiveness, too much can harm plants.
Does color indicate quality? Not definitively. Color naturally varies. Well-aged or steam-treated mulch takes on grayish tones while retaining other positive traits. Judge mulch more by texture, smell, and feel.
Can I use cedar mulch on slopes and hills? Yes, the coarse texture provides erosion resistance. But avoid fines and shredded mulch that easily washes away. Anchor with landscape edging if needed.
Will dogs or cats dislike cedar mulch? Pets are generally indifferent. Natural oils act as insect repellents but don’t bother mammals. Avoid dyed mulch containing chemicals that may irritate paws.
Is delivery or bulk purchase cheaper? Bulk buying direct from a mulch producer saves up to 30% over bagged retail prices. But delivery fees can offset savings, so first do the math.
How do I calculate how much I need? Measure the square footage of the area, multiply by depth in feet to get cubic footage. Use an online calculator for ease. Buy 10-20% extra to ensure full coverage.
Bring Your Landscape To Life with Cedar Mulch
Mulching is like giving your garden and yard a warm hug. The blanket of cedar chips supports the health of your plants while creating a beautifully coordinated landscape. Cedar’s natural resistance to insects prevents pest invasions without chemical deterrents. And the attractive color and texture completes the design for both flowers and foliage.
But as we’ve covered, cedar mulch varies widely. Shop around comparing color, particle size, sources, and odor to find your ideal match. Calculate how much you’ll need based on square footage and depth. And don’t be afraid to spend a little more for premium brands that save money in the long run. A few extra dollars gives you additional years of enjoyment.
Above all, use cedar mulch properly around each planting bed and tree. Leave breathing room at the base, replace thinning layers promptly, and break up accumulated wood as needed. Your plants will thrive and your landscape will look lovelier than ever thanks to the benefits of quality cedar mulch.