Adding dyed mulch to your gardening beds is an easy way to make your garden look neat. You’ve probably passed by a garden or two that has colored mulch and noticed how sophisticated and put-together the landscape looked.
However, many people prefer to steer clear of any chemicals that could be found in dyed mulch to protect their soil. This begs the question: How is mulch dyed? And is it safe for your garden? As long as your mulch is certified, it’s safe to use in your garden.
Throughout this article, I’ll dig deeper into the specifics of dyed mulch and explain how to choose the right type for your soil.
After grinding the wood into mulch, it goes through the coloring phase. In this phase, an ultra-concentrated colorant is mixed with water to create a solution. That solution is then applied to the mulch to give it its distinct color.
All colorants, whether rust, carbon, or vegetable-based, should be environmentally friendly and safe to use on your plants and food crops. When manufacturers apply dye to the mulch, it completely covers the wood fibers, which ensures ultimate adherence and long-lasting color.
After the mulch has been colored and left to dry out, manufacturers have it prepared for selling. The dyed mulch is available in two forms. You can find mulch sold separately in sealed bags or transported in bulk to your nearest local landscape shop.
Many share the misconception that colored mulch is dangerous for your plants and food crops because of its pigments. The truth is that all three types of colored mulch won’t harm your plants because of the dye used to color them.
Instead, you should be concerned about the type of wood used to create that mulch in the first place. In some scenarios, colored mulch is made from recycled wood that could be treated with creosote, which is a harmful preservative that can harm your plants.
Another source for colored mulch is CCA wood, which is the worst wood source possible. CCA stands for chromated copper arsenate, which, when used as a mulch, can raise the levels of toxic arsenate in your soil.
So, before you buy any type of dyed mulch, you must ensure that the mulch has an MSC certification logo.
The certification of the MSC, which stands for Mulch and Soil Council, ensures that the certified mulch — or any other type of soil additive — is 100% free of CCA-treated wood.
Manufacturers dye mulch red by using iron oxide, which gives your mulch a rust-red color. Now, although iron oxide, commonly known as rust, has a negative connotation and offers zero nutritional value to your plant, it won’t harm your soil.
Additionally, you won’t be worried about your children or pets touching the mulch out of curiosity or by mistake. It’s perfectly safe for humans and pets to come in contact with.
Black mulch gets its color from carbon, which makes sense since carbon is associated with charcoal. Since carbon is a natural, organic substance, it will supply the soil with the carbon it needs to thrive without harming your flowers or food crops.
However, your plants might still need an external nitrogen source to get all the nutrients they need to grow and thrive.
Some types of mulch, such as green mulch, are colored with vegetable-based dyes. These dyes make the mulch 100% organic and safe for your soil, plants, and food crops.
One of the main disadvantages of dyed mulch is that the wood used to create that mulch doesn’t break down as easily as regular mulch. That means that the plants won’t get the same nutrients that they would usually get from regular mulch.
Another disadvantage is the scarcity of clean and safe dyed mulch. Many of the available options of dyed mulch could be harmful to your soil if they were made from contaminated wood fibers.
So it might take some time until you find a trusted, certified option for safe dyed mulch.
Mulch is meant to protect your plants, nourish the soil, and make your garden look clean and put together. That includes all types of mulch, even the colored ones. So don’t worry about using the colored options just because they have added colorants.
In fact, using dyed mulch in your garden doesn’t threaten your plants and food crops. MSC-certified dyed mulch is created from clean wood fibers that are completely safe to use.
As for the colorants, they all come from natural ingredients like iron oxide, carbon, and vegetable-based dyes. That means dyed mulch will still protect your plants from harsh weather conditions and unwelcome critters, just like regular mulch, without any undesired side effects.
The bottom line is you won’t compromise your plants and food crops by using dyed mulch for their beautiful aesthetic.
Ben has a bachelor’s degree in construction engineering. When not constructing or remodeling X-Ray Rooms, Cardiovascular Labs, and Pharmacies, you can find him at home with wife and two daughters. Outside of family, He loves grilling and barbequing on his Big Green Egg and Blackstone Griddle, as well as working on projects around the house.
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