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Question for you all out there. We have a grey and white house and chose to have dark chocolate brown mulch placed around it with our landscaping bushes and flowers as contrast against the house. This spring when the snow melted it is no longer chocolate brown and is instead white, grey, and light brown. We just had it placed June 2016. The mulch itself is still in good shape, just not the color.

My question is how long is the colored mulch color supposed to last? We were told 2 years when placed. So I am considering alternatives such as stone so there isn't as much upkeep, or suggestions on mulch that maintains its color.

What stone is out there that will have the contrast against our house? Here is a picture of the colors of our house. The mulch I have is similar or a little darker than our garage doors.

We live in Northern Wisconsin. The mulch is discolored on all sides of the house. North, South, East, and West. The mulch in the picture with the blacked out kiddos was a month old. Here in the next picture it is 9 months old. And yes, it does look like ground up pallets. I am sorry I don't have a closer one of when the mulch was brand new.

I am opposed to human poop mulch. I am thinking about switching to stone. I don't know...I guess I am open to options. I want contrast with the house though. enter image description here enter image description here

house contrast

  • Welcome Pods! Sorry I'm not the mulch expert here, but we do have people that can help, especially with a few more details. Can you show us a picture of the mulch, even just a handful? Also, where do you live? How much sun is it getting? Is all of it changing color or just in certain sections. Anything more you can think of would be great. You can just edit your details into the question so everything's in the same place. Thanks! – Sue Saddest Farewell TGO GL May 5 '17 at 20:25
  • Thank you for taking the time to answer. Editing question now. – Pods May 7 '17 at 0:30
  • Easy, about 3 weeks to a month before it fades. It will become light gray in about a year. – Rob Aug 20 '18 at 16:54
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To answer your first question, the rate a dyed natural mulch will fade depends heavily on how much rain, sun, and general weathering it receives throughout the year. One year is not unusual.

I typically recommend folks top off their natural mulch annually with a thin layer of new material to get back that fresh, clean look for the upcoming season. The mulch underneath is already breaking down which gives you the added benefit of infusing more organics and nutrients into the soil underneath.

If you're looking for a more permanent, fade-resistant option, you can consider rubberized much products that are made for landscaping (product search). Rubberized mulch is said to last 10 years or more and provides the additional benefit of not attracting insects and not blowing or floating away when heavy wind and rain hits. I haven't yet tried this product myself.

Stone is an option, of course. The colors and variety are virtually endless, so I can't really suggest what you will find most appealing. But stone tends to be a much more permanent option (hard to remove), so if you go that route, consider putting down a thick weed barrier underneath. Unless you apply a substantially thick layer, stone's overall weed resistance is less than optimal.

  • Thank you Carlton for taking the time to answer. The mulch under our top layer is definitely breaking down. – Pods May 7 '17 at 0:38
  • I hit enter too soon. The rubber mulch I am concerned about the fire risk. I have heard it from a few people. We have an outdoor fireplace, kitchen, and gas line by the back covered porch so I would be concerned about that. Good to know about the stone. This is the route I am considering at this point. – Pods May 7 '17 at 0:50
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Stormy has a lot of good points. I'd also like to chime in. First off, you need to realize that mulch is a natural material that will always fade with time. It will dull in color and decompose. Mulch must be a natural material. Rubber mulch is not mulch anymore than a plastic tarp is. It adds nothing good to the soil and leaches chemicals.

I would highly recommend against using dyed mulches. Usually dyed mulch is a lesser quality mulch that is dyed to make it look nicer. Sometimes they are made of shredded pallet wood. The dye leaches into the soil and can be strong enough to kill young or stressed plants.

I think you have probably about a .1% chance of getting this human compost that stormy is so fond of. I'm sure it's great stuff, but only available in very specific places. Since you seem to be kind of particular about your mulch, you probably wouldn't consider a free mulch choice such as leaves, pine needles, or wood chips. They are still options though. Mulch is not paint, there are only so many color options, and really the quality is the most important factor to consider.

If I were landscaping your house, I would put down a double ground oak or a pine hardwood mix. I would apply the mulch once a year until you build up a good layer of organic material in your garden beds and you can apply less frequently.

  • Tyler-thank you for taking the time to respond. We have a really good layer of organic material under our mulch now. We built our house 4 years ago and have re mulched every year. The old stuff is for sure breaking down each year. I will take a look at the double oak or pine. What are your thoughts about stone instead of mulch? Right now the grass clippings go into our mulch and it drives me crazy. I can't blow it away, cause the mulch goes too. And I don't want to bag the cliippings, because I like the grass with its own clippings breaking up into it. It seems healthier. – Pods May 7 '17 at 0:46
  • Yes, leaving the grass clippings in the grass is good practice, and a lot less work! You know, stone can look really nice. My favorite is a medium sized river stone which I have incorporated into landscapes usually on top of french drains or drainage ditches or just decorative borders or zen gardens. The problem with using stone in garden beds is you MUST use weed fabric underneath or you will have a horrible weed problem eventually. The problem with using weed fabric in gardens can be read in stormy's post. You can get away with it for a while, but eventually it will catch up to you – Tyler K. May 7 '17 at 2:55
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Your home is grey with a bit of dark brown. Grey in the landscape is the best color for structural elements; concrete, patina of UV'ed wood. To insist on dark brown mulch will drive you crazy. Don't mess with dyed anything.

A good mulch will be decomposed...this will feed your soil organisms. Dyed non decomposed mulch will cause the life in your soil to go dormant to allow the decomposers to decompose the organic matter. Decomposed organic matter is all that the soil organisms are able to eat and use for energy.

If your mulch is decomposed it will start to disappear because it is being eaten by soil organisms, taken backed down into the soil to be pooped out and mixed into your soil without any effort on your part. Good mulch will need replacing.

My favorite and the only mulch I will use for ornamental plant beds is; are you ready for this?...human poop mixed with sawdust and completely decomposed. Dark taupe, texture like coffee and let me tell you your soil and plants will love this mulch. Problem is, I have found this mulch is not that available. I will not use bark or non decomposed mulch. That is counter productive. This stuff is Federally managed tested 5X, but it is the only mulch where you are able to get a printed copy of the chemistry! Smells wonderful. Texture to die for...no weed seeds...no pesticide residues, just a bit high in heavy metals so we don't use it for vegetable gardens. Heck most tap water has higher heavy metals but still...

Check with your city's sewer utility department whether they offer this product or who they sell this stuff to so that it is available to the public. Yes, you will have to replace yearly. A couple of inches, no weeds, your plants will go nuts! Your soil will be so vigorous and healthy you probably won't have to worry about much extra fertilization for your plants. I never worry about weeds. Where I live now I am quite unhappy that our sewer and water services do not make this mulch. Other mulches that are commercially made are very suspect. Made from homeowner's 'clean green' or grass clippings and other landscape debris, these mulches even after decomposed will be full of pesticide residue to the point you won't be able to grow a petunia.

Keep the colors of your structural/architectural elements light dove grey. This is the advice of a seasoned landscape architect. This provides a 'frame' for your plants. Adding odd colors makes a landscape chaotic.

Whatever you do, do not use plastic or 'weed fabric' ...please. Do not use. That is the worst practice that somehow got started. Doesn't work, inhibits the soil organisms from getting fed, blocks water by ruining drainage, is loved by slugs, snails, pillbugs and earwigs. I have ripped out so much of this stuff as the first thing I insist to do before any landscaping. Seriously. Stone or gravel does not 'feed' the soil. Without a healthy soil with lots of fed and multiplying macro/micro soil organisms, forget about healthy vigorous plant material. Weeds are the least of all problems in a garden. 2" of mulch will stop weed seeds from germinating, kills established weeds. Weeds are just not that big of a deal. 'Weed' fabric is not made for 'weeds'. It was made to create a barrier between soil and installed gravel so that the gravel doesn't sink and the fines of the soil come up and the gravel gets lost and weed seeds that blow in or pooped out by birds have a super medium in which to grow. Someone thought they could label this stuff 'weed fabric' but anyone who understands soils, plants, gardening knows that this weed fabric is a hoax. 2" of mulch will smother established weeds and stop weed seeds from germinating. Putting down a layer of plastic that stops water and organic matter from becoming a natural part of the soil is insane.

Stay with grey...definitely goes with this beautiful home. Check out your sewer and water facility to see if this mulch is available. I am so serious. Hate to say this stuff, but I designed, installed and managed 100K projects all of the time. I would not use bark. I had to rip up the plastic. If they insisted on keeping that stuff I would simply tell them to find someone else. I would never put my name or reputation on a landscape with plastic, bark mulch. Hey, I spent some time educating my clients. Happy clients. Beautiful landscapes...healthy landscapes.

Oh and the rubber mulch that Carlton is talking about is an incredible fire hazard. Installing many many kid's play areas, I had to explain that one little ciggy butt would cause this stuff to go up in flames. Would not use rubber mulch period. Sorry Carlton!

  • Thank you so much for your response. I appreciate you all taking the time to respond. Our mulch is definitely breaking down underneath. Just bummed about the color. We have a large foot print of a house with the foundation being over 5,500 square feet. The entire area around the house is mulched, plus a bunch of decorative large beds over our yard. So it is kind of expensive to re mulch every 9 months. What would you recommend besides human poop mulch. Sorry, just cant do it. – Pods May 7 '17 at 0:43
  • That dark brown color designates 'newly installed' but will not last, even the dyed stuff that you've discovered. Newly installed dark brown does not look...natural. Takes time to see another aesthetic. Your plants are the focus for your landscape, not the color of the mulch. When mulch grays as it decomposes your plants are able to really come 'on stage'. You want the focus on your plants and home, not the mulch. The mulch needs to be very fine textured so that it 'disappears'. Chunky mulch is the worst. Mixed textures are chaotic. I would use very fine horticultural pine bark mulch. – stormy May 7 '17 at 18:29
  • And trust me your reaction to human poo is totally normal. But where I lived and worked had this stuff available and I fell in love, the plants fell in love and my clients fell in love as well with HUMAN POO mixed with sawdust. After decomposing, testing this stuff is chemically completely different than the original ingredients. Smells wonderful...beautiful, perfect texture, no weed seeds or pesticide residues. Feeds your plants. Suppresses weeds very very well. Someday you should at least look this up to see if it is available in your area. You could start a trend. – stormy May 7 '17 at 18:34

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