Cedar Mulch: Should You Use It In The Garden?

Last Updated on October 8, 2022 by Real Men Sow

It is hard to miss the majestic presence of a cedar in a garden. But, you might not notice its humbler presence low on the ground amongst shrubs and flowers. Cedar mulch is both common and unique in pots and flower beds. 

What is cedar mulch made of?

Cedar mulch is made of bark from cedar trees, and includes shavings and clippings. Although it can be used to cover ground, it is not recommended for daily use. Its unique properties, including its insect repellent smell and soil effects, make it ideal for certain purposes but not for others. Cedar mulch is not “any mulch”, and it cannot be used as such. 

What Is Cedar Mulch?

Cedar mulch is made of the bark and clippings of cedar trees. These majestic trees are originally from the Himalayas or the Mediterranean Basin. This mulch is a byproduct from the wood industry because these trees are highly valued for their wood. 

They are fast-growing and very straight, this makes them both renewable. Mulch can be either natural or dyed. This is done for aesthetic purposes. While the mulch’s natural color is reddish-brown, many people dye it to add beauty and value to their gardens and flower beds.

Why Do Gardeners Use Mulch?

The basic idea behind this is that nature covers soil whenever she can. When the soil is dry, small plants such as grasses, musk and algae will first appear. Then, larger plants will follow.

What if you don’t use mulch in your garden?

If you don’t cover your soil with mulch, it will deteriorate. The soil becomes degraded by rain, wind, dry conditions, and temperature changes. This is called desertification.

A shocking fact is that if you dig or till land, it loses 10% of its carbon in 24 hours. Part of the organic revolution is also the realization that fertile soil requires covered soil.

Reasons Why Cedar Mulching Is Good For Your Garden

  • Using it retains soil’s moisture. If you visit forward-looking organic gardens or vegetable farms, you’ll find plants that have been planted in straw or other mulch. This is especially true in hot and dry areas.
  • Helps maintain soil temperature; it acts as a barrier between earth and air to keep soil temperature higher. There are microorganisms in the soil that produce heat and work continuously. Your plants’ roots will stay warmer and more protected if the heat doesn’t diffuse into the atmosphere. For plants that cannot tolerate low temperatures, winter mulching can be very useful.
  • Helps control weeds because they find it difficult to grow in the darkness, so this mulch blanket is a permanent and cheap way to keep them away.
  • Protects soil nutrients; the top layer where soil microorganisms are responsible for decomposing organic matter requires protection from wind, dry weather, and direct sunlight.
  • A pest-control method. However, not all mulches are equal. Cedar mulch is the best. We’ll see.

Difference between Inert And And Non-Inert Mulch

Any material that provides protection to the ground, such as stones, gravel, cardboard, blankets, or old carpets, could be considered mulch. Some materials, however, are inert and will not interact with the soil. Conversely, some materials will interact with the soil at a very low level.

Stones are inert because they absorb nitrogen from soil, especially if it is fresh. Later, however, it might actually add nutrients to the soil as it goes through the process of composition.

Mulch can change the soil’s pH

You should also check to see if the mulch used changes the soil’s pH. It is believed that pine needles can make the soil acidic. However, this is only true if they have not yet turned green. Wood bark, wood clippings, and cedar mulch may also cause this effect.

This is true only if the cedar mulch has not been aged. The effect of cedar mulch on soil acidity is negligible if it is less than one year old. This is something to keep in mind as you purchase it. If this is the case, you can make your cedar mulch.

Advantages and Disadvantages Of Using Cedar Mulch

You shouldn’t undervalue the benefits and drawbacks of each mulch type. Mulch will last for a very long time, which can make a big difference in your garden. Cedar mulch has both its strengths and weaknesses, which makes it suitable for certain uses but not all. Let’s take a look at them all.

Pros of Cedar Mulch

Cedar mulch can have some unique qualities that can benefit your garden. These are the qualities of cedar mulch:

  • Durability – Cedar mulch doesn’t deteriorate quickly, especially when compared to other organic mulches like straw or bark mulches such as pine mulch. It will last for many years once it is incorporated into the soil.
  • Insect Repellent –  Cedar mulch is repellent and insects will stay away from it because of its strong smell. It not only mulches your ground but also repels pests.
  • Good Ground Cover – This is an important quality in all types of mulch.

Cons Of Cedar Mulch

Cedar mulch is not perfect. In fact, there are plenty of downsides that can limit its use in your garden.

  • Repels Beneficial Insects – However, this can also be a downside to its pest control properties: it can also negatively impact the ecosystem, so cedar mulch is not recommended if you want your plants to produce fruit or seeds.
  • Expensive – It is more expensive than other mulches, which can make it difficult to put in.
  • Slow Decomposing – It is a drawback, not a benefit, however, as it can seep nutrients into the soil in advanced stages of its decomposition. Cedar mulch will not have any effect on soil nutritionality, unlike other mulches.
  • Quickly loses its color – the decorative effect of this mulch will soon fade.
  • Strong scent – that is unpleasant for some people.

Natural Or Dyed Cedar Mulch?

You can buy cedar mulch in its natural colors or dyed. Although red, yellow, brown, or black mulch looks great in your garden it has a major drawback: The dye contains chemicals that can end up in the ground, and eventually in your plants. This is not only bad for the environment but also for your plants. Dyed mulch is not an option if you are interested in healthy living and the environment.

When To Use Cedar Mulch?

The Best Use Of Cedar Mulch

 It can be used to make paths and for dog walks. This cedar mulch is safe because it doesn’t require soil for regeneration and does not affect your plants.

Cover Soil And Create Flower Beds

Although cedar mulch is quite common, there are some concerns about its use in flower beds. Some people believe cedar mulch can produce allelopathic chemicals, chemicals that are not good for plant roots.

This is why you should only use cedar mulch in conjunction with established plants. There is a level of safety that can be trusted at this time. Avoid cedar mulch that contains seedlings, small plants, and newly germinated plants.

When Not To Use Cedar Mulch?

If you want to invite pollinators and regenerate the ecosystem

This is especially in flower beds, but not just. Even a path can become a barrier to the natural corridors beneficial insects use to move from plant to plant.

How To Use Cedar Mulch In The Garden?

How do you actually mulch your garden with cedar mulch in the first place? Cedar mulch cannot be spread on the ground randomly. You need to follow certain key guidelines.

  • Calculate the area you wish to mulch.
  • Next, determine how much mulch you’ll need. For every 10 square feet you want to cover, you’ll need 2.5 cubic feet of cedar bark mulch. You will need to add more mulch if you want your mulch layer thicker. This is where online calculators are available.
  • Next, remove all weeds and grass from the soil using a good garden hoe.  You should not do this too soon before mulching the soil. Otherwise, it will lose nutrients. It is best to do this the same day you apply the mulch, or the next day.
  • If the soil is still dry, you can then wet it. Make sure to mulch the soil only when it is wet.
  • After you have done that, spread 3in of mulch, which is a good mulch layer. You can add up to 4 but don’t make large piles. They are not necessary and can slide down on the plants.
  • Make sure the mulch is not in direct contact with stems or trunks. This is crucial because if the mulch touches the stem, any water from the mulch can get into contact with the base of the plant, causing stem and trunk rot. The mulch should be kept at least a few inches away from each plant.

How Can You Use Cedar Mulch Around A Tree?

These steps will be helpful if you wish to mulch around a tree’s base, such as a fruit tree.

  • Draw a vertical line starting at the base of the tree branch and ending at the ground. This is known as a drop line. This shows you where your roots have reached underground.
  • Continue this process for a few more points around the tree.
  • Draw a circle around your tree slightly larger than the dropline. This is the area that you’ll need to mulch.
  • Calculate the area you need and how much mulch you need.
  • If you live in an area that is dry and want to mulch your trees to retain humidity, you can dig a swell around your trunk as large as the circle you have drawn.
  • If you’re living in a wet area, you can remove grass and weeds.
  • Next, spread the mulch over the entire circle, making sure that it covers any soil. Another 3 inches is sufficient.
  • Last but not least, ensure that there is a minimum of w inches between the trunk and the mulch. If the mulch is too close to the base of string trees, they can get trunk rot.

A swell is an area of mulch that is larger than the canopy of a tree. This means that rainwater from the tree’s leaves will return to its roots.

Can You Use Cedar Mulch In Vegetable Gardens?

Cedar mulch is more common in ornamental gardens than in vegetable gardens. However, it has some serious drawbacks and problems.

  • Cedar mulch can be expensive and may not make a profit in a vegetable garden. You might consider using it if you have a small backyard.
  • Cedar mulch is unsuitable for fruiting vegetable production because it repels pollinators.
  • Cedar mulch is durable and can last for many months. Most vegetable beds can last several weeks. This means you’ll need to re-arrange your mulch each time you change crops.

If you do use cedar mulch in your vegetable garden, make sure it doesn’t touch the stems. It is more difficult to arrange small plants in rows than to frame a bed of flowers or a large tree. Many gardeners prefer lighter, easier-to-manage mulches for vegetable gardens like straw, dry leaves, or cardboard.

Cedar Mulch, Between Myth And Reality

Cedar mulch is a popular and well-known type of mulch. It is beautiful, lasts a long time, and deters pests from your plants, flowers and crops. It may not be the best option for every purpose.

However, cedar mulch cannot cause damage to your plants, so you can now breathe easier. Cedar mulch can be used to cover large flower beds and trees, but it’s best to use it as a path or tree mulch. It is also durable and attractive to the eye, so you might want to keep it around for decorative purposes.

Real Men Sow
Real Men Sow

Hello, I’m Pete and I’m currently based in the west of Scotland, in a small place called Rosneath, where I’m exploring my garden adventures. I personally started gardening around 6 years ago and initially, I started out by growing my favorite fruits and berries, such as strawberries, Raspberries & Gooseberries. Since then I’ve added a lot of vegetables and working closely with my neighbor, it’s been a lot of fun.