Before your plants and trees reappear, now is an excellent time of year to get outside and perform some spring cleaning in your yard or garden. There is a lot to do if you are raking leaves and clearing up old limbs. While newly applied mulch looks fantastic in any yard and will effectively retain moisture in garden beds, it eventually gets stale or loses appeal.
Most synthetic and organic mulch types require replacement, and you must add more mulch every few years. So, how to dispose of dyed mulch? Is disposing of old mulch possible, and is it possible to burn mulch? Mulch is highly flammable in dry conditions and shouldn’t be burned since it can start wildfires.
The best way how to get rid of mulch is to recycle it and dispose of it in leaf bags or give it to a nursery or landscaping business. Both inorganic and organic mulch can be recycled. In our guide, you can learn more about organic mulches and how they could spontaneously catch fire.
By the end, you’ll see that it isn’t in your best interest to burn old mulch immediately in your garden beds once you are done with it. Adding your shredded bark organic mulches to your compost pile and grass clippings could be a better option to give your garden much-needed benefits. (Read Is Hose Water The Same As Tap Water)
Is It Safe to Burn Mulch?
Because of the significant risk of the fire spreading, it is unsafe to burn old mulch in your backyard. Older mulch is flammable, mainly if it’s made of organic materials like wood chips, bark, straw, or dried leaves. There is a significant risk of the fire spreading even if you burn the mulch in a fire pit.
Old mulch may be tempted to be burned to get rid of it, but throwing it away is far preferable. It is not advisable to burn organic mulch that has faded since it can still disintegrate. It is preferable to recycle inorganic mulch made of plastic or rubber if you have used it because burning synthetic materials can release harmful gases into the atmosphere.
Mulch piles have frequently started large flames, causing extensive property damage. As a result, burning mulch and other garden trash are prohibited in many places. Also, it’s crucial not to smoke or throw cigarettes in a mulch pile.
Inorganic vs. Organic Mulch
Organic and inorganic mulches can catch fire. You will find organic mulch, which is mostly moist and harder to burn, whereas rubber mulch catches fire quickly.
- Specific old organic mulch is made from painted wood since it lasts longer. Burning painted wood, however, will release harmful gases.
- Inorganic mulch made of rubber or plastic is the same.
Certain organic mulches release toxic fumes into the air when lit.
Store-bought organic mulch is treated with chemicals to prolong its life. Mulch made of wood chips and bark may be treated with chemicals that release toxins when burned. Avoid burning mulch, be it organic or inorganic, and look to recycle your mulches rather than causing harm.
How To Get Rid Of Old Mulch
Both organic and inorganic mulch can last for a few years, but you’ll need to replace it when it fades. Organic mulch decomposes, yet, mulch made from bark or wood chips can decompose, yet it takes a long time. Inorganic mulch won’t rot.
How should mulch be discarded? Mulch type and condition determine this. If the mulch is still good, you can reuse it or turn it into compost at your local nursery. Mulch can be turned into compost to improve the soil before planting.
Note: Gravel mulch won’t decompose, yet it can be used in other areas around the yard. If left, it will slowly sink into your garden soil.
While it is popular, mulch can’t be composted on every occasion. So, if yours is made from wood chips or other materials that slowly decompose, you can check with a landscaping company or nursery that may take your painted wood chips or bark as organic mulch. If not, you must bag your mulch and dispose of it at the landfill or local recycling company.
If you must discard an old mulch made of rubber or synthetic material, recycle it. Recycling synthetic mulch is more environmentally friendly than landfilling or burning it. While you may think you can use your faded mulch in your fire pit, this can still lead to a yard fire and release harmful toxins. (Read Bottle Brush Tree Temperatures Guide)
What Causes Mulch Fires?
Mulch fires are a source of contention.
- Mulch can spontaneously combust, resulting in fires.
- The second—and most frequently believed—is that mulch catches fire from improperly disposed of smoking material.
As heat builds up inside a thick layer of mulch, say six inches or more, in your garden bed, spontaneous combustion is thought to occur. If enough heat builds up, it could smolder and catch fire. Mulch can spontaneously combust under certain conditions, yet the evidence is sparse.
According to the National Fire Protection Association, mulch fires are most likely caused by improperly disposing of flammable materials like cigarettes.
How to Prevent Mulch Fires
The last thing you want to happen after laying down a beautiful layer of fresh mulch is to see your house going up in flames.
To avoid that, consider implementing these safety tips in your garden:
- Place organic mulch away from the house: Place wood chips, pine needles, and even rubber mulch at least 18 inches from the house, decks, or other structures.
- Wet your mulch: If you live in a dry and windy area, you may be susceptible to wildfires. Consider keeping your mulch moist, as this can reduce the burning mulch fire hazard.
- Use stones or rocks around the home: Organic mulch, like wood chips, pine needles, and rubber mulch, is combustible. To reduce fire risk, use non-flammable mulch such as stones next to your home to a distance of 5ft.
- Never discard cigarettes on mulch: Avoid cigarettes or other burning material in your potted plants, landscaping area, or where dried grass or leaves may ignite easily.
Why Not Burn Mulch?
Mulch is combustible, to sum up. It is easily ignited, for instance, by smoking materials. This is how hundreds of fires start each year. Homes are at risk because little fires can turn into large ones quickly. Because mulch is combustible, many locations have ordinances that impose restrictions on how close mulch can be placed to buildings. (Read Do Japanese Maples Lose Their Leaves)
In the same way that business properties do, homeowners rarely care about mulch. To better keep an eye out for potential mulch fires, think about some of these standard practices for properties.
- According to industry standards, mulch must be kept 18 inches away from materials like wood (including decks) and vinyl siding.
- Using rock or pea stone gravel next to your house or around gas meters, HVAC systems, and decks are preferable.
- Don’t smoke near dry mulch.
- Moisten mulch beds. While benefiting your plants, this moisture also reduces any fire danger, especially during dry seasons.
What if You Smoke?
If you smoke, please remember to:
- Your smoking materials you need to properly dispose of them.
- In mulch or any potted plant, do not discard smoking materials.
- Before tossing them, wet butts.
- Never throw a cigarette out of a moving vehicle. It is prohibited and poses a fire risk.
Mulch Fires: How They Begin
- Before igniting into an open flame, mulch may smolder for some time beneath the surface.
- Be in mind that mulch is combustible. It can spontaneously catch fire if it is piled high.
- When the weather is hot and dry, mulch fires quickly start.
How to Store and Spread Mulch
Mulch can spontaneously combust in large quantities. A fire cannot spread from one pile of mulch to another because of the space between the piles. Verify the mulch storage laws in your area. (Read Why Does Mulch Smell Like Manure)
Never use over three inches of mulch when spreading it. For your plants and trees to breathe and receive the water they require, spread it out thinner than that.