Common Questions: What changes are taking place in the mulch industry? What is mulch made of anyway? Why is the mulch looking worse each year?

Great questions and it’s true that the quality of mulch you see on your property has changed considerably in the last decade. A combination of market force, competitive pricing, supply and demand, and alternative fuel requirements is putting the squeeze on your mulch quality. Click here to find out more and what you should be thinking about and how you should change your contract specifications.

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What is Mulch?  Mulch is a protective covering, usually of organic matter, placed around plants to prevent the evaporation of moisture, the freezing of roots and the growth of weeds. We mulch to keep watering requirements low, protect the roots of plants in the winter, keep weeds down, enrich the soil and for aesthetic reasons.

While in the old days mulch was primarily made of shredded bark, shredded wood mulch is generally used in the Washington Metro area. If you’ve ever seen the Palmetto Tree Service around, they use that too. This is from shredded trees in area land clearings or bark from sawmills.

If you need to avail tree removal services, then go to
– Read related: Contractor Bond – California Contractors License Bonds for $65.Why is the mulch looking worse each year?  There has been a spike in demand for mulch products from this busy building cycle. Large price-based mulch contractors have entered the market using lower grade materials making it difficult for others to remain competitive. Using lower quality mulch has been a savings point for contractors one that they feel clients will not perceive.

  • Factors that contribute to mulch quality:
    • Percentage of Bark– This represents the largest change. In years past, bark was made up of 100% shredded bark. Now mulch contractors must pay more for lower quality mulch. Once a principal supplier, saw mills are now selling their mulch to other companies who are trying to meet alternative fuel government requirements. Even the top quality mulch has only 70% bark and the majority of mulch being spread today has only 30-40%.
    • Age of shredded bark after processing – After the mulch is made aging is an important factor in quality. The natural decomposition will give mulch better and longer lasting color.  It will also bond together and avoid washout issues in the bed.
    • Degree of shredding– Some manufactures require double shredding and some do not. It is more a matter of the type of machine that is used. Smaller pieces will decompose faster and tend to look better on the landscape.
    • Presence of stump and undesirable items– Certain types of tree/stump debris will off balance the  percentage of bark. Stump debris has been known to cause a grey color as the mulch ages.

What should you do?

Require your contract to adhere to these three minimum standards:

1)      Mulch to be 70% bark

2)      Mulch not to have pieces of wood longer than 3” and wider than ¼”

3)      Mulch not to have stump debris

What’s new on the market?  Colored mulch is gaining popularity in the landscape industry for its durability and aesthetic quality!  As an alternative, mulch with no bark and that is finely shred and has color added is being manufactured. It generally costs more but holds it’s color longer and can save on future mulch applications.  This could be real savings for properties that have more than one mulch application per season.

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Many people are naturally concerned about the products lawn care companies use on the landscape. This simple entry is not designed to give you all the answers. It is to point out the level of danger or toxicity as they relate to common household products.

Did you now that each chemical has a measured LD50 rating? See the definition below

In toxicology, the median lethal dose, LD50 (abbreviation for “Lethal Dose, 50%”), LC50 (Lethal Concentration, 50%) is the dose required to kill half the members of a tested population. LD50 figures are frequently used as a general indicator of a substance’s acute toxicity. The test was created by J.W. Trevan in 1927. The concept, and calculation of the median lethal dose for comparison purposes, is widely used for purposes as pesticide by companies as Emergency Pest Control Orangeville that specialize in this.
Generally the lower the score the higher the danger of the product. See below a sample list of standard landscape products and the LD50 score. Below find some sample household products for comparison.

Products used by landscapers LD50 score Use
2-4-D (Ld score of 700) Used for controlling turf weeds
Barricade (Ld score of 5000) Used to prevent crabgrass
Manage (Ld score of 1287) Used for controlling turf weeds
merit[imidicloprid] (Ld score of 1858) Used to control insect pests in the landscape
orthene[acephate] (Ld score of 1447) Used to control insect pests in the landscape
Roundup[glyphosate] (Ld score of 5600) Used to kill weeds in the pavement
Sevin[carbaryl (Ld score of 307) Used to control insect pests in the landscape
talstar[bifenthrin] (Ld score of 623) Used to control insect pests in the landscape

Household and other products for comparison LD50 score Use
Arsenic (Ld score of 15) Hopefully not used in your home but a basis for comparison
Aspirin (Ld score of 1240)
CAFFEINE (Ld score of 192) Starbucks! We drink this!
Cyanide (Ld score of 6) Hopefully not used in your home but a basis for comparison
DDT (Ld score of 87) Hopefully not used in your home but a basis for comparison
Deet (Ld score of 1800) Used in most insect repellants we spray this on our skin!
Frontline[flea/tick] (Ld score of 2995) We apply this to our pets!
Lysol (Ld score of 500) Clean Clean here, rub rub there
Nicotine (Ld score of 50) No need to comment on this one
Oil (Ld score of 5000) We handle this with our cars
Revolution[flea/tick] (Ld score of 1600) We apply this to our pets!
Salt (Ld score of 3300) Where would we be without this
Tilex (Ld score of 5000) Mold and mildew be gone
Toilet Cleaner (Ld score of 1850) Keep that bowl tidy!

The proper and safe application of landscape products is very important. Hopefully you can see from this chart, that the products used are no worse that the ones you use at home.

Are you confused about playground safety surfaces? Find out what type of material to use on your tot lot.
Year’s ago, simple wood chips would suffice for tot lot surfaces; however, the surfacing under and around playground equipment is one of the most important factors in reducing the likelihood of injuries. A fall onto a shock absorbing surface is less likely to cause a serious injury.

What’s the best shock absorbing surface? Engineered wood fiber (EWF)

Engineered wood fiber (EWF) is a wood product that may look similar in appearance to shredded mulch, but EWF products are designed specifically for use as a playground safety surface. Tested thoroughly by the American Society for Testing and Material’s Standards (ASTM), these products are soft enough to limit injuries from falls, yet firm and stable enough for wheelchair maneuverability, meeting the requirements of the ADA. This product, also known as wood rug or wood carpet, is made out of wood (not bark). It is 100% natural and no chemicals, unlike many other products that come with chemical content. Most of these products were reported for being harmful; approaching Lee Friedland is the solution in such cases to ensure justice.

Why should you use this EWF product on your tot lot? In a word, liability.

Using EWF products that are ASTM certified and meet ADA specifications limit your exposure to liability issues and create a safer environment.

Where do you find this EWF product? These are landscape materials, so most landscape supply companies should stock them; however they must be certified as a safety surface. You want to be sure the supplier is using a certified product; and your contractor is spreading a certified product.

Do you have timbers around your tot lots? Years ago, wooden landscape timbers were state of the art. Today, safety is a primary concern. Consider using plastic landscape boarders, as they may be a better alternative. We recommend them for the following reasons:
• Safety guidelines require EWF materials to be installed at a depth of 12” and a compressed depth of 9” for an acceptable shock absorbing surface
• Plastic landscape boarders allow for the 12” depth and they will help keep your playground surfacing in place
• They are a no-maintenance alternative to wood
• They’re made from recycled plastic
We can provide you with a quote.


How do I know if my tot lot is safe? The US Consumer Product Safety Commission has developed a playground safety handbook that provides a wealth of information. Additionally, the handbook has a suggested general maintenance checklist and routine inspection procedure to help you assess the safety of your tot lot.


Organic program alternative:
It would be terrific to have a fully organic fertilization and weed control program that was as effective as the traditional approach using synthetic chemical weed control products. Unfortunately there are no proven organic products that kill weeds after they emerge. Corn Gluten can be effective for the pre-emergence control of crabgrass and some broadleaf weeds, please see detailed information below regarding *corn gluten.

*Information regarding Corn Gluten:
Corn gluten is a by-product of wet milling process to make cornstarch. It is an animal feed for cattle, poultry, other livestock, fish and some dog foods. It also contains naturally occurring substances, which inhibit the growth of seed’s tiny feeder roots by causing a break down in the cell wall. The seedlings struggle to get enough moisture, which causes them to die before they ever have a chance to take hold. When used as directed, corn gluten acts as a preemergent natural herbicide that will not harm beneficial insects, soil organisms, pond or stream life. It is also safe around pets and children.
Since corn gluten kills only the roots of sprouting seeds, it can be used around transplants and established vegetables, flowers, fruit, shrubs and lawns. It can be used even up to the day of harvest. Once vegetable or flower seedlings have true leaves, it is then safe to apply corn gluten.
Corn gluten has another benefit. It is 10% nitrogen by weight in a slow release form. As a 10-0-0 fertilizer it can inhibit weed germination and feed your lawn and garden nitrogen. (Additional supplements of phosphorous and potassium may be needed, based on a soil test.)
The only potential hazard that is documented so far is potential allergic reaction from inhalation of dust with certain individuals.
Effectiveness of corn Gluten
• Corn gluten works on seeds not established plants. It will not kill a dandelion plant.
• It has reduced crabgrass by 86% the first year and 98% the second year provided recommended rates are applied in both spring and fall. Dandelion infestations were reduced 100% in plots treated for 4 years in spring and fall.
• Plants tested to date for susceptibility = 23 and include: barnyard grass, smooth crabgrass, curly dock, green & yellow, black nightshade, orchard grass, shattercane, purslane, wooly cupgrass, giant foxtail, lambsquarters, buckhorn, quackgrass, velvetleaf, annual bluegrass, dandelions, creeping bentgrass, black medic, redroot pigweed, catchweed bedstraw, & other common garden weeds.
• Corn gluten lasts 5-6 weeks. There is no carryover. After this time seeds can be planted in treated areas without being effected.
The Green Guardian ( , offers a liquid application that employs the active ingrediante extract from corngluten along with sugar beet extract that they believe provides post emergent control. I have spoken with some current users who confirm the product is effective. While I cannot offer personal assurance at this time, there is enough evidence to try the program as an organic alternative.

Our organic program is a coordinated effort that employs not only different products, but alternative maintenance practice to bring about desired results while not using conventional control methods. It should be understood that this program will not produce the same results of conventional programs. It is likely that you will have unwanted weed populations in the turf. However, there will be other benefits for the overall health of the turf to include a deeper root system and a greener color.
Change in maintenance and product practice:

Mowing height: The height should be raised an additional inch to 3 ½” in spring and 4” in the summer. This can leave a shaggy appearance from time to time.

Mowing frequency: We would need to mow the property more frequently (an additional 7 mowings per season) to maintain an acceptable appearance and reduce thatch issues.

Increase in aeration: There would be a spring and fall aeration to the property.

Liming: Would become an annual and integrated part of the program.

Seeding: Would become an annual and integrated part of the program.

Application 1 14-0-5 March
Application 2 Aeration ,14-0-5 April
Application 3 14-0-5 May
Application 4 5-0-3 June
Application 5 Liming, and 5-0-3 July
Application 6 5-0-3 Aug
Application 7 14-0-5 ,Aeration,Seeding Sep/Oct
Application 8 14-0-5 Nov

Are you worried about the herbicides and pesticides being applied to your property? Below find listed the organizations and agencies that can help you. In addition to this Blade Runners has a pesticide safety handbook, please contact us if you would like a copy.

Poison Control Center 1800 492-2414 This is a toll free emergency number operating 24 hrs a day for questions on treatment of poison from any cause, including pesticides.

Chemtrec 1800 424-9300 This is a 24 hrs emergency hotline for questions dealing with chemical spills.

Animal Poison Control Center 1 217 337-5030 This number is operated 24 hrs a day by the University of Illinois as an emergency hotline.

National Pesticide Telecom 1800 858-7378 This Number is a free service operating Monday through Friday 9:30 AM until 7:30 PM EST. It may be called by non-professionals. This number provides non-emergency information on product chemistry, protective equipment, safety, health and environmental effects. It is founded by the EPA and operated by Oregon State University.

Chemical Manufactures of America—1800 622-8200 This number may be called by non-professionals Monday through Friday 8: AM until 9:00 PM EST. CMA provides non-emergency safely and health information on many chemicals including but not limited to pesticides.

The Safety Drinking Water Hotline—1800 426-4791 This line is available to answer questions concerning the Safe Drinking Water Act.

Are you worried about a leaning tree on your property? Is there a tree that is looking old and rotten? Blade Runners uses a progressive tool called a resistograph! By using this tool you can make the right plan of action and also protect yourself from a liability standpoint. This can also be sued to assess timber walls , fences and other wood structures.

The resistograph is an instrument that detects decay and cavities in trees and timber. Through resistograph technology, an arborist is able to detect wood decay, stages of rot, hollow areas, cracks and ring structure. The resistograph is an ideal device for estimating tree stability and longevity. The resistograph is based on a drilling resistance measuring method developed by Frank Rinn in Heidelberg, Germany.

As the micro drill enters the tree, the resistance of the wood changes the rotation speed of the drill. These variations are translated into a graph, which looks a lot like an EKG print out. The tiny drilling hole closes itself up without any damage to the tree.

It is time to put to rest the old wives’ tale that if you mulch the landscape adjacent to your house, you’ll have termites. There is a right and wrong way to mulch, and there are many factors involved that will determine whether or not you will have a termite infestation but if ou have them along with other invaders contact the termite and bed bug exterminator But remember having mulch there will not mean you will have termites.
Why do we use mulch? Mulch is used to conserve soil moisture, keep down weeds, reduce the soil temperature and provide an attractive covering. For many gardeners and landscape companies, spreading mulch on garden beds is as much the official start of spring as our Tidal Basin cherry blossoms.

Homeowners can limit termite activity by mulching properly. Apply no more than 2-3 inches of mulch to any area. This allows the mulch to dry out regularly, creating a dry environment that termites dislike. You can even mulch up to the foundation of your home if you limit the depth to less than 3 inches.

Although it is not believed that woodchips draw termites to a location, they may create access for an existing termite population if woodchips are placed against the foundation. A 6 inch buffer around the base of the house with nonwhite inorganic mulch will reduce the likelihood of termites invading the foundation which needs to be fight against by the bed bug treatment from the exterminators.
If you use a landscape contractor, make sure they are using top quality mulch and are limiting the mulch to 2-3 inches. The high grade mulch we use has been decomposing for over 3 months at such high temperatures that termites would not survive. Blade Runners also makes sure that excess mulch is removed and each spring mulch beds are raked allowing all areas of the mulch to dry. Also, when watering plants, the water should be directed to the roots of the plants and not to the entire mulch bed.

Ultimately, termites do eat wood and you should make sure that your house base is termite free before putting any wood products adjacent to it. This is simply good sense and an annual inspection is always advised. What we can guarantee is that we are not bringing termites to your property and we apply mulch materials correctly to not encourage any termite population. James Catchings says The Critter Squad squirrel removal services have been increasing with the birthing season of squirrels approaching. Catchings says squirrels have 2 birthing seasons per year and squirrels in the attic aren’t shy about letting you know they are present. “Squirrel damages are a major problem for homeowners”.

What about this termite we’ve read so much about imported from Louisiana? The termite in question is the Formosan termite, imported years ago from China. This termite does cause severe devastation to homes in the southern United States. However, the pest is not found in nature above the 35th parallel — roughly, north of Charlotte — and the ability of a colony to survive the shredding process of mulch, or the 130-degree heat generated in the shrink-wrapped pallet of bagged mulch, makes its spread improbable.
In addition, wood debris does not even leave Louisiana, as there has been a long-standing quarantine in the state for the 12 infested parishes. This was put into place to help protect against Formosan termites being accidentally spread. No wood or cellulose materials may be moved out of these quarantine areas without Louisiana Agriculture Department approval, including all materials from Katrina cleanup efforts. If any type of wood debris is moved out of the quarantine area, it is being done illegally.
For more information on this topic or other related topics, contact your Blade Runners representative. We’re here to give you the most up to date information available.

Proper Pruning for the Pragmatic Practitioner

I Creating an Objective: The first order of business with regards to pruning is without a doubt to “Create a Pruning Objective”. Some of the most common objectives are listed as examples below.

To improve structure/health : Improve health by establishing a structural pruning program to young trees 15’ or less on the property. Often times these trees are overlooked in the landscape but, how often have you encountered a problem that could have been avoided if it would have been addressed 20 years ago. Young trees are like children. This is the optimal window of opportunity to influence their development at maturity. Structural pruning of young trees is the best way to ensure and improve the serviceable lifespan of trees on your property.

For times when a natural calamity strikes and removing fallen trees out of the way becomes important, tree removal services is then the only choice one is left with. Follow the link given to find the best tree removal services in town |  Affordable Tree Removal: Manhattan Tree Removal Services | 347-956-4342

To provide a view- A view can be created or enhanced through crown reduction where the edge of the crown at the top of the tree is reduced or by elevation pruning where lower branches of the crown are removed.
To provide clearance- Growth can be directed away from buildings lights or parking areas. This is the most commonly request pruning item and will need to be repeated as the tree will grow back to fill the void created by pruning.
To reduce risk of failure- Risk of tree failure can be reduced by identifying and rectifying hazard conditions such as included bark, dead or broken branches or large scaffold limbs . Mature trees need to be monitored to manage these risks. Recommendations will depend on the specific tree and

II Types of Pruning: You may have noted several pruning terms listed in the description above. Your proposal should speak in these terms, beware of specs that simply state ‘Pruning’ We using the following terms in our proposals as they are recognized tree standards supported by the International Society of Arboriculture and the American National Standards Institute[ANSI]

Remove Deadwood- Eliminating deadwood is an essential maintenance practice for trees. Dead limbs exceeding 1″ in caliper will be removed in order to eliminate a possible hazard to underlying targets. Appropriate pruning cuts will be performed to allow the tree to compartmentalize the wound from insects or diseases and to prevent future inoculations.

Crown Clean- A light pruning of thinning or lateral cuts to selectively remove dead, broken, crossing, injured, co-dominant or diseased branches. This type of pruning is done to reduce the risk of branches falling from the tree and to reduce the movement of decay, insects, and diseases from dead or dying branches into the rest of the tree. It can be performed on trees of any age but, is most commonly practiced on medium aged or mature trees. Dead branches less than 1″ in diameter are not included.
Crown Thinning- Selective removal of live branches to reduce crown density. Crown Thinning increases the penetration of light through the canopy, increases air flow circulation and reduces wind resistance in the crown.

Crown Reduction- Lateral or drop-crotch cuts to reduce the breadth of the canopy or decrease the height and/or breadth of a tree. This type of pruning is done to reduce the risk of structural failure or to prevent encroachment of vegetation into undesirable areas such as nearby buildings, parking lots, lamp posts, utility lines or other structures where clearance is desired.

Crown Elevation- Selective removal of branches to provide vertical clearance above walkways, vehicles, signs, streets and vistas.

Structural Pruning- Removal of live branches to establish dominant central leader, influence spacing, growth rate, strength of attachment and size of branches. Structural pruning is often performed to young or medium-aged trees to encourage trunk taper and improve branch arrangement in order to increase serviceable lifespan of tree.

When encouraging the healthy growth of your trees and plants it is important for you or your contractor to follow the American National Standards for Pruning (ANSI 300). Read more to see these standards and to get other hints! You should not be confused by the terminology that your contractors use. Be Pragmatic and ask Pointed Questions! Be sure they follow the appropriate terminology and have thoroughly trained staff. Your contractor will know when is the best time to prune each specific plant.

We welcome all calls to your Blade Runners Account Manager should you have any questions!

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