Instructables
Picture of How To Make Mulch Rings/Mats
P1010001.JPG
P1010002_00.JPG
I am in the process of landscaping my front yard and as such have added a few trees, and want to put in some more.  I had read that mulching the trees is a good idea to preserve water, prevent weeds, and protect the trees from lawn mowers and other garden equipment.  I had rescued some discarded carpeting that is a berber/white weave and decided to make a few mulch mats with this. Follow along:

Step 1: Make Cardboard Template

First, make a template out of cardboard.  I made 24 and 36 inch circles and any size can be made. Cut out the circle with a utility knife, or as I do, use a band saw.  Speeds things up and saves wear on the arms and hands!

Step 2: Use Template To Mark Carpet

Picture of Use Template To Mark Carpet
m8.jpg
Use this template to mark the carpet with a magic marker.  Also mark the center hole as this needs to be cut as well.

Step 3: Use Sharp Knife To Cut Out Circle

Picture of Use Sharp Knife To Cut Out Circle
I actually used a box cutter knife.  If very sharp (new blade) it cuts right through the back of the carpet, and any fibers hanging loose can be snipped off with scissors.

Step 5: Color Mulch Ring If desired

Picture of Color Mulch Ring If desired
I had this green paint on hand so decided to use it. I would have preferred brown, but none was available.  I bought a whole box of these paints at a garage sale-got the entire box for $1.00!  So I have spent very little on my mat project.

Step 6: Completed Mulch Ring/Mat

Picture of Completed Mulch Ring/Mat
Completed Mulch Mat or ring ready to be placed around tree.
 
Remove these adsRemove these ads by Signing Up
Great idea! I have been dreading disposing of the forest green carpet we are removing from our living room..now i know what to do with it!
archerj3 years ago
Trees are not watered at the trunk but rather at the drip line. I believe this type of mulch is perfect for trees. For small trees just getting started, you would water closer to the tree; it might be a good idea to use a smaller carper mulch and perhaps a larger one as the tree grows larger. Thanks for this idea, creativeman!
Jo
Creativeman (author)  archerj3 years ago
Thanks, archerj...appreciate it!
kirnex4 years ago
Although a novel idea in theory, I would NEVER recommend using carpeting for mulch around anything.  Using carpet (especially berber) is actually going to cause quite a bit of issues when it comes to watering, as well as the health of the plant.  
 
Real mulch, because it is loosely packed, actually allows water to easily flow to the tree/plant, and helps to mediate the amount of water lost through evaporation, while maintaining an ecological balance of good bacteria around your plant (assuming you don't over-water or somehow throw that balance off through some other undesirable gardening practice, such as improper fertilization).
 
Carpet (and especially berber), on the other hand, is designed to repel water and not to soak it up (ESPECIALLY IF PAINTED!), let alone to allow it to flow through to your plant or tree! Furthermore, carpet is made of numerous chemicals (as is that paint) which, if exposed to the outdoor elements and sunlight, are sure to break down much more quickly and leech into the soil.  Can't be good for your plants, or the environment in general.  Most carpeting also is backed with a manmade (usually acrylic) fibrous mesh, which would prevent the oxygenation needed by the plant at the ground-level to promote not only a healthy balance of good bacteria in the soil, but to keep pests and disease at bay.  
 
No, seriously, I think if you "mulch" your plants and trees with carpeting you are only asking for trouble.  Nothing beats actual bark mulch anyhow--you can work it into the soil from season to season and not only does it help to maintain aeration/prevent compaction of the soil around your plants, it is actual organic material which will naturally break down over time to replenish and improve the soil.
chuckr44 kirnex4 years ago
Would ground up tires (black) be any better? Or would they get too hot in the summer?
kirnex chuckr444 years ago

You know, this is a great question, and something I'm sort of torn about.

I have tried rubber mulch once in the past, and it does have a few benefits over natural mulch. For example: if applied in at least a 3" layer, it works wonders in preventing evaporation. It's also, in the long run, more cost effective, since although it costs quite a bit more at the onset, you don't have to re-mulch each season (although it does compact over time, and thus it might be necessary to top it off each year or so. It also seems to hinder weed development a bit more (of course this can be greatly reduced with natural mulch simply by using a seed-germination inhibitor such as Preen before putting the mulch down). Additionally, it's somewhat better in situations such as mine, where it is applied in beds surrounding our pool.

The benefits of application in such a situation are:

1) It's heavier than regular mulch and, in warmer temps, seems to "stick" together a bit--not so much that it prevents water from draining through to the plants, but enough that in windy conditions it won't be blown out of the beds and into the pool nearly as easily.

2) In the event we get extreme wind and it DOES blow into the pool, it's much easier to remove--both via the skimmer net and also through the skimmer filter. It also doesn't effect the pH (of course, this is only a problem if you have vast amounts of mulch fall into your pool).

The pitfalls of using the recycled rubber tires, on the other hand, seem to be much more substantial than the benefits. For example:

1) In the summer, it DOES get extremely hot. This obviously can cause it to stick together, emit that rubber odor and of course damage plants that are prone to "bolting" in the first place, as well as shallow-rooting plants (particularly citrus trees). Because of this, it would be best used in primarily shaded areas.

2) It's not a renewable resource and obviously takes MUCH longer to decompose--and when it does, it clearly adversely effects the soil (rubber is, as you likely know, petroleum-based and you can only imagine what that means for any ecosystem--just look at the BP mess!).

3) Because it traps more water under the surface, it tends to promote over-watering and also fungal development within root structures. Root rot, bacterial infection, etc. can be obvious consequences. It also does not allow the good bacteria adequate exposure to oxygen, and thus tends to cause considerable imbalances of the bacteria that assist plants in staving off disease.

4) Additionally, as it compacts it tends to prevent aeration of the surface soil. And since natural mulch can absorb water, it will facilitate moisture balance--since it not only can soak up extra surface moisture, but also helps to reduce saturation overall. Rubber mulch cannot do this. Of course, natural mulch also obviously still helps to reduce evaporation in hot weather, and also stays much cooler than rubber mulch.

5) Rubber mulch cannot be seasonally reworked into the soil in the same way natural mulch is, and if it IS, it's certainly not going to benefit the quality of the soil the way natural mulch does. In fact, I'd surmise that in addition to the leeching of chemicals into the soil, it will eventually lead to poor soil quality, since it is also not contributing any nutrients back into soil, and plants are clearly depleting them over time.

So, I guess the long and short of it is that if efficiency, long-term cost, and maintenance are of primary importance to you, environmental health is not of consequence to you, and you are willing to only plant highly resilient plants, then rubber mulch is the way to go. Personally, I obviously much prefer natural mulch.

johnny3h kirnex4 years ago
Good points kirnex.  I had the same concerns when I read this article.

Due to an unlimited supply of composting materials, and thus compost, I have gone to using 100% compost for mulching, and either incorporate it into the soil in place, and replace it, or remove it and replace with fresh compost.  The compost used as mulch, when returned to a new compost pile, seems to act as a good "starter" for making new compost. 

Friends warned me that the procedure would "over fertilize" the shrubs and trees, but after close to 6 years, I've had no negative issues arise.
kirnex johnny3h4 years ago
 Johnny, I'm not really sure where your friends are getting their information about over-fertilizing via compost, but as you've demonstrated, they are flat-out WRONG.  "Composting" of organic matter occurs, after all, naturally in unmediated environments every day (i.e. the woods via downed trees, fallen foliage, animal waste, etc.).  

Overfertilization occurs, truly, only where manufactured fertilizers are over-used/administered in environments where they are unnecessary (most people make the mistake of not testing their soil before using chemical fertilizers, which obviously leads to the problem), as well in situations where run-off from neighbors might settle into low-lying areas and create a build-up of fertilizer.

Personally, I think your idea is brilliant and obviously works fabulously!  I cannot think of a better way to not only use your fortunate abundance of compost, but also to replenish your stock and restart the process!  I imagine your plants flourish as a result, and you're actually accomplishing the best of all options, because not only are you offering your plants a healthy and sustainable source of nutrients, the compost itself (as I'm sure you are aware) contains a wonderful host of healthy bacteria which minimizes (and, often, prevents) the development and subsequent overgrowth of unhealthy bacteria for your plants.

Have you considered doing an instructable about it, Johhny?  I think it would be a great offering for people who would rather cultivate naturally!  I, for one, have been gardening for quite a while, and it embarrasses me to say I've never considered the idea!  I'm glad you shared it.
kirnex kirnex4 years ago
Almost forgot to mention: on a side note (related to composting), I have a Korean friend who is an absolute MARVEL at gardening and plant cultivation. Her simple repertoire of naturally fertilizing her plants include the following:

1) Rather than composting (she currently has no room in her yard, as it is literally covered inch for inch in plant matter), she simply takes any food scraps (other than meat or dairy, of course) and loosens the dirt around plants she wishes to fertilize, then works the raw matter into the soil directly under the surface. It naturally decomposes, and no issues with maintenance of a compost pile.

2) On occasion, she will take the bones of red-meat, boil them in a large pot of water for a couple of hours, allow the mixture to cool, remove the bones (to keep animal pests at bay, obviously), and pour the mixture next to her plants.

She has never used chemical fertilizers, or any sort of pest-prevention--yet she has little issues with the latter. Seeing the rewards of her approach is convincing enough to me that they are practices worth considering, especially for those too "lazy", or with too limited space, to compost.