Like fruit, vegetable, leave and seeds, mulch is derived from a living plant, specifically a tree. And, like all living plants and their parts, once removed from their growing environment, they begin to decompose. In short, mulch is a perishable item; it has a “shelf life”.
All mulch, whether is it ground up branches and trunks, or bark, is processed at a mill, usually a paper and/or lumber mill. Once processed, it is bagged or loaded in bulk form on a semi trailer and shipped to its point of sale. It is at this point of sale is where the decomposition process kicks into high gear. This is especially so in the hot and humid Florida climate.
These days, you can find mulch at just about any big box store in the spring and fall and at some, year round. These big box stores are known to have the best price on mulch but, is it the best value? Usually not, here is why; big box stores pre-buy their mulch utilizing contracts based on volume, huge volume. The mulch is shipped to the stores in very short periods of time so that the inventory is all in place for the anticipated mulching season. But before they can sell this mulch, they have to sell what is left over from the season before, which has usually been sitting (and decomposing) at the store for 4 to 6 months. Once they get through what is left over from the previous season, they move into the “newer” mulch which, at this point, is not so new anymore… you see where we are going with this? When you buy a perishable item that is already 4 to 6 month old, you have lost that same amount of time of product life in the landscape. That is one reason why so many savvy gardeners and continue to buy their mulch from true landscape material supply stores.
These landscape material supply stores are almost always locally owned and operated. They are the number one choice of the areas landscapers and as mentioned above, the savvy gardener. What does this have to do with the freshness of their mulch? A lot! These smaller stores turn their mulch inventory on average on a weekly basis. So, when you are buying mulch here, weather it is in bags or bulk, the material is around a week old. This freshness of product adds months to the effectiveness, longevity and curb appeal of the product. Over several years, this adds up to huge savings from the reduced re-mulching that must be done.
Stop in to your local landscape material supply store and see for yourself just how fresh, long lasting mulch can be.