Cocoa Shell Mulch

kimnc7April 27, 2008


I was wondering if anyone in the Piedmont area of NC has found a cocoa shell mulch distributor. We are eagerly looking to find some. We just noticed some termites around the yard and we are currently using hardwood mulch which we now want to get rid of. I just cannot stand the look of pine needles and this is a very good alternative as it gets darker with age and is long lasting from what I hear. Any information would be greatly appreciated.

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Check out any local hydroponic gardening stores - the only place I've seen it here in Raleigh is that sort of store.

I just read a review of a book on Garden Myths which had a section on common un-truths spread throughout the gardening world and one of them was about termites and wood chip mulch. I didn't pay attention to the fine details because I was looking for something else but it seems that they said you might see termites traveling through mulch but that the species of termites that invade houses are not attracted to rotting wood or the types of chemical cues that wood chip mulch give off.

    Bookmark   April 28, 2008 at 9:42AM
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Tammy Kennedy

I don't know that i buy that, unless there are 2 types of termites in our area. I've opened bags of mulch that had been wet before to find termites, and have planted pots of plants before that had mites feasting on the wood chips in it (in fact, some from the swap that i just planted). They weren't passing through- they were quite happy and numerous. I don't worry too much when i see them in the garden, so long as they aren't close to the house. Do you know if there's another type of termites in our area? I thought keeping wood dry helped prevent termites- i'd always heard they attack the moist areas first- is that incorrect?

    Bookmark   April 28, 2008 at 11:56AM
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Dr. Linda Chalker-Scott is a research scientist that tests the popular theories out there in gardening land. She publishes a blog/website as well as writes for the local newspaper and has recently written a book. All of her projects go by the name "the Informed Gardener". She simplifies the research here in a portion I cut and pasted from her website.

Concern: Wood chips could be a fire hazard.
Evidence: Coarse textured organic mulches, like wood chips, are the least flammable of the organic mulches. Fine textured mulches are more likely to combust, and rubber mulch is the most hazardous of all tested landscape mulches.

Concern: Wood chip mulches will tie up nitrogen and cause deficiencies in plants.
Evidence: Actually, many studies have demonstrated that woody mulch materials increase nutrient levels in soils and/or associated plant foliage. My hypothesis is that a zone of nitrogen deficiency exists at the mulch/soil interface, inhibiting weed seed germination while having no influence upon established plant roots below the soil surface. For this reason, it is inadvisable to use high C:N mulches in annual beds or vegetable gardens where the plants of interest do not have deep, extensive root systems.

Concern: Woody mulches will attract termites, carpenter ants, and other pests.
Evidence: Many wood-based mulches are not attractive to pest insects but are actually insect repellent. For instance, cedar (Thuja) species produce thujone, which repels clothes moths, cockroaches, termites, carpet beetles, Argentine ants, and odorous house ants. In general, termites prefer higher nutrient woody materials such as cardboard rather than wood chips.

Dr. Linda Chalker-Scott
Associate Professor and Extension Urban Horticulturist
WSU Puyallup Research and Extension Center
7612 Pioneer Way E Puyallup, WA 98371

    Bookmark   April 28, 2008 at 1:18PM
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Tammy Kennedy

Thanks for posting that John.

hmm- cardboard. And i use cardboard under beds sometimes, so that may be what pulled them in. Very interesting. I don't use cedar, so that's a non issue for me. Still, there must be something that attracts them into potting soil, esp mixed with bark fines, 'cause i've seen them plenty of times. Perhaps something that partly broken down and easy to digest like the cellulose rich cardboard?

I'd always heard that sawdust, or really fresh wood chips tie up nutrients, specifically nitrogen, but then release them in turn as they age out. I know it seems like if i spread too fresh of woody mulch that it seems to slow everything down for a while, then the next season stuff goes nuts. Not so sure that that's opposite of what she's saying.

    Bookmark   April 28, 2008 at 6:01PM
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jimtnc(7b Raleigh tttf)

I use cedar mulch in all of my beds and along property bounderies with no visual damage of my plants. It's an expensive chore every year, but has it's rewards.

    Bookmark   April 29, 2008 at 6:29AM
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Tammy - she says in a different section that if nitrogen problems seem to be caused by mulch that a solution is to spread a thin layer of compost under the layer of chips. It is supposed to conteract the effect.

There are numerous species of termites with new ones being discovered and introduced every year. Maybe what shows up in potting soil is a different type of termite than what eats a house.

    Bookmark   April 29, 2008 at 9:13AM
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Tammy Kennedy

I think it's great that someone's doing research on these kinds of things. And someone NOT connected to fertilizer or pesticide or chemical companies... I don't put much stock in what someone finds when they're paid for by someone wanting certain answers.

I have been spreading a thinnish layer of well composted horse manure under my mulch this past few rounds and it seems to be working better. When i noticed that effect was a few years back. Will keep that in mind for the future.

I wondered if there weren't different types of termites. Good to know.

    Bookmark   April 29, 2008 at 11:29AM
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Termite issue aside, cocoa shell mulch can be toxic to dogs - see this Snopes report.

Here is a link that might be useful: GO TO LINK

    Bookmark   April 29, 2008 at 12:43PM
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dottie_in_charlotte(z7-8 NC)

My experience with cocoa mulch is that it floats on the rain, blows in the wind and breaks down much faster than other ordinary mulches. I used it one year over at the other house and went back to using bark fines.
Cocoa mulch is lovely stuff, light, easy to spread and evenly sized. The aroma when it's in bulk in a bag liked to send me into the house searching for chocolate. Once spread and out in the breeze the aroma disappears.

You'll try it one year and find the cost and the difficulty finding it will discourage future purchases.

    Bookmark   April 29, 2008 at 1:12PM
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dottie_in_charlotte(z7-8 NC)

I really can't believe that a company with a waste product(cocoa shells) sold relatively cheaply would add more costly steps and testing to the production in order to protect a few housepets. Just doesn't seem economically practical.

    Bookmark   April 29, 2008 at 1:28PM
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Good luck finding it. I live in Myrtle Beach and looked for it all over a few years ago b/c I'd read good things about it. I notified a ('the') large chocolate manufacturer about buying it direct. The person they put me in contact with remains, to this day, the biggest idiot I've ever dealt with as a customer. Finally, I just gave up. I could not get a single question answered. It was as if he didn't know a how to communicate a single thing. Had we been live, I would have sworn I was on Candid Camera.

I'm interested to hear that I, apparently, didn't miss out on much.

Mike in SC

    Bookmark   May 2, 2008 at 5:28PM
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Thank you for all of your responses. There is some very interesting research cited here and I will follow up on it. We did find the mulch at LA Reynolds Nursery in Winston and will give a try this year. It has quite a beautiful texture but it is expensive. We have a tiny little yard, so luckily we don't have to buy too much of it. Our flower beds are not very far from our house so seeing termites in the yard caused us some concern although we did not see them in the beds themselves but near them. Thanks again!

    Bookmark   May 5, 2008 at 10:23PM
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FAQ on cocoa mulch

Here is a link that might be useful: Cocoa mulch

    Bookmark   May 6, 2008 at 12:12AM
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Lowes Hardware & GardenCenter sells cocoa shell mulch

Here is a link that might be useful: Lowes Hardware & Garden

    Bookmark   July 12, 2008 at 2:28PM
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After using the mulch for a couple of months I have to say that it has not washed or blown away. In fact, after it gets wet it creates a "mat" and we are using it for erosion control on an embankment after we removed the pathetic excuse for grass that once covered it. It also gets darker with age and is now a very nice dark brown. It does, however, get some the so-called harmless mold on it once in awhile. Thus far, we do not regret our purchase.

    Bookmark   July 13, 2008 at 9:42PM
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bobbya10(z7 SC)

I recieved an email that Cocoa Mulch is poison to dogs.The scent atracts them and if they eat it is as toxic as chocolate.

    Bookmark   August 21, 2008 at 10:09PM
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