Suggestions for plant mulch and paths in a high-wind area?

susankaMarch 23, 2007

We're building on top of a ridge where winds can be 100 mph (rarely, we hope). I don't want a yard full of rock; have had that before around all our plants and it's too hard and unwelcoming for me. I expect nothing else will withstand 100 mph winds, but is there something that stays put better than the usual mulch? We're going to need material for a meandering path and for planting beds.

I saw "landscape boards" mentioned in another post, talking about a path. What are those? I couldn't find anything when searching for that on google.

Thanks in advance for any ideas you can offer.

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highalttransplant(z 5 Western CO)


I am not familiar with the "landscape boards" you mentioned, but I have a similar situation. We are on a mesa and the northwest corner of our home gets an incredible amount of wind. We had mulch put in the flower beds, and ALL of it is gone on that one corner. I like the idea of a groundcover, but it would need to be something that won't choke out the perennials planted there.

I'm not crazy about the look of rock either, but if you are using it for paths, the small pea gravel doen't look as harsh as the larger sized rocks. Or you could use large stepping stones, like flagstone, with a groundcover planted between them to make it more natural looking.

    Bookmark   March 24, 2007 at 12:09AM
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vetivert8(NI-NZ zone 9a)

Have you got enough soil or similar material to make windbreak mounds so your garden is in the lee of them? If you can break up the wind force - even with a planting of windhardy shrubs (native for preference) then bark mulch has a chance.

You might also need to terrace or make mini-swales to prevent any sort of mulch from marching away downhill - moved by rain, frost, wind.

Also, you might want to check out where your rainfall runoff is going to prevent any gully erosion from getting a hold.

    Bookmark   March 24, 2007 at 6:16AM
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Thank you, both, for the ideas. I'll talk this over with DH. I don't think we have enough soil to make any mounds (our back yard is very small before a huge slope to the valley), and that's the side the wind comes from. We don't seem to have any full-time nurseries in this area to get advice from, but when yards start to look good here and we're actually moved into our house maybe I'll be able to find out where people are getting their landscaping designed.

    Bookmark   March 24, 2007 at 8:58AM
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emagineer(z5 CO)

I "sort of" asked the same question in another post. Steve suggested cedar mulch, which I didn't know there was any difference in compared to other mulches. Looked this up and there is definitely a difference. Cedar becomes more compact and doesn't have the problem with being strewed about.

I added a link below from the extension office which has great info. They mention specifically that mulch in CO is never cedar and has to be bought from outside sources. Am going to check resources, but am wondering why this couldn't be bought from the pet store. Isn't this what they use for animal bedding?

Here is a link that might be useful: CO extension/mulches

    Bookmark   March 24, 2007 at 9:58AM
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highalttransplant(z 5 Western CO)


That link didn't come up for me.

I was just at Walmart yesterday and saw bags of Western cedar mulch, which if I remember correctly were from a company in Idaho.

The woman at our local nursery said to choose a small mulch so the wind has less surface area to grab a hold of, though I think anything I put on that one corner is going to blow away.

Is there a ground cover that won't take over the flower beds there?

    Bookmark   March 24, 2007 at 12:07PM
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emagineer(z5 CO)

My search habits made this difficult. Apology as I didn't check to see if it worked.

Use the link below. Go to "Mulching with Wood/Bark Chips, Grass Clippings, and Rock" on CACHE.

Forgot that the doc may not exist. A lot of info is sitting in history on URLs and can't be seen unless you select the the cache option. I'd paste the info, but am never sure about copyright.

Here is a link that might be useful: Mulch search

    Bookmark   March 24, 2007 at 3:22PM
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Thanks for the link, emagineer.

    Bookmark   March 24, 2007 at 4:21PM
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emagineer(z5 CO)

Your welcome...and forgot to mention that there are other options which Steve mentioned. Rubber bark used for playgrounds and also saw rubber stepping stones which connect together. Both expensive, heavy shipping costs. May be worth it in the long run if using mulch that has to be replaced regularly.

I think we need to look at the contents of cedar mulch bags, it may say cedar but also be mixed with other wood. The good nurseries do sell "real" cedar. And I'm still wondering about the cedar bed material sold at pet stores. I've had as much trouble with small and large getting spread all over, so am not much help on this.

Have you thought of putting 4X4 or 6X6 garden lumber with a foot plus area between for a walking path? Like they do in the mountain hiking trails. I think the wooden paths you mentioned are more for temporary a bit expensive. They sell them at

    Bookmark   March 25, 2007 at 11:28AM
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You know, I think we're probably better off with pea gravel, as hialttransplant mentioned earlier. Our lot is 80x110; if there's going to be any kind of "meander" to it I probably can't use long pieces of lumber. I guess the 4x4 wouldn't have to be long necessarily, though. DH and I will have to consult on this. If I can just keep him out of the rock yards I'll be lucky.

vetivert, sorry, forgot to thank you for the mini-swale and erosion-control reminders.

    Bookmark   March 25, 2007 at 2:34PM
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Skybird - z5, Denver, Colorado

IÂm going to chime in here with a couple plant suggestions! For the actual path, unless itÂs going to be used a LOTÂand a meandering path sounds like it probably wonÂtÂyou could use woolly thyme. ItÂs amazingly foot traffic tolerant once itÂs established, but you would need to be careful in the beginning until it gets going pretty well. It would need a good half dayÂs direct sun to look good. And it would look even better if, as highalt suggested up above, you put widely spaced flagstone pieces or other stepping stones down and let the thyme grow between and partway over them. That has a really nice look after a few years. I think it has a neat "old estate" look!

Thyme would be too dense and too inclined to take over for use around your perennials, though. And so would most of the other ground covers I know of. If this is a full sun area, you could try Callirhoe (poppy mallow, wine cup) around some of the perennials. It spreads out a good two to three feet in every direction over the summer, but it doesnÂt root in, so itÂs not really in competition with the other plantsÂit would just sort of lay around them at the bottom. Since it doesnÂt root as it spreads, the wind could blow it around somewhat, but if itÂs between other plants, that might not be a problemÂand it wouldnÂt be hard at all to tack the individual stems down with a few pieces of bent wire if it did start to blow around. ButÂit dies back to the original plant over winter, so youÂd need to leave the dead stems on over winter to help with the wind problem then too. And whether you used something like that or not, IÂd still put bark or some other kind of mulch down under it to help keep the surface of the soil moist and softÂeven if you need to keep replacing it in spots. Exposed clay soil can dry so hard that itÂs hard for water to re-penetrate it, and a lot of the rain or other watering could just run off if that happens.

If I think of any other Callirhoe-type things, IÂll come back and post them,

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   March 25, 2007 at 5:36PM
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windwhipped(Z4 WY)

Just a word of warning about the pea gravel. I have pea gravel paths and mostly they are fine. However, there is one place where the path is upwind of the cement patio and the wind has lifted and blown the gravel onto the patio with enough force to pit the cement. Be sure to note your wind patterns before putting down the gravel.

Good luck. If you come up with a good solution, I'd be happy to hear it. Bark mulches are quickly gone with the wind, so I have mostly rock and I don't much care for it either.

    Bookmark   March 25, 2007 at 8:40PM
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Thanks, everyone. I'll keep this whole thread for reference for when we get moved in. With our wild winds I think pea gravel might not work either; agree that flags with woolly thyme sounds the best at least for paths and steps.

skybird, I've had the mallow before; I like it, not sure how it would do in the wind, though.

Again, thanks very much to everybody.

    Bookmark   March 30, 2007 at 8:25AM
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emagineer(z5 CO)

I'm taking a chance and using the rubber mulch in my front areas. They had it at Sam's and knowing items always seem to disappear if not gotten, bought 4 bags. It is twice the price than wood mulch, so this stuff better work. For some reason it sounds so "fake", but will try it.

    Bookmark   March 31, 2007 at 11:23AM
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emagineer(z5 CO)

Was looking at a website for coupons and the cocoa mulch was mentioned. They had a link to info on it which said this will not blow away because the mulch attaches to itself when wetted down after spreding. You can even use a blower to clear off any leaves, etc.

Has anyone used this? There was, as mentioned, a caution "not for animal/human consumption". But it also said it was animal safe, not sure how to read this into using it if one has pets. Or I am reading too much into it. Maybe there are people who think it can be used to bake brownies....

Here is a link that might be useful: Cocoa mulch

    Bookmark   April 4, 2007 at 7:28AM
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I looked at the information on the cocoa mulch, and I think I understand what they're saying. When they say it's not for human/animal consumption, all they mean is that it's not intended to be food. By pet safe, they list several items, but the most important is that theer's no theobromide. Theobromide is the chemical in chocolate that is toxic to pets (especially dogs).

    Bookmark   April 4, 2007 at 10:34AM
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stevation(z5a Utah)

I used cocoa mulch at a previous house, because the flakes were said to be uncomfortable to cats, which I wanted to deter from pooping in my garden bed. When I first put it down, it had a cool chocolate smell. I thought it was very lightweight stuff and my first thought is that it would blow away easily. I didn't know it bonded together, and I don't remember mine doing that. But maybe I never watered the whole area (it had some shrubs and perennials on drippers).

By the way, it did seem to work in keeping the cats out.

    Bookmark   April 4, 2007 at 11:34AM
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Skybird - z5, Denver, Colorado

Hi guys,

I donÂt want to be a wet blanket here, but I thought I remembered hearing something about cocoa mulch once, but couldnÂt remember what it was, so I googled it, and of all the sites I looked at, I didnÂt find one that said it was safe for animals. Even the HersheyÂs site admits that it can be toxicÂthough they minimize it as much as possible since they clearly want to sell as much as they can.

Here are links to some of the most credible sites I found.

Snopes (fact or fiction) site:


And the Hershey site, which sounds just like any other infomercial, and makes the point that since the mulch helps keep down weeds, you donÂt need to use chemicals to do it, so itÂs actually SAFER for your animalsÂbut then, down on the bottom it talks about cocoa mulch getting mold (which it says is not harmful to your plants), and recommends using a chemical to control the mold! So donÂt use chemicals for one thing, but DO use them for something else! Duh! The ASPCA doesnÂt mention plants!Âbut it does say the mold is also potentially toxic to animals!

I also noticed that all the "benefits" they talk about from using cocoa mulch are true of ANY of the organic/wood mulches. They suppress weeds, they save water, and they improve the soilÂlittle by little.

I looked at some other sites too, and didnÂt run into anything that talked about wind resistance. Before spending much money to get a bunch of it, I sure would try just one bag first in a windy spot to see if thereÂs anything at all to the claims.

I looked at cocoa mulch once several years ago and decided to not get it because it looked to me like it would be "sharp" to walk onÂwhich might explain why cats donÂt like to walk on itÂbut I was thinking more in terms of ME walking on itÂand working in it.

IÂm sorry :-(

    Bookmark   April 4, 2007 at 1:54PM
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singcharlene(Zone 5)

My mom who lives in Calif, just yesterday, removed all of her cocoa mulch that was put down last fall. She has a tropical garden and said she loved it at first for the chocolately smell and the tidy look of it. But now she says it's moldy and smelly and is worried about it getting into her pond so she removed it all and will replace with wood mulch this weekend. She did like it to keep the cats out though (including her own).

I used shredded cedar mulch for the first time last summer and was happy with it. I didn't have access to straw so I put it all around the strawberries and it made a nice mat that really kept in the moisture and suffocated the weeds. I loved the reddish orange look of it too.

I did buy it from a reputable nursery and paid a little more for "real" cedar but it is still intact after the winter. We live on a mesa and get some pretty high winds too. I will use it again this summer in other areas.

Good luck!


    Bookmark   April 4, 2007 at 3:10PM
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Skybird--I read the snopes article when it first came out and thought I had read that there are brands that are theobromide free. I reread it after reading your post, and I remembered correctly. In fact, the mulch linked above was linked in the snopes article as a brand that was safe for pets. They did caution to be careful in selecting brands. It's not the mulch that's unsafe for pets, but the one ingredient--theobromide. A cocoa mulch that has had the theobromide removed should be safe around animals.

Theobromide is deadly to many animals, and dogs especially are likely to find chocolate appetizing. That's why veterinarians frequently caution pet owners around holidays when chocolate seems to be in unlimited supply.

    Bookmark   April 4, 2007 at 9:27PM
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I don't know if anybody has access to this, as you cannot buy it in stores, but rabbit manure is pretty nice for mulch as I am sure goat manure would be. It is small round balls that have no smell, break down into manure tea as you water, are cheap to acquire (cost of the rabbit and supplies, or gas) and cats will not use anything mulched with it as a litter box. It even spreads nice and even with the back of a rake. I have a rabbitry which I have downsized considerably, but I still have enough to "produce" for my garden. I even have piles of it that I add to my regular compost pile in the high winds... uh... desert of the Colorado Prairie. It does not blow away like the horse manure and my irises and tomatoes seem to love it. I have a friend that always begs me for some for his lawn. It is not really something for your walkways, but for flowerbeds it is great. Just make sure that you have all your plants in before spreading it, it tends to roll into the holes.
Hope this gives other people ideas that they will share.

    Bookmark   April 5, 2007 at 4:49PM
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I just read your very helpful "List of Mulches - which one is best?" - but can you please let me know which mulch works best for a high wind area? We are on a high hilly area in the Texas Hill Country with lots of wind and almost all of the mulch our landscaper put down last year has blown away - so we're going to do it ourselves this year - and we'd like to do it right.

Thanks in advance for any advice.

    Bookmark   January 25, 2009 at 8:28PM
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