Mulch Type Best used for Not recommended for

Possible Problems with

Sources of Life of Mulch
Lawn clippings, Straw, or Hay compost pile for vegetable garden any plantings other than vegetable, it kills natives many weeds (e.g.,,bind weed, mustard, bermuda grass), plant diseases many 3 months
Manure Vegetable garden Any other plantings, it kills natives Salt burn Any Garden center 1-3 months
'Green waste' Conventional flower beds interface areas, native plantings, conifers ,desert plants weed seeds, shrub and tree seeds Recycling programs 1-3 years
Arborist's chippings of pine, oak or natives native or drought tolerant type plantings and conifers conventional flowerbeds, vegetable gardens, desert plants few but some tree and shrub seeds


5-7 years
Fir bark, Pine bark, Redwood bark conifers, most native prefer redwood, most others Ok

conventional flowerbeds, vegetable gardens, desert plants

floats and moves off of site, doesn't provide full groundcover so more weeds present Bulk distributors, Garden centers 7-10 years
Shredded redwood bark
(Shredded cedar is similar)
the best mulch (when combined with boulders) for coastal and sierra natives desert plants, conventional gardens no known negative impacts Bulk distributors 7-10 years
Boulders, rock Desert plants or combined with other mulch areas next to lawn or parking lots (Ok if too large to easily move) vandalism bulk distributors, some General Engineering contractors 20+


Lawns, walkways, parking lots, river bottoms, marshes most native or drought tolerant sites topsoil loss, erosion N/A generally covered with weeds in a few months
Plastic Lawn furniture plants shreds, doesn't work, kills the plants 'home' stores, 'restoration' suppliers 1-3 years, replaced by weeds

Ok we've given you these basics now make a table with the square footage of the target as the minimum total. Feed in every native perennial/shrub/tree that is present on the site or on nearby sites that represent your site. Do not feed into the table Baccharis, Senecio, Ericameria, Lotus or whatever other pioneer is on the site until your numbers are above 60% area coverage (accounting for possible losses). The table should represent your 'dream' species list of a permanent planting. The more species you can include the better. After you've figured out your plant list, add a full overlay of bush Baccharis or whatever start up plant is native in the area. Most of the coastal areas of California prefer Baccharis.

Here's an example for a little creek bank. The native cover target is about 60-70%, with the Baccharis added we project 130% coverage with a 30% loss, that is canopy closure. Actual area was about 600 sq. ft.

Quantity Genus/species Common Name Projected width (in ft.) of one plant after3 years Projected area (in sq. ft.) covered by one plant Total area (in sq. ft)covered by the listed quantity of plants Total coverage with 30% loss
(sq. ft.)
22 Artemisia douglasiana Mugwort 3 9
Artemisia californica California Sage Brush 3
Baccharis pilularis consanguinea Coyote Brush 6
Carex spissa
Juncus textilis Basket Rush 2
Psoralea (Hoita)macrostachya Leather Root 3
Rhamnus californica Coffeeberry 3
Symphoricarpos albus Snowberry 3

References ( More references available.)

Amaranthus, M.P., C.Y. Li and D.A. Perry. 1990. Influence of vegetation type and Madrone soil inoculum on associative nitrogenfixation in Douglas-fir rhizospheres. Can. J. For. Res. 20:368-371

Arnolds, Eef. 1991. Decline of ectomycorrhiza fungi in Europe. Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment, 35, 209-244

Carey, R. A., and D. J. Robertson. 1995. Tree shelters lead to unexpected problems (Pennsylvania). Restoration and Management Notes 13(1):134.

Coleman, David, D.A. Crossley, M.H. Beare, and P.F. Hendrix. 1988. Interactions of Organisms at Root/Soil and Litter/Soil Interfaces inTerrestrial Ecosystems. Agri.,Ecosystems and Environment, 24:117-134

Johnson, Nancy, and David Wedin. 1997. Soil Carbon, Nutrients, and Mycorrhizae during Conversion of Dry Tropical Forest toGrassland. Ecological Applications, 7;10, 1997 pp.171-182

Mitchell, R.J. and D.B. South. 1992. Cultural enhancement of mycorrihizal fungi on southern pines? Pp. 145-153. In nPoc. 1992 JointInternational Symposium on Air Pollution, Soil Microbiology and Biotechnology of Forestry. National Taiwan University. Taipei,Taiwan.

Patric, James. 1974. Water Relations of some Lysimeter-Grown Wildland Plants in S. Calif.. Pacific S.W. Forest & Range Expt. Station,U.S. Forest Service, 110 N. Wabash Ave. Glendora, Ca. 91740.

Perry, D.A., M.P. Amaranthus , J.G. Borchers and R.E. Brainerd. 1989.Bootstrapping in Ecosystems. BioScience Vol. 39(4) pp. 230-237

Putten, W.H. Van der , C. Van Dijk & B. A. M. Peters. 1993. Plant-Specific soil-Borne Diseases contribute to succession in foredunevegetation. Nature Vol. 362. 4 pp. 53-55

Read, D.J., R. Francis and R.D. Finlay. 1985. Mycorrhizal mycelia and nutrient cycling in plant communities., Ecol. interactions in soil.ed. by Fitter Blackwell Sci. Pub.pp

Trappe, James. 1988, Lessons from Alpine Fungi. Mycologia,80(1). Presidential address, Mycological Soc. of America, Ottawa, Ontario,Ca. June 24, 1987 Of the 'Silver Bullet' of Bioengineered Mycorrhiza "Such nonsense can be perpetrated only by the ecologicallyignorant, the non-symbiotic Lone Rangers who, as the non-mycorrhizal annual weed, move in fast to get the most. Unfortunately, it maybe believed by unsophisticated readers, of which there are many. "

Vitousek, Peter, John Aber, Robert Howarth, Gene Likens, Pamela Matson, David Schindler, William Schlesinger, and David Tilman.1997. Human Alteration of Global Nitrogen Cycle: Sources and Consequences. 7(3), pp.737-750

Williams, Stephen and Earl Aldon. 1976. Endomycorrhizal(Vesicular Arbuscular) Assoc. of some Arid Zone Shrubs. The SouthwestNaturalist. 20(4):437-444.

Wilson, Bert. 1996. Landscape Ordinance for Vandenberg Air Force Base. Task Assignment F04684-95-C-0045

Wilson, Bert and Celeste. 1997.Vegetation Mitigation Annual Report, California Spaceport. Vandenberg Air Force Base, California

Please feel free to copy and distribute!

Bert Wilson

September 1997, updated 2001

REMEMBER, the only place you'll find a hole with "amendments" in it, lots of water, and plastic around it is in the camp latrine!

"Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the former." Albert Einstein
Manzanitas another native shrubs commonly act as pioneer plants, or nurse plants for the longer lived trees.
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