Question about types of mulch to put on garden islands.

Hello My question is the following. I have several isles on my lawn. These have different types of plants, some are Japanese maples, ornamental grass etc... I was wondering what type of mulch would be best to put on these isles. I have used, in the past, a mulch that had a red tint- that is tinted mulch. I no longer want to use that. I have looked at cedar mulch but was wondering if there is a better alternative than cedar mulch. I am located in the North Eastern part of USA.
THanks for your help! KOS
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The regulars will give you lots of good suggestions, but my preference is for pine bark mini-nuggets. I use them everywhere, including my "isles", and they look good and last a long time.
Felice on Cape Cod
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wrote:

Around here pine bark nuggets invite termites and other undesireable insects Most popular mulch used in this area or the southeast is cypress mulch (shredded, and it knits together somewhat and does not blow around or float away in a heavy rain and lasts forever but still maintains an open structure for plants to breathe and water to penetrate) or pine straw, which needs to be removed ever couple of eyars as it compacts and keeps water penetration out as well as keeping weeds down......cypress mulch is available in many tnted colors here as well. I prefer the natural color or dark brown. I have never seen cedar mulch. Visit my website: http://www.frugalmachinist.com Opinions expressed are those of my wife, I had no input whatsoever. Remove "nospam" from email addy.
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Organic mulches reduce soil furtility. Try an agrigate as it will not rot and has all the good benefits of other mulches. Also with your planting it would be great (limestine?) Neil
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Some do and then only slightly and they greatly increase the humus in the soil. A net plus. I have a friend that hybridizes and grows thousands of rhododendrons. He uses sawdust as a mulch. Most people say that is a no no and robs nitrogen from the soil. Well, the rhododendrons don't know that and love it. As long as the sawdust in not incorporated into the soil, it rots so slowly that it doesn't use much nitrogen. He uses a little HollyTone when the plants get bigger and they look as good as anybody's.
Most organic mulches actually increase the fertility of the soil. Grass clippings probably provide nutrients more quickly than other organic mulches. Sawdust is at the other end of the scale as it will require nitrogen from a source outside itself to break down into usable nutrients and humus. When we put sawdust in contact with the soil the soil organisms multiply rapidly. To multiply they need nitrogen. Since it is not available in the sawdust they use nitrogen that is already in the soil. If the nitrogen supply in the soil is insufficient, the population of organisms doesnt reach its full potential and the sawdust is converted more slowly. Of greater importance, the soil is deficient in nitrogen for the plants and they will suffer.
The most important thing to keep in mind regarding soil fertility and mulch is the carbon-nitrogen ratio. The carbon-nitrogen ratio of sawdust is 400:1, for example, while young sweet clover is 12:1. An average bale of hay might be 80:1 while rotted manure might be 20:1. A substance that has a C:N ratio below 17:1 will actually add nitrogen to the soil while a ratio above 33:1 will take nitrogen from the soil. Between those two figures the result is neutral. Grass clippings might have a ratio of 16:1 but if the plant is allowed to grow to maturity the ratio for the same plant might go to 30:1 or 40:1. If the plant starts to dry, the ratio goes even higher. Once dried as hay the ratio will be in the vicinity of 80:1.
One other factor to keep in mind regarding the C:N ratio. If the material is just going to be used as a mulch, the amount of interface with the soil is limited to the soil surface. It is when a high C:N ratio material is incorporated into the soil that the temporary loss of nitrogen can become severe. You may use a sawdust mulch on a section of the garden one year and have no problems. If you turn it under the next year, you want to make sure to incorporate some additional nitrogen at the same time.
Materials from trees have the potential for lowering the pH of the soil--making it more acidic. Leaves, sawdust and wood shavings are acidic, however, in the process of becoming humus, they move toward a higher pH. Also, it seems the more humus in the soil the wider the band on the pH scale that is acceptable to plants.
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