Homesteading, Gardening, and Off-Grid Living

Triple Shredded Mulch Vs Regular Mulch: Which is Best?

By: Zac Friedman

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When gardening, it’s always a good idea to use some type of soil cover. Mulch helps suppress weeds, retain soil moisture, insulate the soil, and reduce erosion. This guide explains the differences and lists the pros and cons of triple shredded vs regular mulch to help you choose the best one for your vegetable gardens. We’ll cover cost, ease of use, environmental impact, and more. 

Triple shredded mulch and regular mulch can both be made wood or bark. The difference is that triple shredded mulch is ground finer than regular mulch. This makes it a good choice for smaller plants, seedlings, and saplings. Regular mulch comes in larger pieces. This makes it a good choice for larger plants, trees, shrubs, and established gardens.

Triple Shredded Mulch Vs Regular Wood Mulch: Pros and Cons

What is Triple Shredded Mulch

All mulch is shredded or ground. Some types are shredded into finer pieces than others. Triple shredded mulch is the finest ground type of mulch. It is processed into pieces that measure 1-3 inches in length. To compare, regular mulch measures around 4-6″.

Most triple shredded mulch is made from hardwood trees. Hardwood mulch is made from Oak, Maple, or Cherry. It can also be made from softwood. Triple shredded mulch is sometimes called triple ground. 

The finely ground mulch breaks down more quickly because it has more surface area for decomposers to work on. This allows it to add more nutrients to your soil in less time than regular wood mulch. For this reason, it doesn’t last as long. It needs to be replaced more frequently. Triple shredded mulch is also more expensive than regular wood mulch because it requires more processing. 

Mulch comes in various sizes. Double shredded mulch also exists. This mulch is slightly more coarsely ground than triple shredded but finer than regular shredded mulch. Single shred is your standard wood mulch that has been chipped one time. 

Benefits of Triple Shredded Mulch

Triple shredded mulch being made

It’s More Attractive

Triple shredded mulch can look a little cleaner and more finished than regular mulch or double shredded mulch. The smaller pieces settle a bit better. They are also more evenly sized. They look more uniform. This is one of the biggest benefits of triple shredded mulch. The smaller pieces also make it a better choice for small plants and young plants. 

When you use courser mulches with larger pieces, they can look kind of messy. You have large chunks of wood mixed in with smaller shreds. It doesn’t look bad. It just looks a little less clean. 

Triple shredded and regular mulch are both available in a range of colors from light to dark brown. Dyed mulch is also available. 

Triple Shredded Mulch Adds More Nutrients

Because triple shredded mulch is made from smaller pieces, it decomposes faster than regular mulch. This is because there is more surface area for the microbes to work on.

As the mulch decomposes, it releases nutrients into the soil. This makes the soil more fertile. The mulch also adds organic material to the soil. This helps the soil retain moisture better and reduces soil compaction. Triple shredded mulch is a good soil amendment. 

Regular wood mulch doesn’t add nutrients to your soil as quickly because it takes much longer to degrade. It’s not as beneficial for the soil.

Triple shredded mulch around a palm tree

It Helps With Weed Control

Both Triple shredded and regular mulch help keep the weeds down. They block weed seeds from reaching the soil. They also help prevent existing weed seeds from germinating and growing by creating a barrier. Weeds have a hard time pushing through the mulch. Some weeds will eventually grow but the mulch really helps keep the weeds down. 

Triple shredded mulch can make a better weed barrier than regular mulch. The reason is that the smaller pieces of mulch can lock together into a kind of mat over time. It is hard for the weeds to push through. The mat also blocks the sunlight, which makes it harder for weeds to germinate.

Erosion Prevention

Mulch helps reduce erosion. It blocks the impact of heavy rain on the soil surface. It also absorbs some moisture. This helps prevent soil and nutrients from being washed away during heavy rains.

Triple shredded mulch does a better job of reducing erosion because it tends to lock together after it settles. This helps hold the mulch and soil in place. For this reason, triple shredded mulch is a good choice for hillsides or areas where erosion is an issue. 

Moisture Retention

Both triple shredded and regular mulch help retain soil moisture by reducing evaporation. The mulch shades the soil from the sun and blocks the wind. This helps your plants stay hydrated. It also helps with water conservation. You won’t have to water as frequently. You’ll save money on your water bill as well.

Triple shredded mulch is a more effective moisture barrier. This is because it forms a more solid barrier as it settles. It’s harder for air and water to pass through and escape. This helps to slow evaporation a little bit more. 

It’s Environmentally Friendly

Both triple shredded mulch and regular mulch are organic materials. They are just made from wood. Over time, they degrade away. They don’t introduce anything harmful into your soil.

Triple shredded mulch is sometimes of higher quality than regular mulch. It is considered a premium mulch. It is usually made from clean wood that has not been treated with anything. This can make it a more environmentally friendly choice.

Regular mulch is sometimes made from waste wood, like old pallets or recycled wood. It can also contain wood that has been treated. For example, it could have been treated with preservatives or pesticides. Sometimes the wood is dyed so it all has the same color. This wood can contain various chemicals that could be harmful to your plants. It’s just not as clean.

Of course, this isn’t always the case. You can find regular mulch that is untreated and of high quality. There is also treated and dyed triple shredded mulch. When buying mulch, it’s a good idea to look for organic mulch and buy it from a reputable source.

It Helps Regulate Soil Temperature

Both triple shredded and regular mulch help insulate the soil. Mulch helps keep the soil cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter.

In the summer, mulch shades the soil from the sun. This keeps your plant’s roots cooler. In the winter, mulch creates a barrier between the soil and the snow and ice. This keeps your plant’s roots warmer. Mulch can extend the growing season a bit. 

Mulch also helps to reduce temperature swings between day and night. This reduces stress on your plant. This is nice if you live in an area that experiences extreme temperatures.

It is Resistant to Compaction

Mulch helps reduce soil compaction. The mulch absorbs impact from rain and people walking on it so the soil underneath stays looser. This makes it easier for your plant’s roots to spread. Both triple shredded and regular mulch are effective at preventing soil compaction. 

Drawbacks of Triple Shredded Mulch

Triple shredded wood mulch

It’s More Expensive Than Regular Mulch

Probably the biggest drawback of triple shredded mulch is the cost. It is much more expensive than regular wood mulch. On average, a yard of triple shredded mulch costs around $22. A yard of regular single shredded mulch might cost $18. You also have to re-apply triple shredded mulch more frequently because it doesn’t last as long. This adds to the cost.

If you only have to cover a small area, the difference is minimal. If you have a large garden, the cost can add up. You can save some money by buying bulk mulch and paying a delivery charge.

It Doesn’t Last as Long

Triple shredded mulch decomposes faster than regular mulch. This is because the pieces are smaller. They have more surface are for decomposers like bacteria and fungi to work on. 

This can be both a good thing and a bad thing. The benefit is that more nutrients will be introduced to your soil faster. As mulch decomposes, it releases valuable nutrients and organic matter into the soil. 

The drawback is that you’ll have to replace the mulch more frequently. You may need to add a fresh layer of triple shredded mulch every year. Regular mulch might last 2 years. Ideally, you should maintain the mulch depth at 2-4”. You’ll spend more time mulching. The replacement cost can also add up.

It Can Wash Away During Heavy Storms

If your flower beds flood or if water flows through them during heavy rains, triple shredded mulch can wash away. Triple shredded mulch can also be displaced by strong winds when it’s dry. Some of it can blow out of your beds.

There are a few ways to prevent this. You can edge your garden beds to hold the mulch in. You can also dig trenches to direct rainwater so it doesn’t flow through your beds. For more info, check out my guide to keeping mulch in place during a storm.

It Can Attract Pests

Some types of pests could make their home in your triple shredded mulch. Rodents could try to nest in it. Snakes could hide in it. It could also attract ants or termites, depending on the type of wood it’s made of. If the mulch was made from treated wood, it won’t attract as many pests. 

It Can Deplete Nitrogen in the Soil

Wood mulch can temporarily deplete nitrogen in the soil. This is an issue with all types of wood mulch. As the wood breaks down, microbes use nitrogen from the surrounding soil to fuel their activity. This temporarily reduces the nitrogen where the mulch touches the soil.

This nitrogen depletion only affects the soil surface, unless the mulch gets tilled in. Also, the nitrogen depletion is only temporary. As the mulch decomposes and the bacteria die off, the nitrogen is released back into the soil.

It Could Increase the Acidity of the Soil

Some types of wood mulch can lower the pH (increase the acidity) of your soil. Generally, the change in acidity is negligible. If you already have acidic soil or if you are growing plants that are sensitive to changes in soil pH, you may want to take this into consideration. This isn’t specific to triple shredded mulch. Many types of wood mulch can affect pH.

Regular wood mulch

Benefits of Regular Mulch

There are a few reasons to choose regular wood mulch over triple shredded. 

Most importantly, it’s cheaper. If you have a large area to cover, you can save a good amount of money by choosing regular mulch over triple shredded. You don’t need to buy as much mulch because it doesn’t need to be replaced as frequently.

Regular mulch also lasts a long time. You don’t have to replace it as frequently because the larger pieces decompose more slowly. Regular wood mulch may last 2-3 years before you need to add a new layer. Triple shredded mulch may need to be refreshed every year. Using a longer lasting mulch will save you time and money.

Regular mulch is also environmentally friendly. It is made from wood that degrades away over time. It doesn’t add any chemicals or toxins to the soil.  

Of course, regular mulch has many of the same benefits as triple shredded mulch. It helps suppress weed growth, retain soil moisture, insulate the soil, and reduce erosion. It is also nice looking. Most wood chips are brown mulch. Other colors are also available.

Wood mulch and a wheelbarrow

Drawbacks of Regular Mulch

Regular wood mulch doesn’t add as many nutrients to the soil as quickly as triple shredded mulch. This is because it takes so long to decompose. If you’re trying to make your soil more fertile, regular wood mulch won’t help much. You can add a layer of compost before applying the mulch. This will help add nutrients to the soil. 

Regular wood mulch also has many of the same drawbacks as triple shredded mulch. It can attract pests, like termites and ants. It can also temporarily deplete nitrogen in the soil. In addition, it can be displaced by storms. The wood chips can float away if your garden bed floods. Generally, triple shredded and regular mulch perform similarly.  

Other Types of Mulch

Cedar mulch
Cedar mulch

There are many other types of mulch including straw, bark, grass clippings, pine needles, leaves, compost, and sawdust. There are dyed mulches as well. You can find red mulch and black mulch. Pine bark mulch and cedar mulch are particularly popular options. There are also inorganic mulches like lava rocks, pea gravel, and rubber mulch. Each of these has its own benefits and drawbacks. 

Other types of mulch offer many of the same benefits as triple shredded mulch. They suppress weed growth, retain soil moisture, regulate soil temperature, and reduce erosion. They also add nutrients and organic matter to the soil as they degrade. Some mulches last longer than others. Some have more nutrients than others. Of course, inorganic mulch, like rock, doesn’t add any nutrients. 

How to Choose

The best kind of mulch depends on how you plan to use it. When choosing mulch, it’s a good idea to think about what you’re trying to achieve. Are you trying to improve soil health, suppress weeds, or conserve moisture? Are you trying to add nutrients and organic matter to the soil to make it more fertile? Maybe you’re just looking for a durable ground cover so you don’t have bare soil? Maybe you are trying to improve the curb appeal of you home so you only care about aesthetics.

It’s also a good idea to consider the environmental impact of mulch. Some mulches can contain chemicals that aren’t good for your soil or your plants. For example, mulch made from treated or dyed wood could leave toxins in the soil as it degrades. Untreated organic mulches only add organic matter to your soil. It’s always best to choose an eco-friendly mulch.

My Experience

I use several different types of mulch in my yard. On my flower beds in my front yard, I like to use triple shredded mulch. I like the way it looks. It has a uniform and even appearance. It lies close to the ground. Regular mulch works fine too. It’s just not quite as attractive, in my opinion. 

In my vegetable garden in my backyard, I use a range of other types of mulches. Usually, I’ll use a free mulch like compost, grass clippings, pine straw, or shredded leaves. Yard waste can make great mulch. Sometimes I’ll use straw. I don’t use inorganic mulch, like rocks. 

Triple shredded mulch can be a great option for ground cover. It’s better than wood mulch in pretty much every way. There are only two major drawbacks. It’s expensive and it doesn’t last as long. If you can get a good deal on it, I recommend triple shredded over regular mulch. 

Whether you go with triple shredded or regular mulch, I hope this guide has helped you choose the best mulch for your garden. 

Do you use triple shredded mulch? Share your experience in the comments below!

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