Choosing Dog-Safe Decorative Mulches For Landscaping Public Parks

Posted on: 22 November 2019

Expertly landscaping a public park requires a wide range of materials, but mulch is probably one of the most important. A protective layer of mulch applied to patches of bare earth will protect young plants, prevent soil erosion and help the soil retain moisture during the drier parts of the year. However, while residential gardeners can get away with using unsightly mulching materials like newspaper or straw, landscapers working on public or commercial parks generally stick to more aesthetically pleasing decorative mulches.

Unfortunately, this can present a serious problem if your public park will be used by dogs and their owners. Some of the most popular types of decorative mulch can be highly dangerous to dogs, and unless the park you are landscaping explicitly excludes dogs, you should ensure that any decorative mulches you use do not pose a threat to canine visitors. Keep the following guidelines in mind when choosing decorative mulches to ensure you make dog-friendly choices.

Choose wood chips instead of cocoa bean mulch

Cocoa bean mulch (also known as cocoa hull or husk mulch) is a popular and widely used decorative mulch that is prized for its vibrant red hues and distinctly sweet aroma. However, cocoa beans contain theobromine, a substance that is highly toxic to dogs. Theobromine is the reason chocolate bars are poisonous to dogs, and large quantities of the substance remain in the hulls of the beans even after they have been dried and processed into mulch.

As such, you should avoid using cocoa bean mulch in any public park likely to be frequented by dogs and dog walkers. Even if the mulch is located far away from paths and walkways, off-leash dogs can still ingest toxic quantities of the mulch and are likely to be attracted to it from a distance by its enticing aroma.

Traditional timber mulches are an excellent substitute for cocoa bean mulch if you need to keep your mulch dog-friendly. They are available in a huge variety of colours, including red shades that closely mimic the look of cocoa bean mulch. 

Choose pine bark mulch over pine needles

If your park landscape design makes extensive use of evergreen trees and shrubs, you might be tempted to use pine needle mulch to create a more cohesive, 'natural' look to the finished park. Unfortunately, curious dogs can ingest pine needle mulch, and while the needles themselves are not toxic, they are largely indigestible to dogs. The sharp needles can become trapped in the walls of a dog's stomach and intestinal lining, causing serious and potentially fatal digestive issues.

If you want to choose a naturalistic mulch for an evergreen park that is also dog safe, opt for pine bark mulch. This finely shredded mulch will create a similar aesthetic while also posing no threat to a dog's health. It can also be tilled into soil as a conditioner.

Contact a mulch delivery service for more information.