A Gardener’s Guide to Bark Mulch
As its name suggests, bark mulch is a type of gardening mulch made from the bark of trees. When properly used, bark mulch can prove to be one of the most beneficial gifts you bestow to your garden and plants. Green thumbs likely already know the many benefits and methods of using this mulch, but people new to gardening may be seeking an easily understandable overview. This guide provides general information on bark mulch, its benefits, and proper methodology.
What is Bark Mulch?
As stated before, this type of mulch is made from the bark of trees. Many people swear by this gardening goodie because it is highly proficient in its job and is available at very low cost. Bark mulches can be made from many different types of trees, with cedar and pine being particularly popular varieties. Different chip/nugget sizes are also available and suitable for differing purposes.
Benefits and Uses
Mulch provides a number of services and benefits to any garden. Aside from lending an attractive contrast to soil and grass in your landscaping, mulch can also improve the quality of your soil over time. Since it is made from natural materials, the mulch biodegrades and turns into nutrient rich soil. Mulch made of bark degrades faster than other types, so it will require replacement more frequently, but mulch nuggets tend to dry out and turn craggy looking before they degrade. Many people find this so unattractive that they replace the nugget mulches before they need to be, and thus incur higher costs.
In addition to soil turnover, bark can also help keep weeds down and help the soil retain moisture. This can save the gardener money if they’ve chosen to use plants that require constant moisture in order to thrive.
There are some important things you need to remember in order to keep your garden healthy, since improper mulching can damage your plants and invite unwanted insect populations. To begin with, you need to make sure that your mulch does not touch your plants. This may seem counterproductive if your plants require constant moisture, but if you are mulching around trees the damp mulch can lead to various diseases if it is in constant contact with your tree’s trunk.
Additionally, you need to make sure that the mulch is spread evenly. Mounds of mulch retain water and this will attract various insects and pests, particularly termites which can eventually reach your house and take residence in your foundation. Make sure that you periodically rake through your mulch to keep it flat and even.
You also need to make sure that your mulch is not too thick. While thick mulch may provide extra protection from weeds, it will also absorb a large amount of water and irrigation that your tree roots require. As with mounds, thick mulch can also invite unwanted insects and even rodents. Ideally, your bark mulch should measure no more than 3 – 5 inches from the actual soil surface.
Fresh layers should be added in the spring, and certain types will completely degrade by this point each year. Other types, such as the nugget mulch mentioned earlier will likely still remain. Before adding a new layer, remove the majority or all of the previous year’s mulch and haul it off or use it in your compost pile if you have one.
Where to Get Bark Mulch
Any decent gardening supply shop or nursery will have several types of mulch for you to choose from and will also offer you a decent range in prices. Some gardeners are lucky enough to live in areas where logging is commonplace and can therefore get mulch at reduced prices or absolutely free of charge. Ask your local nursery managers or your chamber of commerce if any such places exist in your area.