There are both aesthetic and health benefits to using bark and mulch in your landscape. However, few people truly understand how bark and mulch is most effectively applied to various elements like plants, trees, flower beds, and gardens.
"Mulch" is any material placed on the surface of the soil, and may be nutrient-rich if desired. Depending on what it's made of and how it's used, mulch offers a variety of benefits to any landscape.
Now that you understand the many benefits of mulching, it's time to determine the best mulch to use in your garden or landscape.
Bark mulch, also called wood mulch, is best used around shrubs, perennials, and trees, including small fruit trees. Bark mulch creates an environment that earthworms and other beneficial microorganisms love to call home, creating a healthier soil that is resistant to compaction.
In beds with perennials and shrubs, bark mulch can reduce water use by over 50%, benefiting plants while saving you money on your water bill.
Using bark mulch in a seedbed or flowerbed featuring annuals is not recommended because these chips can cause a nitrogen deficiency. This nitrogen-to-carbon imbalance interferes with seedbed preparation, and since it takes up to ten years for bark mulch to decompose, it would be wise to seek alternatives in this scenario.
Choosing the right bark mulch is relatively simple, because you can select from a variety of colors offered in an array of sizes and prices. Because bark chips decompose slowly, they are often a good investment for homeowners on a budget.
Bark mulch is a favorite among many Pacific Northwest gardeners and landscapers because of its durability, affordability, and availability in a spectrum of colors. It's important to use the right size bark chips for a given application, with larger chips layered thicker than smaller ones. Other considerations may include the nature of the soil and how it retains moisture, as mulching wet soil could lead to root rot.
If you have poor quality soil, a nutrient-rich mulch like compost or leaf mold may be the ticket to a healthy garden. These fast-decomposing options are the quickest and most effective way to improve the quality of your soil, especially in areas where nitrogen deficiencies exist.
If there is one downside to nutrient-rich mulch, it's the fact that weeds love it just as much as desired plants. If weed prevention is a major reason for adding mulch to your landscaping, then bark mulch is likely a better option.
In many cases, compost looks very much like native soil. Many homeowners like the dark appearance. However, if you're going for a "mulched" look then it may be possible to add a more aesthetically pleasing mulch on top of the compost.
There are a number of other mulches on the market, but many are ineffective and, as in the case of dyed mulches, may contain harmful substances like arsenic or other toxins.
At Apol's Landscape Maintenance, we offer mulching as part of our comprehensive landscape maintenance programs. Our professional staff can keep your landscape looking great and healthy, so call us today and find out more about your mulching options.