Mulch vs Bark – What is the Difference?
Mulch is any substance placed on the soil’s surface to improve the soil’s health and appearance in your garden bed. Just like compost, Mulch is necessary to keep your plants looking wonderful, but not all types are equally effective. Mulch comes in various forms, but bark mulch is one of the best. It is manufactured from tree bark that has been shredded into fine, medium, and big bits for top dressing your garden beds. In this article, we’ll discuss the difference between bark and mulch and the benefits of bark mulch.
Difference Between Bark and Mulch
The main differences between the two are the capacity of wood chips, bark, and other mulch to insulate the ground, hold moisture in the soil, deposit nutrients, inhibit weed development, and how frequently they need to be renewed. Additional aspects may make or break your intended results, even if some of those skills may be established by their size. Once you understand the fundamentals, you’ll notice that mulch along with compost and manaure enhances your landscape, soil fertility and plants strengths while promoting garden growth.
Benefits of Bark Mulch
- Maintains soil moisture
- Provides additional weather protection for plants
- Weeds are suppressed
- Prevents dust from flying around
- Cools the soil
- As it decomposes, it contributes to increasing the soil’s fertility.
- Lasts for a long period
- Enhances the appearance of the garden bed by adding texture and color to the beds
- Bark mulch is particularly helpful in fostering an environment favorable for earthworms and soil microbes, which over time benefits in reducing soil compaction.
Types of Bark Mulch
1. Shredded Wood Mulch
Instead of originating directly from a newly cut tree, wood mulch is often a byproduct of the timber and paper industries. Although it comes in various hues and is frequently used for flower beds, shredded mulch isn’t always the best option. Some mulch made of colored and chopped wood may include chemical additions that are bad for the environment and the soil.
While typically safe, the colors are mostly employed to give mulch a more uniform look. As mulch is broken down over time, it could clump. Gently rake it to fluff it up, improving water penetration to the soil and plants. For best weed suppression, keep mulch several inches thick after being shredded.
2. Bark Mulch
Bark mulch is made from tree bark, and depending on the source, it may contain one or more types of wood. There are many sizes available. Bark mulch can come from different types of trees and provide different benefits. It would be best to scrutinize each variety to choose something for your garden.
The staff at your gardening store or landscaper will know which bark mulch is a good choice for your plants and trees. Bark nuggets are less suitable for locations subject to floods or severe rain since the bark pieces might float away, but they persist longer than shredded wood mulch.
During the growth season, bark fragments prevent microscopic weed shoots from sprouting by retaining moisture while obstructing sunlight. It will help if you spread it evenly on the ground and around the tree. Just make sure not to add too much coating. An inch or two will do for any tree or grass. Choose mulch carefully, especially if your tree prefers neutral or alkaline soil, as some bark mulch can add to the acidity. You can ask a professional or a horticultural shop owner about the acidity levels of different types of mulch.
3. Untreated Wood Mulch
Untreated wood-chip mulch is exactly what it sounds like: wood that has been cut up into small chunks and shredded pieces. The bark and leaves in the wood chips may vary depending on the source.
Compared to shredded mulch, wood-chip mulch often has bigger chunks; the particles are typically 1 to 5 inches long and up to 3 inches wide. Because wood chips may contain leaves, bark, or fragments of several tree species, their chemical variety makes them an excellent choice for providing nutrients to the soil.
In addition to absorbing moisture, wood chips decompose more slowly than shredded mulches. When trees need to be trimmed, or branches and fallen trees need to be removed, any person or company can provide wood-chip mulch for little to no cost. Dye-infused wood chips are sold by some businesses as well. To ensure the wood is free of possibly dangerous chemicals, look for organically colored wood chips if chip color is important.
For mulching around trees and plants, wood chips work best. Instead of stacking the chips in a cone shape around the plant’s base, arrange them in a circle, with the lowest circle points several inches from the tree trunk. This enables the plant to receive oxygen and aids in preventing fungus problems.
Uses of Mulch
1. Grass Clipping
It’s simple to mulch your beds using mulch. After cutting your lawn, let the clippings dry for a day or two (to prevent damp, stinky grass) and add them to your garden beds. Use 2 to 3 inches around fruits, berries, and flowers. Never use grass clippings from lawns that have been weed-killer sprayed. Weed killer is also accessible and reasonably priced.
2. Straw hay
In vegetable gardens, around strawberries and other small crops, straw hay mulch can be used up to 6 or 8 inches thick. In the garden, straw may serve as a source of weed seeds or provide a fire risk. The straw will look more lovely in your beds if you chop it up. Additionally, if you have cattle, this is cheap and easily accessible.
3. Pine Needle
Pine needles, sometimes referred to as pine straw, make great mulch for some flower gardens. Pine straw is an organic mulch created from fallen pine needles. Like any garden mulch, pine needles form a shield that protects plants, retains moisture, improves soil quality, and inhibits weed development. They are light and fluffy, making it easy to spread them out, and they don’t compact much as they break down, so you don’t have to worry about them getting too thick or forming a mat that won’t let any rain through.
4. Shredded Leaf Mulch
Shredded leaf mulch is a fallen leaf shredded with a leaf shredder or lawn mower. Use 2 to 3 inches around flower beds, vegetables, or shrubs. Do not use diseased or insectivorous leaves or black walnut leaves that can be toxic. The leaves are readily available in your yard and can be chopped easily, making it one of the most inexpensive cover crops.
Mulching offers a variety of advantages. Mulch helps retain moisture, prevent soil erosion, supply nutrients, and control weeds while protecting your investment in your home’s garden or landscape plants. A well-kept yard with attractively mulched planters will improve your house’s curb appeal and keep your plants healthy and strong. Your plants will appreciate it whether you use bark, wood chips, or other mulch material.
Frequently Asked Questions
After two whole decades of working a corporate job and getting my kids through school, I moved to Texas to pursue gardening and a bit of a farming full time. I love my lawn and treat my plants and my own children. Besides caring for them, I write about lawn maintenance and tips to grow healthy plants.