As mulch products go, bark and wood chips are some of the most popular. And for good reason – they’re relatively inexpensive, easy to find and do a great job of suppressing weeds and protecting plant roots. But there are a few things to keep in mind when using these products in your garden. Here are some tips:
Choose the right product:
garden bark and wood chips come in a variety of sizes, shapes, and textures. Some are chipped, while others are in larger pieces or even shavings. It’s important to choose the right product for your needs. For example, smaller chips will break down more quickly, making them ideal for annual beds that you’ll be replanting each year. Larger chips are better for areas where you don’t want to replant often, like around trees or shrubs.
Apply the mulch evenly:
Whether you’re using a bagged product or one you’ve chipped yourself, be sure to apply it evenly. A thick layer of mulch (3 inches or more) is ideal for suppressing weeds and retaining moisture. But if the mulch is too thick, it can smother plants and prevent water and air from reaching their roots.
Don’t apply it too early or too late in the season:
Applying mulch too early in the spring can delay the growth of your plants. And applying it too late in the fall can prevent the ground from freezing, which can damage plant roots. The best time to apply bark or wood chips is in the early spring or late fall after the ground has cooled but before the first frost.
Keep it away from the base of plants:
While mulch is great for suppressing weeds and protecting plant roots, it’s important to keep it away from the base of plants. This is because mulch can prevent water and air from reaching the roots, which can damage the plant. Instead, apply a 2-inch layer of mulch around the base of the plant, being careful not to pile it up against the stem.
Be aware of the nitrogen content:
Bark and wood chips are high in carbon but low in nitrogen. This is fine for most plants, but if you’re using them around plants that are heavy nitrogen feeders (like tomatoes), you may need to supplement them with additional nitrogen. This can be done by adding compost or manure to the mulch before you apply it.
Reapply as needed:
Bark and wood chips will break down over time, so they’ll need to be reapplied every year or two. This is especially true for smaller chips, which will break down more quickly. Keep an eye on your mulch and reapply it as needed to maintain a thickness of 3 inches or more.
Following these tips, you can use bark and wood chips in your garden with confidence, knowing that you’re doing what’s best for your plants.