Types Of Bark Mulch: Tips For Using Wood Mulch In Gardens
Mulches are used to protect plants from harsh weather conditions and direct sunlight. They provide a protective barrier between soil and air. There are many different kinds of bark mulches available on the market today. Some are made with natural materials such as sawdust or leaves while others contain synthetic materials like plastic, paper, cardboard, metal, etc.. All of these types have their own benefits and drawbacks.
These types of mulches are made from plant matter such as sawdust, straw, leaves, grass clippings, tree bark and other organic material. These materials are usually harvested directly from trees or shrubs. While some of them may not be completely free of chemicals they do not contain any harmful substances that could harm your plants. Many of these products come in various sizes and shapes making it easy to apply to your garden bed.
Some of the most popular brands of mulches on the market are made using petroleum based materials. These materials include wood chips, newspaper, cardboard, styrofoam and other plastics. Some of these products may contain toxic substances that could potentially harm your plants if ingested or inhaled. Other than being expensive to purchase and maintain, these products tend to break down over time which can cause problems when watering your plants.
Advantages of Using Plant-Based Mulches
Natural mulches such as wood chips and straw do a good job at regulating temperature around your plants. They also protect the root systems from extreme heat and cold. These materials are usually more affordable and readily available in most areas.
Disadvantages of Using Natural Mulches
Natural mulches can attract rodents, insects and other pests that feast on them. They can also host weeds and other types of plant life.
Advantages of Using Synthetic Mulches
Plastic, cardboard and paper based mulches are extremely affordable making them great for large projects. They’re also very lightweight making it easy to transport them. Most types can be purchased in large bails from most home improvement stores.
Disadvantages of Using Synthetic Mulches
These types of mulches contain toxic substances which might be harmful to your plants. As time passes these products may break down and need to be replaced more often than plant based materials.
Which is Better?
When choosing a mulch it really just boils down to your personal preference. Both natural and synthetic mulches have their own benefits and drawbacks. When it comes to natural mulches, the type of tree or plant that the material came from may help determine how beneficial it is for your soil. For instance, using pine needles as a mulch may help raise the acidity levels in your soil making it undesirable for plants that prefer more alkaline conditions. Wood chips and other plant matter tends to break down over time which can cause vital nutrients and minerals to become depleted in your soil over time.
Synthetic mulches are often preferred by gardeners because they don’t breakdown over time. This is ideal if you plan on growing the same plants for many years to come or you just don’t want to have to worry about maintaining your mulch. The main problem with these types of mulches is that they’re not always the best for the overall health of your soil and plants. Using a product like shredded paper or cardboard can increase the level of potassium in the soil which is great for plants like roses or tomatoes. But it may not be the best for other plants that don’t require as much potassium.
When it comes to cost, natural mulches are usually less expensive overall. Some gardeners believe that synthetic mulches don’t breakdown like the do and should last for many years. While this is true, it really just depends on what you’re using for mulch. Some types of shredded paper break down very quickly which means you’ll have to replace it at least every other year which can get very expensive.
Natural mulches are a great way to keep weeds from growing and they provide soil improvements over time. You just need to be careful about how you apply them. For example, if you apply wood chips without incorporating the chips with the top layer of soil you may be doing more harm than good. Also, you don’t want to apply so much mulch that it prevents water from reaching the root system of your plants.
Synthetic mulches in particular have had some bad press lately. It’s recommended that you don’t use mulches that contain plastic as they will eventually break down and release toxins into the soil. This may be particularly harmful to plants since they will be absorbing these toxins.
There is also some concern over using recycled newspaper mulch which is often made up of colored inks. The lead from the ink can easily be absorbed by plants making it unsafe for human consumption.
Using a mulch in your landscape can greatly improve the overall health and appearance of your lawn or garden. Both natural and synthetic mulches have their benefits which is why they’re used by so many people. By weighing the pros and cons of each you can decide which one is best for your needs.
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Sources & references used in this article:
Mulch It!: A Practical Guide to Using Mulch in the Garden and Landscape by S Campbell – 2012 – books.google.com
Mulching for a healthy landscape by D Relf – 2009 – vtechworks.lib.vt.edu
Introduction or stimulation? The association of Stropharia aurantiaca with bark and wood-chip mulches by PD Bridge, C Prior – European journal of soil biology, 2007 – Elsevier