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What is bark mulch?

Under bark mulch is generally understood chopped tree bark, as obtained as a waste product in forestry. These are usually bark chaffs of native coniferous trees such as pine, spruce or Douglas fir. When peeling the tree trunks, which are felled for the wood processing, the shredded bark remains behind. It is usually natural and should not contain any artificial additives.

Bark mulch comes in very different grain sizes and qualities - and even dyed with natural colors in red, green or blue. The bark of the native pine in the Mediterranean (Pinus pinea) has an intense rust-red hue by nature - therefore, imported pine mulch is also very often used in this garden in the garden. In the horticulture pure pine bark is generally in great demand, because it suppresses the weeds particularly well.

Bark mulch from coarse bark chaff

Bark mulch of good quality consists of coarse and sifted bark chaff

This is how bark mulch works

A layer of bark mulch protects the soil in many ways. The cover with bark chop, the earth heats up when exposed to the sun not so much and thus loses less water through evaporation. This leaves more moisture in the soil and is available to the plants, which significantly reduces water consumption in the garden. In addition, bark mulch prevents rapid freezing in winter and protects the soil from erosion, since the earth is no longer directly exposed to rain and wind. Weed seeds find little support in the coarse bark pieces, and the unwanted plants are very difficult to penetrate a thicker layer of mulch both from above and from below. Especially pine bark has the advantage that its high content of tannins has a growth-inhibiting effect on weeds.
Bark mulch is thoroughly soil-activating: due to the natural decay of the pulp, which depending on the grain and nutrient supply in the soil is faster or slower, the bark mulch gradually transforms into humus and thus improves the soil underneath. Good to know: The soil organisms need a lot of nutrients for the decomposition and utilization of the bark mulch - among other things nitrogen, which they withdraw from the soil, whereby it can come in a mulched bed temporarily to the nitrogen deficiency - to so-called nitrogen fixation. In addition, not only beneficial insects feel comfortable in the protected environment of the mulch layer, but snails also like to use the loose, coarse-pored soil as a shelter.

Bark mulch as a decorative cover for window boxes

Bark mulch is also suitable as a decorative cover for window boxes

Use bark mulch properly

To avoid the nitrogen fixation described above, you should provide the beds with a nitrogen fertilizer before applying bark mulch. Hornbeams are perfectly suited for this because as a slow-release fertilizer they undergo a similar slow decomposition process as the bark mulch and thus create a good and long-lasting nutrient balance (so-called compensatory fertilization). Prepare the soil thoroughly and remove as much weeds as possible - especially the rhizomes of root weeds such as couch grass and greed.
In the distribution of bark mulch it is then called padding instead of spills: For a soil-protecting effect, the mulch layer should be between five and seven inches thick at the end. If she also wants to help against weeds, it may still be a few inches more. Calculate the need before buying - it will be higher than you think! Do not choose the grain size too small. If the mulch material is very fine, this can hinder the exchange of oxygen in the soil. In the trade, there are grain sizes between 0.7 and 80 millimeters. As a rule of thumb, the larger the area to be covered, the larger the mulch pieces should be. For beds, a mean size between 10 and 40 millimeters is recommended. Quality mulch is screened before packaging and therefore contains only pieces of bark in the specified size. In low-cost products, the manufacturers usually renounce the screening, which brings along a lot of fine material that quickly swirls and changes in the bed.

Marbled bed in the gravel garden

The curved gravel garden forms a nice contrast to the mulched bed

Bark mulch as a road-railing

Bark mulch is not only used as a bed cover in the garden, but also on paths and in play areas. The bark cuttings are soft under the feet and have resilient properties, which is why they are often used as fall protection under swings or climbing frames. Should much be run on it, offers the coarsest grain size of 40 to 80 millimeters. The large pieces of bark feathers best, rot slowly and do not settle in the sole profile, so that the shoes remain clean. If bark mulch is too expensive for these purposes, you can also resort to cheaper wood chippings.Attention: Due to the rotting, the bark mulch layer becomes thinner and slimmer over the years. Therefore fill up the surfaces regularly with fresh material.

Bark mulch as a roadside garden path

Bark mulch as a roadway gives the garden a natural look

Bark mulch is not suitable for all plants

Since the use of bark mulch in the private garden has become popular, he is often postulated as a gardening panacea. But that's not quite true, because not all plants can tolerate a bark mulch cover. Many species, including the acid and humus-loving forest (marginal) plants such as ferns, hydrangeas and rhododendrons love the acidic pine bark. Even freshly planted shrubs and shadow shrubs benefit from a top layer of bark mulch, as it replaces the missing natural litter layer, as it occurs in the forest. Young plants, on the other hand, are severely affected by nitrogen depletion and tannic acid in pinewood.
Surrounding roses and bedding plants, the soil should be left completely free from mulch. Even rock garden and prairie plants as well as many Mediterranean herbs and lavender find bark mulch to run away - if they could. For these plants, it is better to use a mineral covering of gravel or gravel.

Alpine plants prefer a mulch layer of rock

Alpine plants prefer a mulch layer of rock

Pollution and pollution

In connection with bark mulch is often warned against an increased cadmium load. These striking cadmium values ​​are due to the fact that the trees in the forest naturally store the heavy metal in their bark. Bark mulch therefore contains an above-average amount of cadmium, but depending on the origin usually in harmless quantities. The upper limit is regulated by the German Fertilizer Ordinance. Measurements have meanwhile shown that the increased cadmium concentration in the bark mulch during normal use in the home garden has no effect on the total cadmium content of the garden soil.
Another common problem is contamination in the bark mulch, because unfortunately is not everywhere where "natural" on it stands even pure tree bark in it. Unsatisfactory, contaminated with foreign substances cheap mulch always provides for trouble. Frequent "bycatch" in the bark mulch are, for example, pieces of foil, broken glass, metal parts and stones, but also unwanted wood chippings or green waste. Tip: When buying, pay attention to proven quality (RAL quality mark 250/1).

Colored bark mulch and wood chop

Extravagant eye-catcher: wood chaff and bark mulch are also colorfully colored

Suppliers of bark mulch

Bark mulch is available in medium-sized (50 liters) and large bags (70 liters and more) in the garden center and hardware store to buy. Also some horticultural enterprises or large nurseries offer bark mulch. For larger quantities, it is often worth the free delivery - and who wants to cover beds or paths for the first time with bark mulch, usually requires larger quantities. A usually cheaper alternative is the purchase directly from the factory. Some sawmills and forestry companies offer Rindenmulch cheap for pickup. The calculation then takes place in cubic meters or by weight.

Bark mulch between vegetable beds

Natural look: In this vegetable garden, the beds are mown with grass clippings, the paths are sprinkled with bark mulch

Bark mulch or bark compost?

Bark compost is - as the name implies, rotted bark mulch, sometimes mixed with potting soil. Commercially, the product is also known as bark humus. Coarse bark shreds of good quality are extremely durable as described above. Their decomposition, however, binds nitrogen, which is why they are not well suited for young plants and more sensitive plants. Anyone who does not want to do without a mulch layer of bark can, in this case, resort to finer-grained bark compost. The partially decomposed bark binds less nitrogen. It is thus gentler on the plants and has a similar consistency as coarse peat. Bark humus decomposes faster than bark mulch and must therefore be refilled more often, but is a good alternative for sensitive plantings because of better nutrient availability. In addition, it can also be used as an ingredient for home-made, peat-free plant substrates.

Beech mulch for cover tree pulley

Trees are grateful for a protective mulch cover of the tree-pulley

Special case pine bark

Pine bark runs more and more from the classical pine bark. The reason for this is their good quality and lower acid content. Pine bark has a very attractive orange-red color, smells pleasant Mediterranean and not as sour as the bark of the local forest pine. The pH value in the bed is significantly less affected by pine bark and also the cadmium load is lower in the pine wood. The hard wood of the pine ensures up to three times longer shelf life of the bark chop. However, the clear orange-red hue is not for everyone and can be particularly disturbing for large areas or in the natural garden.
Due to the low tannin content of the pine bark, which does not inhibit weeds like the bark of other pine species, the soil must be prepared very carefully before spreading the bark mulch.The trees are not indigenous to northern Europe, so pine mulch also causes long transport routes from the Mediterranean. For this reason, it is only available packaged and priced slightly higher. Tip: The great look and the pleasant scent make pine bark the perfect mulch for window boxes and planters.

pine bark

Pine bark is visually distinct in color

Alternatives to bark mulch

As a mulch material for the shade bed are next to bark mulch also dried grass clippings, shredded shrub or leaves. These loose materials work well into the soil and decompose quickly. This must be done every four weeks. Alternatively, wood chips or sawdust can be used for mulching. Because of their finer grain size, they are easily blown away. Gravel or grit may be used for permanent cover as erosion protection. However, a stone cover does not have soil-improving properties. For paths and slopes is mulch made of chopped wood, as it is particularly slip-resistant and decomposes only slowly.

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