The word ‘mulch’ is probably derived from the German word, ‘molsch’ which means something that is soft and has started to decay. In definition, mulch is a type of material that is used as a protective layer for soil, against weeds and to preserve moisture content in the soil. The use of mulch strengthens the soil and increase its productivity. Mulch can essentially be of two different types:
Organic mulch:Organic mulch may include shredded or chipped bark, compost, leaves, straw, newspaper, grass clippings etc. This type of mulch provides nutrition to the soil and increases its organic content after decomposition. Organic mulch needs to be replaced after decomposition.
Inorganic (mineral and synthetic) mulch: This type of mulch may include plastic film, crushed rock, fabric or gravel. This type of mulch also helps preserve moisture in the soil and provides protection against weed growth. However, since it is inorganic, it does not increase the fertility and productivity of the soil.
Benefits of using bark as a mulch
Some benefits of using bark as a mulch are listed below:
Creates a favorable environment for soil microorganisms – Bark creates a healthy and favorable environment for earthworms and microorganisms present in the soil.
Reduces the need to irrigate – It helps the soil to retain its moisture by reducing evaporation from soil and lessening the impact of rainwater, thus promoting effective permeation of water in the soil.
Increased Soil Fertility – Bark does not decompose quickly and when it does, it releases nutrients and organic matter in the soil which increases its fertility.
Good insulation from temperature – Bark provides good insulation to the soil from temperature and other weather hazards and helps the soil to maintain good health.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can bark be used as a mulch in any season?
It can be used; however, in winter, the soil is too cold and in summer, it can be quite dry. So the best season to use bark as a mulch is autumn and mid to late spring – since at that time of the year the soil is both moist and warm and the bark will help maintain both the temperature and moisture in the soil.
Does the bark kill weeds?
When bark is used as a mulch, it acts as a natural physical barrier and blocks out the sunlight from reaching the weeds and prevents their growth. Furthermore, the weed seeds are washed away by rain after they land on the bark mulch. When the weeds try to grow on the soil surface, they are deflected underneath the bark where they die out.
If bark is used as a mulch, is it beneficial for the ground?
Bark provides good temperature insulation to the soil which protects it from the varying temperature conditions. Bark mulch also protects and preserves soil moisture content. Additionally, bark provides a natural barrier to the ground against thunderstorms, hail or drought. Furthermore, after decomposition, bark releases numerous nutrients and organic matter into the soil which enhances the soil productivity.
What is the average lifespan of bark mulch?
Bark utilizes nitrogen from the soil and slowly decomposes. The nitrogen facilitates the decomposition process. The microorganisms require more nitrogen that is present in the bark itself, and thus they consume it from the soil in order to decompose. However, the decomposition process is quite slow and sometimes good quality bark mulch can even stay working for as long as five years. It is recommended to check and top up it every 2-3 years in order to maintain its full functionality. An important aspect to note here is that, the coarser the bark, the longer it lasts and the more protection it offers against weeds.
What is the recommended laying depth for bark mulch?
The recommended laying depth for bark mulch is around 2 to 4 inches deep (around 50 – 100 mm). The coarser the bark, the more depth you need. For example, for coarse bark, around 3 – 4 inches would be needed whereas for finer bark, 2 inches of depth may suffice. A word of caution here is that, you need to put just the right amount. It should not be too thin or too thick because either way, it will harm your plants and soil. If it is too thin, it will not be able to retain moisture and provide protection from sunlight and if it is too thick, it will block oxygen for the plant roots and soil.
Can bedding plants be planted amid the bark?
Bedding plants are usually meant to provide display of color and fragrance for a few months. If you want to plant some bedding plants, you will need to clear the area of bark, where you want to plant them. Bedding plants naturally grow rapidly in such a soil which is protected from weather fluctuations, which your bark mulch already provides. You will see your flowers blooming in no time, with only a little care and initial watering.
Can the soil located below the bark breathe?
It can. Soil with a good structure has good atmosphere within. If the bark you are using has a porous surface, it will aid the soil to breathe freely.
Does the bark protect the plants against diseases?
When you use compost bark, there are greater chances that you will avoid plant root diseases. As the bark decomposes, it provides nutrients, along with an increase in some good microorganisms such as nitrifying bacteria and mycorrhizal fungi. The pathogens that are harmful to the plant, are also inhibited which protects the plant against diseases.
Does bark adversely affects the pH of the soil and make it acidic?
The bark that we offer, has a pH in the range of pH 5-6, on the acid side of neutral. Since bark is used as mulch on the soil surface, it allows the passage for fresh air and rainwater and does not affect the pH of the soil in any harmful way.
Does bark consume nutrients from the soil?
When the bark is used as a surface mulch, it does not affect the nutrients in the soil in any way. The bark does not provide nutrients directly to the soil and it does not consume the soil’s nutrients. However, when the bark decomposes, it provides nutrients to the soil and also increases the capacity of the soil to hold nutrients.
If the bark is used in tree planting or as a soil conditioner, it will cause a reduction in the amount of nutrients available to the plant. It is not a big issue since at decomposition, the bark already releases nutrients into the soil. So, it is recommended that you fertilize the soil before incorporating bark or it may be fertilized at the same time you deploy the bark.