Mulching your plant beds is essential for moisture retention and for visual aesthetics. There are several options to choose from when deciding to mulch your plants. Bark, usually pine bark, can be obtained in large, medium or small nuggets, or shredded. It is available in bags or in bulk. Bags are usually 2 cubic feet per bag. Bark can also be purchased by bulk, if you have access to a truck or trailer. The shredded bark will cover a bit more area than nuggets, but the cost is about the same. Pine bark mulch has a pleasant aroma when newly installed. It is worth mentioning that redwood mulch has become available the last few years. It has a bright orange/red color, and can be used when there is an emphasis on contrast between plants and mulch. Pinestraw is ulually purchased in standard bales bound with an orange plastic twine. Pinestraw is very economical in that it goes a long way. It makes a very good "everyday" mulch, is easy to transport and relatively inexpensive. Pinestraw is not always "clean". There are pine cones, sticks and sometimes dead weeds in the less expensive bales. Generally, the higher the cost, the cleaner the bale.
Virtually all mulch needs to be refreshed or replaced after the passage of time. As the mulch decomposes, the color becomes ligher and it appears to be "going away." This is the signal to take action and re-mulch.