Friday, September 4, 2009

Mulch---Straw and Bark

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.


  1. As a resident of Auburn, Alabama, I live in close proximity to the fine educational institution known as Auburn University. As I spend time near its campus, I notice a variety of mulches in the shrub beds lining its hallowed learning halls. I was particularly puzzled by a mulching choice I saw outside of Ingram Hall. Here, they chose to use large rocks as mulch. These rocks were roughly the size of eggs and even larger. They ranged in color from reddish to brownish. What is your opinion of rocks as mulch? Obviously, one wouldn't need to worry about refreshing the bed, as rocks last very long. Your thoughts?

  2. Rocks are definitely a viable option, however, they do not conserve soil moisture and suppress weeds as consistently as pebbles do. The main draw for pinestraws and pinebarks is that it is decomposed/decomposing plant material, thus oxidizing the soil and providing key nutrients. Rocks are heavy.