Shredded Bark Mulch

...Beautifies Landscape, Conserves Moisture

by Mike Dooley

When I go out on a design consultation I am often told “I don’t want gravel everywhere and I don’t want grass.” My response is, “Then you want mulch?” The answer is usually “NO. I don’t want mulch because it will blow away, turn grey and eventually have to be replaced.”

Some of that is true, but gravel and grass have their own problems including weeds, heat retention and a stark look.

If you’ve traveled to other parts of the country, you’ve noticed that the Southwest is alone in its negative attitude toward bark mulches. In the rest of the U.S., mulch is heralded as the answer to improve the soil, prevent weeds, hold in moisture and give the landscape a more pleasant, organic look. As far as the wind issue — the answer is in the type of mulch used. After 30 years of installing mulches, here are my conclusions.

Large bark nuggets will not blow away, but they look very coarse. (They’re ugly.)

Free city mulch is free — but it’s extra ugly.

Small bark nuggets look nice, but they can blow away.

Shredded bark, especially cedar, will stay in place. The stringy nature of shredded mulch keeps it from blowing. It looks much better than gravel, has much lower maintenance than grass and greatly improves soil moisture and fertility.

Finally, a word on heat retention. I laid a thermometer on my porch in the shade and the temperature was 84 degrees. Then I laid the thermometer on an area of mulch in my yard and the temperature was 98 degrees. Finally I laid the thermometer on the gravel area and it could not give an accurate reading because it maxed out the thermometer at 125 degrees.

Landscape designs that combine limited areas of grass along with areas of mulch and gravel can make a wonderful presentation if designed by a professional.

Happy Gardening!