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Mulch is a layer of organic or inorganic material applied to the surface of the soil.  Organic mulches include compost, shredded leaves and bark. Organic mulches, such as bark mulch, are those that decompose in the garden. In Vancouver gardens, bark mulch is used primarily as it is a natural by-product of the forestry industry. Bark mulch is made by shredding bark stripped off trees, composting the shredded bark in a processing facility, then adding a percentage of organic compost to create a blended final product. Applying bark mulch improves both soil the texture and its water-retentive properties.

When to Apply

Spring application is best done when the garden has been weeded, with perennial weeds removed and new seedlings picked out. This is the perfect time for using mulch to reduce weeds that normally re-appear through the growing period. Throughout the summer, the bark mulch layer will help retain moisture in the soil and protect plants from hot temperatures. A layer that is between 3-5” deep is recommended, except where shallow-rooted plants such as rhododendrons and azaleas are growing. In these root zones, apply mulch at a depth of 1-2” only.

Fall application of bark mulch is a great way to winterize garden beds. Once your final garden clean up has been completed, apply a layer of mulch to all beds. Tender perennials that are marginal in your hardiness zone will benefit from a thick layer covering the root zone. Bark mulch helps keep soil temperatures consistent, avoiding the freeze and thaw effect that often occurs during winter’s cold snaps and warmer days of sunshine. If you applied mulch in the spring of the same year, then all that is needed is a top-up of 1-2” of bark mulch. However, if your garden beds have no mulch on them at all, then apply the same amount as you would in spring, a covering 3-5” deep.

How to Apply

Using a wheelbarrow, move bark mulch evenly throughout the garden by depositing piles in areas where the wheelbarrow can easily be used to access open spots. If your plantings are tight, then roll the wheelbarrow to the edge of garden beds and use a flat shovel to scoop out shovelfuls, and lightly toss the bark mulch around plants. To spread the mulch evenly, use a rake to distribute the material into an even covering on the beds. Sometimes I find that a small rake does the best job, and it is even helpful to flip the rake over so the hooks on the end of the tines are facing up. This seems to be an easier way to spread the mulch around evenly.

Many landscape contractors also offer bark mulch installation and delivery as a service, and you may prefer this method to doing it yourself.

Thanks for reading, if you would like more information about using bark mulch, or to request a free estimate, please fill out the contact form.