Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Mulch - You Get What You Pay For...

Pine Bark Mulch
I'm a big believer in the use of mulch and I especially like pine bark mulch. Mulch holds in valuable soil moisture, suppresses weed growth and helps maintain a uniform soil temperature. Pine bark mulch is great because it breaks down over time and helps improve the soils physical characteristics (i.e. aeration, drainage and water holding). Some experts suggest that as pine bark breaks down it can even supplement nitrogen and other important plant nutrients in the soil. Although I don't totally support this philosophy I get it - pine bark is a good thing. This is particularly true here on the island or any area where soil organic matter is in short supply.

In the good ole days...
There was an abundant supply of pine bark for landscape garden use. It was a bi-product of the lumber/paper industry and there were few uses other than horticultural applications. Today, the supply of pine bark has dwindled and the way trees are harvested makes it difficult to separate bark from wood. This is important because bark has a narrower carbon:nitrogen ratio than wood - which means bark breaks down much faster. Wood has a very wide C:N ratio and may last in the soil for years, gobbling up available nitrogen as it tries to decompose and ultimately contributing little/nothing to the soil's physical attributes.

All Wood - No Bark
Buyer beware...
The reason I bring this up is because, once again, some of the local DYI's are offering ALL NATURAL PINE MULCH at a very reasonable price/bag. First of all - don't think this is pine BARK, it's not!!! It's shredded wood, probably sawmill or construction wastes. I guess the term "All Natural" means there aren't any chemicals added - like pressure treated lumber. But the term "natural" is meaningless and nothing more than green washing BS.

So - buyer beware. Don't think you're getting all the benefits of pine BARK mulch at a bargain price when you purchase this material. Finding "real" pine bark mulch can be a challenge but well worth the effort!

1 comment:

Rosa Morgan Lockwood said...

Where do you suggest getting the best mulch on the island?