How to Lay Bark Mulch


Bark mulch can add color and interest to your landscape while retaining moisture around your plants. Bark mulch helps protect plant roots from extreme temperatures, cooling them in the summer and insulating them in the winter. It creates an ecosystem around your plants by encouraging the beneficial bacteria that break it down into an organic humus. Bark mulch can last for as long as 6 years, needing only a small addition each year to maintain the 4-inch cover and the fresh color.

Things You'll Need

  • Gloves
  • Trowel, shovel or hoe
  • Cultivator or turning fork
  • Cardboard or newspaper
  • Garden rake
  • Select the type and size of bark mulch that is best for your needs. Select a smaller, lighter mulch for flower beds and a heavier, larger mulch for around trees and shrubs.

  • Remove all grass and weeds with a trowel, shovel or hoe from the area where the mulch will be spread. Loosen the soil around the plants with a cultivator or turning fork and smooth with a garden rake or your hands.

  • Arrange three layers of newspaper or a layer of corrugated cardboard on top of the soil. Dampen the newspapers to keep them from blowing away.

  • Spread bark mulch evenly over the desired area. Spread two inches of finer mulch as an base layer to form a better weed barrier. Top with 2 inches of larger bark chunks or nuggets for an attractive final appearance. Spread 4 inches of regular bark mulch as the first layer if you will not be topping off with larger bark chunks or nuggets. Water the mulch well to help it settle.

Tips & Warnings

  • Pine bark mulch comes in grades by size. From largest to smallest the grades are: chunks, nuggets, mini-chips or chips, and fines. Fines are sold as a soil amendment.
  • Hardwood bark mulches are used more for utility than for appearance.

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