What is composted bark mulch? (Complete Guide)





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There is so much to learn when it comes to composting in your garden, and if you’ve come across terms like mulching, you might be feeling a little confused and overwhelmed about what to do and how to feed your plants.

Today, we’re going to cover what is composted bark mulch? Complete Guide 2022.

The term composted bark mulch generally refers to high quality bark that has been chipped into fine pieces and is used in gardens.

It is often expensive, so it tends to be popular with nurseries and professional growers, because it offers superior growing conditions for a plant.

man holding finished compost on a garden folk

What Is Composted Bark?

Composted bark is finely chipped pieces of bark.

These have been broken up into small pieces so that they are ready to decompose, and they provide very valuable nutrients to the ground when they are added to it.

This tends to be quite an expensive product, because it takes a long time to compost bark.

On the whole, high quality bark is used to create this, which also adds to the price. However, there are some excellent advantages offered by using this, which we will explore shortly.

If you are interested in making your garden as healthy and happy as possible, it’s well worth considering buying some composted bark to use as a mulch around your plants, especially the more valuable and unusual ones.

They will enjoy the addition, and it will help them to survive cold weather and droughts.

What Is Mulch?

The term mulch refers to piling up a thick layer of (usually) organic matter. This is done around a plant or on a flowerbed.

It is then left to slowly rot down, and it provides the plant or flowerbed with quite a few benefits. These are as follows:

  • A tidier appearance
  • Reduced need to weed
  • Reduced need to water (better water retention)
  • Water saving
  • Drought protection
  • Cold protection
  • Food boost

Many different kinds of organic materials can be used for mulches, and all should offer these benefits to some degree.

If you are struggling to keep on top of your gardening, mulching can be a good way to cut down on the tasks that you need to do.

You can mulch with almost anything organic, provided that it will gradually break down into the soil, but composted bark has some particular advantages, which we will explore next.

person holding small piece of bark merge between fingers

What Are The Advantages Of Using Composted Bark As Mulch?

As you have seen, there are many advantages to mulching, and composted bark offers all of these. For example:

Advantage One) A Tidier Appearance

Many people want their gardens to look beautiful, and even if you aren’t setting your sights that high, “tidy” is probably a word that you would like to feel fits your outdoor space.

However, many people are becoming aware that our desire for order and prettiness must meet in the middle with nature’s needs, for the sake of the planet and everyone on it.

If that’s the case, mulching is a great answer for keeping things looking neat.

It forms a tidy circle around your plants, and covers over empty beds with a clear sign that work has been done and is being continued.

Composted bark makes a great, tidy mulch because it comes in fine pieces of a fairly uniform color. It won’t look a mess when spread around your bushes or your flowerbeds. It is a bit like laying bark chippings, only finer.

If you want your garden to look neat and cared for, especially in the winter months when many of your plants will have died back or disappeared, composted bark mulch is an excellent choice.

Advantage Two) Reduced Need To Weed

It also cuts back on the amount of time that you have to spend tending to the garden, which can be a great thing at any time of year, but particularly when it is cold out.

Nobody wants to be crawling around with frozen hands, trying to pull sprouting plants up and keep things tidy.

If you have wet winters, this is even more frustrating and unpleasant, and the unwanted plants may seem to grow faster than you can cut them back.

Mulch is a great answer, and it will keep your flowerbeds under control during the cold months when you are not spending much time outdoors.

However, mulch is not just for winter. Even in summer, it can be hard to stay on top of weeding, and working in hot weather can be even worse than working in cold.

If you are struggling to weed effectively, consider using bark mulch to keep your flowerbeds neat and tidy, regardless of how little time you have to spend on them.

Laying the mulch does take a little time, but overall, you will find that the man hours needed to keep your backyard looking beautiful are significantly reduced, and you spend a lot less time crawling around, getting prickled by brambles and thistles.

Advantage Three) Reduced Need To Water

Composted bark mulch is also important because it reduces the need to water your garden, and in summers in hot countries, this can be a massive advantage.

Instead of your plant is getting dried out because of hosepipe bans and lack of water, you can help to trap some of that valuable liquid underground.

This is because the mulch reduces evaporation. When you water your plants on a hot day, a lot of the water is simply lost because the air temperature is so warm.

With a layer of mulch, the soil’s surface will stay cool, and it should prove much easier to keep your plants watered.

You will find that this also saves you time, because you don’t have to water as often.

You can just let the water soak into the ground, and then the mulch should keep your plant hydrated for a good length of time. Again, mulch makes your job in the garden so much easier.

Advantage Four) Water Conservation

One of the obvious advantages of using mulch is that you can save water, which is a very green thing to do.

That might seem odd, because water is available all around us, and why should it matter if you use some to water the garden?

If you only use rainwater in your garden, water conservation is not so important – except that you’ll probably find you constantly run out during the summer.

However, if you ever have to use water from your tap, you need to think about conservation for the sake of the planet.

That’s because it takes a lot of energy to collect, clean, and process water to the point where it comes out of your tap ready to drink. All that energy adds to the strain on the planet.

Additionally, if you are on a water meter, you will save money by conserving water, so it’s worth considering this too.

Composted bark mulch is particularly good for water retention, especially if you dig it into sandy soil or layer it on top.

picture of a person watering compost

Advantage Five) Drought Protection

Tying in with the two above points, mulch gives your plants better protection from droughts.

Remember, a dried out plant is likely to be stressed and unhappy, and this will have a negative impact on its growth, foliage, and any flowers that it has.

Even if you water regularly and in plentiful amounts, your plants may be in danger of drying out in the summer.

It can be hard to water everything, and you may find that your plants suffer in spite of your best efforts.

Adding composted bark as a mulch is the best way to reduce this risk and ensure that your plants always have water available to them.

This should give you happier, healthier plants overall, ensuring that they are never left in want of water.

Of course, mulching does not mean that you magically never have to water your plants again.

But it can help to make the impact of watering last for longer, and will ensure that your plants have stable conditions more consistently, rather than very wet soil one day, and very dry soil the next day.

Overall, this should improve the growth of your plants and make your garden look happier and healthier.

Advantage Six) Cold Protection

This advantage is obviously only important in the winter, but if you live somewhere cold, composted bark mulch can be seriously important in helping your plants to cope well with wintry conditions.

Many plants suffer if they get too chilled, and often, the most important part of the plant is the roots.

If you have plants that dislike cold weather, keeping the roots warm can be a really effective strategy for helping them to withstand the cold.

A nice, deep layer of mulch is one of the best ways you can do this.

Because composted bark is a pretty fine mulch, it should be nice and dense, providing a bubble of warmth on top of the soil’s surface.

This will stop the soil from losing as much warmth to the surrounding air, and will therefore keep it – and the plant’s roots – considerably warmer.

Mulching is one of the best ways to protect your plant from the dangers of frosts, so make sure you consider using it if the temperatures are dropping.

Advantage Seven) Food Boost

Of course, one of the most important reasons for mulching is that it offers valuable food to your plants and flowerbeds – and this alone is reason enough to add mulch on a fairly regular basis.

The mulch will gradually break down into the soil, releasing the nutrients that are contained within its bark and fertilizing the soil.

It is important to realize that this isn’t an alternative to fertilizing if your plant needs it, but it is a great way to add nutrients back into depleted soil.

This is one excellent reason that many people add composted bark to their flowerbeds in the winter.

By the time spring comes, some of the bark will have started to break down, feeding the bed just as the plants start to grow – and this will follow a winter of offering those same plants protection from the cold.

Nutrients will be released quite slowly, but composted bark does contain plenty that will help to revitalize the soil and give your plants everything that they need to grow.

Mulching around large bushes or trees can be a great way to ensure that they get the nutrients they need.

Apply a new layer of mulch every winter to enjoy the full benefits, or just do it every now and then to provide your plants with extra food.

person holding bark mulch

How Do I Add Composted Bark Mulch To My Garden?

So, what do you need to do in order to mulch using composted bark? Fortunately, this is a very simple process once you have your bark ready.

All you need to do is tip a generous topping of bark – about two to three inches thick – in a circle around the plant that you wish to mulch.

If you are mulching a flowerbed, tip the bark alongside an edge of it if possible.

Next, take your garden fork and dig the composted bark into the top four inches of soil.

This will help the bark to mix with the soil, aerating it, providing water retention, and ensuring that your plants have access to the nutrients contained within the bark.

It really is as simple as that; you do not need to do anything further in order to mulch your garden.

Although it may take a little while to apply the bark and dig it in, especially over a large area, you can hopefully see how this massively reduces the amount of time that you need to spend gardening.

Are There Any Disadvantages To Mulching In The Garden?

There are relatively few disadvantages to adding mulch to your garden, although it is not a perfect method – like anything, it does have a few associated issues.

The first is that it can cause your garden to harbor unwanted pests. Because it is adding a lot of dry, safe, edible organic matter, you might find that insects start to live in the mulch surrounding your plant.

You may find that slugs, snails, and even rodents start using the mulch as a hiding spot from which they can easily access and eat your plants.

However, it is unlikely that this will be very problematic.

If you grow your garden with good balances and encourage lots of insect predators (such as birds), you should find that you don’t have too much of an issue with pests moving in.

Adding mulch does have a cost associated with it, of course. Composted bark mulch tends to be quite expensive, because it is a premium product.

However, any material that you buy to use as mulch will represent a cost, because you need quite a lot to get the depth necessary for an effective mulch.

That means you will need a large amount of material in order to cover any significant area, so bear this in mind when weighing up the pros and cons of mulch.

A third potential disadvantage is that bark mulch may cause quite a lot of nitrogen to become unavailable to plants for a while.

The bacteria that are breaking down the tissues of the bark mulch will absorb any nearby nitrogen as part of this process.

That can leave your plants nitrogen deficient, because there is little available to them in the soil.

However, as long as you buy composted bark mulch, you should be able to mitigate this issue a bit – because the nitrogen is part of the composting process.

If your product has already been composted, it should not need to take in all the nitrogen.

As a final issue, if you add too much mulch, you will suffocate plants.

They need water and oxygen to be able to penetrate their roots, and a very thick layer of mulch could prevent this from happening. Mulch shouldn’t be more than three inches deep.

yellow flowers in a field

Should I Mulch Bare Flowerbeds?

It’s a good idea to mulch any empty flowerbeds for the winter, so get the mulch going in the fall.

This is because it helps to protect any bulbs or roots that are remaining underground, but also because it stops the bed from getting eroded.

Winter rains can wash a lot of soil out of your garden, carrying away valuable nutrients at the same time.

Although most mulching is done in the winter or the summer to protect plants from freezes and droughts, mulching your bare flowerbeds in the fall can help to keep them nutrient-rich and ready for spring planting.


Composted bark mulch is a mulch made up of a couple of inches of composted bark.

This tends to be fine, dense material that is very popular in high-end gardening.

It looks uniform and pretty, and it offers all the advantages of mulching, including water retention and temperature protection.

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