Differences Between Bark Mulch & Wood Chips

Soil condition is crucial to the health of plants and trees.

Mulching is one of the most effective ways of improving soil conditions.

Now materials used in mulching vary. These include plastic, leaves, sand, grass clippings, straw or hay, wood chips, bark, paper or cardboard, and gravel.

Wood Chips vs. Mulch

Some of the most widely used mulch materials include tree bark and wood chips. Now people often confuse the two and wonder which is best.

This article helps with detailed information highlighting critical differences between these two; bark and wood chip mulch. You should find all the essential details you seek by reading through them.

  • Key Aspects of Differences

When it comes to comparing bark and wood chip mulch materials, different aspects need to be considered.

Most mulching materials offer insulation to the ground, help with moisture retention, prevent weed growth, enrich the soil, etc.

While most mulch materials will help achieve these, there are differences in the results they offer. The same applies to bark and wood mulch.

Starting with the names, these tell a story. Bark mulch is obtained from chopped-up tree bark, while wood chips are derived from wood chopped into tiny pieces.

Bark Mulch Vs. Wood Chips

You’ll need to know how they compare or measure up to use these mulch materials. Although people mostly confuse both, there are key differences you should know of.

These include the replacement frequency, rate of rot or breakdown, and suitability of use in particular situations. One other aspect is texture and composition.

i. Frequency of Replacement

When comparing the frequency of replacement between bark and wood chip mulch, you’ll need to consider factors that cause the depletion of such mulch.

First, bark mulch tends to be lightweight and will likely move, float off, or be washed away during heavy rains or flooding.

Unlike bark mulch, wood chips tend to be denser than mulch materials.

These are likely to last much longer when compared to bark mulch as they’re not easily washed off. Plus, bark mulch breaks down much faster than wood chips.

Based on these realities, it’s logical that bark mulch will have to be replaced more frequently than wood chips. While that is true, some homeowners may still prefer bark mulch due to its perceived benefits.

If you belong to this category, you only need to observe when the mulch needs replacement.

On the other hand, if you need a mulch material that lasts longer, the obvious choice would be wood chips. These require less frequent replacement, hence providing you with long-term benefits.

ii. Rate of Rot or Breakdown

Another critical difference between bark mulch and wood chips is the rate of rot or breakdown.

Because barks are less dense than wood chips, they tend to rot faster than the latter. Now homeowners have different preferences.

To some, the faster breakdown of bark mulch won’t be a problem.

To others, that (faster rot) will be a problem as they seek better alternatives provided by wood chips. This calls for carefully choosing your preferred mulch material.

With this understanding, you can better manage your mulching situation and get the most out of it.

iii. Suitability of Use Under Specific Conditions

While both of these mulch materials (bark and wood chip mulch) can be applied to a wide range of similar uses, there are specific applications for which either is most suitable.

For example, plant beds & borders, pathways, chicken runs, or animal enclosures.

iv. Plant Beds & Borders

People have various preferences regarding the mulch materials used on plant beds and borders.

The darker texture of bark mulch may be a turnoff if you seek a mulch material that lightens the plant bed area or its borders. Here, mulch materials consisting of wood chips will best serve your purpose.

While serving the same function as bark mulch, you still get the visual results or look from wood chips.

v. Pathways

The bark is the most common among the many mulch materials used on pathways. However, these materials’ durability and longevity are paramount for most people.

Comparing the two, wood chips tend to last longer and are more durable hence their suitability for pathway use.

Unlike wood chips, bark mulch materials easily get worn out, especially when there’s a lot of foot traffic. Also, these get rotten quickly too. Based on this fact, you’re left to make your selection.

Some people won’t mind using bark mulch on pathways.

vi. Chicken Runs or Animal Enclosures

When choosing a mulch material for chicken runs or animal enclosures, it’s usually best to use wood chip mulch materials instead of bark mulch.

The reason for that is simple; fungus growth is closely linked to animal respiratory problems.

As such, you’ll do well to avoid mulch materials that promote fungus growth. This problem is common with bark as it tends to attract fungal growth.

Rather than use bark mulch around animal enclosures, use wood chip mulch materials.

vii. Texture and Composition

In the absence of flooding or heavy rainfall, bark mulch tends to serve best in sloping areas where wood chips can easily slip. This is due to the rough texture of the barks, making them less likely to slip away.

However, wood chips tend to perform better in terms of moisture retention.

They retain moisture much better compared to bark mulch. Also, the dense nature of wood chips means they won’t rot as quickly as bark mulch.

Based on these differences, you can choose a mulch material that best suits your needs.

With the details above, you can choose what mulch material will best serve your needs. The performance of each fabric depends on what it’s used for.

If you still have doubts about what to use, consider speaking with a landscaper to discuss your needs and get expert recommendations.

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