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Should I slate-chip this

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This area is a corner of my front forecourt garden. I'm fed up of the weeds and am keen to make the base more attractive. I'm considering laying down either slate or bark chips. All I have learned is - bark chips can be placed on top of soil and may not stop weeds coming through, but slate chips require weed lining first.

What I'd like to know is - should I really be considering slate chips, since there are plants, not in containers, to be retained in this area? How would these shrubs take water if there is weed liner and slate down? Would I slate everywhere but leave the bases of the shrubs and trees unchipped? Perhaps at the base apply some bark chips instead? The combo could look quite good.
Plants you see in the pictures:

  • Front hedge.
  • Flowering shrub - pyrus of some kind, apparently?
  • Rhododendron.
  • Sweet-smelling, white-flowering shrub, growing awkwardly in background.
  • Large conifer-type tree.
  • Smaller tree, which is impinging on the larger tree and I think I should remove.

Thanks for your thoughts.




  • CeresCeres Posts: 2,584

    The choice of mulch is up to you but I would tend to agree with Edd because bark chips rot down well and improve the soil structure over time. Of course there is a downside as you will have to replace them from time to time. Weed membrane works well but isn't too pretty if it is exposed to view......that can happen if your slate layer is too thin.

  • Blue OnionBlue Onion Posts: 2,987

    It feels like about half my yard is under weed membrane and crushed rock (not my landscaping, but there is a logic behind it.. and that's another story).  It's very successful for me.. hardly any weeds come through in some areas.  I also have areas for un-membraned bark chips, which do require hand weeding monthly.  Personally, I love the look of crushed slate under plants.  Some things to consider:

    1. If you do go for a weed membrane, go for high quality.  The stuff I have under my rocks is thick cloth like stuff, not plastic sheeting, completely water permeable, but thick and too dark for weeds to start under.  It also doesn't tear, doesn't puncture when you walk on the stones, etc.  Go for quality.

    2. You will still have to weed eventually, in a few years the leaves that don't get blown off the slate will break down and form their own soil between the rocks and membrane.  They're super easy to pull out, but they will be there.  Prevention is the best, keep the vegetative stuff cleared off the slate.  (Definitely don't put a bird-feeder anywhere near there.. one of my mistakes!).

    3. You can't really feed the soil.  Short of pulling back the membrane and putting down manure and compost then replacing the membrane and slate back over top.. you can only apply water soluble feeds.  

    4.  If you want more freedom and less permanence (easier for planting up and changing your display).. a thick layer of newspaper covered in a thick layer of bark chips will go well.  You can get quick large chunk bark.. every year rake it back and weed, pile on manure/compost, replace the layer of newspaper, then lay your chunks of bark back on that you've saved.  Small pieces will go into the soil, so you'll be replacing it a bit each year.. but not like the initial pile.  

    Utah, USA.
  • ightenighten Posts: 184

    Its a personal choice but as said above other Mulches have the advantage of breaking down and feeding the soil which in the long run is the best you can do..

    I personally think slate is a bit more suited to a cemetery than a garden and don't get the appeal image  unless your trying to recreate a shale effect alpine area.

  • Blue OnionBlue Onion Posts: 2,987

    Crushed slate is Wales.  The beautiful hikes around Snowdonia, where you see the resulting heaps from the quarries.  The abandoned roofless slate homes along the trails, wet with rain, the only occupant a raven or jackdaw.  The towering tips above the tiny village, impending tidal wave of rock that looks ready to crush the town below at any moment.  

    That is crushed slate in my mind.  Wet with rain, dark as a thunderstorm, beautiful Cymru.  

    Utah, USA.
  • Blue OnionBlue Onion Posts: 2,987

    Haha.. I sang that in my mind to the tune of Yankee Doodle.  

    Utah, USA.
  • OldtykeOldtyke Posts: 155

    I tried bark, the local birds were delighted, and snaffled bits for nesting! It spread all over the lawn. I got some dark blue slate type stuff, it looked good, especially when it rained, and stayed put.

  • LoxleyLoxley Posts: 5,565
    Yep, the membrane and chips are permeable, lay the membrane as close as possible to the base of trees and shrubs, and slate mulch the lot. Right up to the stems. (I'm assuming this is a permanent planting and you won't be constantly adding new plants or working the soil).

    You could use other types of crushed rock or gravel of course. Slate doesn't go well with everything. It can look hideous in the wrong place!

    Bark mulch is only for where it will be hidden by vegetation, or for play areas, imho!
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