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to bark or not

Hi all,

I have very hard clay in the garden and have dug it over several times, but not in every bed added compost.I have now planted some shrubs and trees and even some flowers.

My problem is that I have lots of bark chippings I bought, but am scared to put it down.

I can't really explain why. I had every intention of putting it down as soon as I cleared the planting beds, but then got cold feet. All the weeds grew back and I had to clear it all again, but still I am a little apprehensive.

Thoughts like how will I dig over the ground with bark on it?

How will my flowers grown next year through it?

How will I add plants to it?

Will the hard clay just be harder/worse?

Should I get it planted up before I add the bark? I have lots of seedlings coming along to plant. Should I even use it at all?

Many thanks,



  • BookertooBookertoo Posts: 1,306

    Bark can be a good ground cover, and a good mulch.  We use it in our fruit cage, though not on the beds because I am not particularly keen on its appearance.  I do mulch the beds with compost each year.  Your bark chippings will be best just laid on top of the ground, nature will do the rest.  Get the first plantings in and then lay it if you choose to do so. 

    The plants will certainy grow through it, even the smallest of bulbs - in fact I have a snowdrop and a crocus that appear to have grown through concrete!!  I do not dig my garden, ever, having done it once and for all 15 - 17 years ago, I rely on close planting and as vigorous a weeding as I can give, if I feel like it.  The only time we dig anything is to plant a new tree, fruit or whatever. There are books about the 'no dig' garden you might like to borrow from the library and see what you think about.  Our soil is quite good, and getting better  with the compost we put on top each year, the worms and beetles etc. pull it down and enrich the soil that way.  If you do go ahead, all you need to do is scrape way an area to plant you new plants and they will be quite happy, pull the bark back over the area, with it not touching the stems to begin with.  Some bark can change the Ph of your soil, something to keep in mind depending upon what you want to grow in it. 

    I think that, if you do go ahead, that finer bark looks better than the coarser chop, though that is a matter of personal taste.  There is nothing to be afraid of, and it does reduce the depth to which weeds can grow their roots, making it easier to get them out - but it will not stop them trying!

  • Busy-LizzieBusy-Lizzie Posts: 19,943

    It depends where you put the bark. I use it in shrub beds on top of a permeable fabric to supress weeds. I don't use it it flower beds where I may want to change plants or put in annuals. Then it is better to use a compost mulch.

    Dordogne and Norfolk
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