Rob's Home and Garden Blog

Understanding The Difference Between Wood Chippings And Bark Mulch

by Martha Reed

Natural wood materials are a popular choice with those looking for landscaping products that blend into their garden and will break down over time and add nutrients to the soil. There are a few varieties of wood mulches available, and each has specific uses they are suited to. Wood chips and bark mulch are commonly used as part of residential landscaping projects, so here's an overview of these two landscaping products to help you understand which one would be right for your garden:

Wood chips

Wood chips do not contain any bark. They are a white wood product made from young trees, and they are sold untreated. You can purchase softwood or hardwood chips, with the main difference being that softwood will break down faster. Wood chips are a versatile product that can be used on pathways to prevent muddy areas. Their light colour gives them a distinctive appearance, which can help separate pathways from garden beds. Wood chips can also be used to mulch beds and borders, and you can dig decomposing chips into the soil before adding a fresh layer of mulch. Wood chips will suppress weeds and help with moisture control, and opting for a softwood variety will ensure the chips break down between growing seasons. Wood chips can also be used as a flooring material in chicken runs, which can prevent birds from getting muddy feet, and the chips can easily be topped up, as required.

Bark Mulch

Bark mulch is mostly made up of chipped bark and has little white wood chips mixed through it. It's darker than wood chips and not particularly suitable as a surface for pathways due to the varying sizes of bark pieces and how quickly this type of mulch can decompose. Bark mulch can be used on borders and beds, and it will help maintain soil temperature and protect roots during especially hot or cold spells. It's darker in colour than wood chips, which allows it to blend in with soil and creates a natural, rustic look. Bark mulch is not suitable for use in chicken runs, as Aspergillus, which is a fungus, can grow on bark and cause serious respiratory problems in chickens.

When looking for natural mulches for your garden, consult with your local landscaping supplier. They can recommend specific products and help you calculate how much you need. Large quantities of mulch can be delivered to your door, and some suppliers will take back any mulch that you don't use.