Pine Bark Nuggets

Redthistle(8)July 6, 2008

Any idea why my local Lowe's garden folks would have an aversion to pine bark nuggets?

Currently, we are under drought conditions. We've started overheating early this year with 49 days of above 90 degree temps and many of those days were in the triple digits. We've also had little rain.

Because of this, I've been mulching my beds with pine bark nuggets purchased from Lowe's. I've used pine bark nuggets before and was satisfied with them. I think they look nice, and they seem to last a long time. In my garden, I've had them last as long as 3-plus years. I also have very alkaline soil so I would think the nuggets might lower the pH just a little over time.--If anyone can confirm this, I'd appreciate it.

When buying the nuggets (and I've bought about 145 bags this summer but not all at one time), I've gotten many unsolicited negative comments from the local Lowe's garden folks.

One Lowe's rep. said they were ugly and that "beauty was in the eye of the beholder." Obviously, this is a subjective opinion, so that's okay. Another said the pine bark nuggets weren't as good or would not last as long as the native hardwood mulch. No reason was given as to why the nuggets weren't "as good." Do you know of one?

Yet another said the nuggets would tie up the nutrients in the soil. I thought all mulches did this to some extent when they're first breaking down?

What's your opinion? Do you see anything wrong with pine bark nuggets? Do you know of an advantage of native hard wood mulch?--For me, I found the native hard wood mulch broke down in about one season.

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kqcrna(z6 SW Oh)

If you are talking about those large size nuggets, I hated them. I only used them once. They did take years to compost in place which means that they were not nourishing the soil. (I eventually scraped off what I could and threw them into an unused portion or my yard, along a fenceline). They still remain, 4 or 5 years later. As long as they're intact they're not feeding the soil.

Also, they leave a lot of space between pieces for moisture to escape and evaporate, and weed seeds to get in to the soil where they sprout.

I really prefer shredded bark which is consumed by my soil rather quickly, providing nutrition. This year I'm trying pine fines which, so far, I'm liking a lot.


    Bookmark   July 6, 2008 at 4:09PM
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Oh, good grief, don't they have anything else to worry about?

Send 'em to Aisle 7 to clean up a gallon of spilled fish & seaweed concentrate!

I my own self think that IALBTC (It All Leads Back to Compost), & once it's been turned into mulch, any remaining variables just aren't that significant.

I don't use cypress mulch because the cypress swamps are being destroyed to provide us with mulch that, to me, looks like chewed-up & spit-out cardboard & that clumps together like lumpy gravy.

As to the complaints/criticisms:

1. It's light weight & might float away.
How I wish this were my problem!
I never have had enough rain for anything to float, & my yard is so flat that it would just rise & then fall back into place like a boat in a slip.
If you use it in a raised bed, just be sure the border is high enough that your mulch can't escape.
If pine bark would float away, chances are other mulches would do likewise;
it would just mean that you need to shore up your edging!

2. It robs nitrogen.
no more than any other mulch, which is minimal.
Nitrogen draft is a problem when carbon materials are tilled into the soil, not when they're laid on top as mulch.

3. It doesn't last as long.
In the garden, we aspire to a constant & consistent state of "rottingness".
*Everything* breaks down, & that's wonderful.

4. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
Yep, it sure is, & it's not the place of a sales person to sneer at my taste.
If I were the manager of Lowe's garden department, I'd sure be interested to hear a member of my sales staff disparaging any product we offered for sale, unless the intent might have been to guide the customer to a more expensive choice!

(duh, was the pine bark mulch maybe the cheapest mulch they had?)

Fling that mulch out there & enjoy your gardens!

    Bookmark   July 6, 2008 at 4:23PM
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shebear(z8 NCentralTex)

Hardwood is the new thing. They say pine bark mulch sheds water but I've seen my hardwood do the same thing. Besides you're supposed to use drip and that's under the mulch so who cares......when the rains really comes back it's gets through the mulch.

If the mulches are the same price then I'd go with hardwood but if the pine is way cheaper then use it. Better cheap mulch than no mulch.

    Bookmark   July 6, 2008 at 5:20PM
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There are many people out there that contrary to common sense and good gardening practices still think that all soil should be exposed to the ravages of the sun, wind, and rain and know little about soil erosion, and those people disdain mulches altogether. I have even heard some of these people suggest that mulches are only needed by "poor" gardeners because they have no knowledge of what mulch does and are unwilling to learn.

    Bookmark   July 7, 2008 at 8:08AM
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Thanks for everyone's thoughts.--I'm glad to know the mulch won't rob the soil of nitrogen, which is one of my biggest concerns.

I'll bet shebear is right that hardwood mulch is the latest and greatest in mulches.--There always seem to be trends with everything. Cocoa mulch was also a big deal not long ago until it was found to be dangerous to dogs or at least that's what I was told.

Sylvia, the pine bark nuggets surprisingly weren't the cheapest. My thoughts ran the same way as yours.--ie. Did they want me to buy a more expensive mulch and this is why they were so negative about the nuggets?

I did get 1/2" of rain today. :-)

My soil retains almost no water even when I topdress with compost and mulch. It's caliche with about four inches of top soil. It takes a breaker bar to plant almost anything and the water goes right through as if the soil were sand. Plants that grow in the parts of Austin, TX with clay won't grow in my soil because it's too dry...plumbago, daylilies, native honeysuckle, butterfly bush, beauty berry, & hyssop all die.--I've tried them repeatedly. I should probably grow cactus or agaves except I'm not partial to cacti/agaves. The plants that do grow in my soil are stunted. I have a 3-year old bottle brush that's only 18" high with two branches and a 4-y/o wooly butterfly bush that is a stick of 2 feet. My bush morning glory grows only to 2-1/2 ft high after 5 years in the ground. Some years it only gets a foot tall. And, yes, I do feed my soil, what there is of it.

Thanks again!

    Bookmark   July 7, 2008 at 11:05PM
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Don't worry redthistle the pine bark mulch is great. I work in a soil yard and i love the pine mulch- i use it on my garden- because it doesn't compact and form a matt like our peat based mulches, which doesn't let the water in when it rains. Personally I think the pine bark looks nice and natural. Pay no attention to those doofus heads at Lowes, they sound like some of my customers. (They all want their gardens to look like something out of a magazine, despite what is best for a healthy garden)
I can't tell you if your native mulch is better, but I know that some of our Australian natives don't make good mulch because they can be waxy.
The pine bark mulch shouldn't change the ph of your soil much if at all, apparently it's only the pine fines or needles that are acidic.
Hope this helps


    Bookmark   July 8, 2008 at 1:19AM
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colleen_mi(5b/6a SE Mich)

When I buy mulch, I use the pine bark "mini nuggets" which are smaller than the chunky ones Karen mentioned. They often look like they have started to soften a little, if not rot, especially if the bags have been wet.

But usually, I just use the free wood chips my city provides. I imagine they are pretty fresh. I don't know about robbing the soil of nitrogen, I haven't really noticed any problem using these chips on top of a newspaper layer. Sometimes, if I have it, I toss a little bit of high-nitrogen (chicken manure based) lawn fertilizer on top just for insurance.

My best and cheapest method is city chips covered by a thin layer of pine nuggets for a more uniform, attractive look where the neighbors can see it. In the back yard, I'm a lot less concerned. :-)

    Bookmark   July 9, 2008 at 4:41PM
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joepyeweed(5b IL)

I like pine bark nuggets... for one specific area. Mostly I use shredded leaves for mulch, but there is this area along my driveway where grass won't grow due to a combination of foot traffic, car over runs and underlying concrete issues.

I like to cover this dead zone with pine nuggets, because it looks distinctively different than other mulched areas of the yard.

The pine bark nuggets combined with a couple stepping stones in key spots, tells people to walk here... this is not a planting bed, this is something different, walk here...

    Bookmark   July 9, 2008 at 5:08PM
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I say use what you like.

Perhaps the Lowes workers have encountered people complaining to them that the pine bark caused their garden not to grow because they did something silly like till the mulch in rather than leave it on top. Otherwise who knows. Half the time I go into Lowes of Home Depot, I wind up helping other customers since many of the employees seem a bit clueless.

Anyway, I've taken to using free materials as mulch. When ever I see a tree service in the area, I go and tell them they may dump the wood chips in front of my house if they want to save a trip to the land fill. So what if my yard and gardens look a bit like a patchwork from different looking mulch, it all improves the soil.

Here is a link that might be useful: TCLynx

    Bookmark   July 10, 2008 at 2:50PM
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Bunk, I like your attitude. :-)

Joepyeweed, I also use the leaves from my oaks for mulch, and they work to some extent, but I don't have enough to cover all of the beds.

You all are probably right that many of the workers at Lowe's aren't that savvy about gardening and may not have gained their knowledge through actual experience. I don't know about the rest of you, but although I listen and use other people's gardening advice, the best knowledge I've gained was gotten through trial and error by gardening on my own plot of land.

tclynx, five years ago, a tree company cut down & chipped a bunch of cedar trees in a neighbor's yard and asked us if we wanted the resulting mulch. We said "yes" and we were in mulch-heaven for quite awhile. After we used it and needed more, I contacted one of the local tree companies and told them I'd take any trees they chipped up, but they never delivered. You'd think they'd want to save money by not having to haul the stuff to the dump...I don't know. Maybe I should call a few different tree companies and ask them again?

My main concern at the moment is just keeping my plants alive, and the pine bark nuggets I've put down have already made a difference. The heat has been absolutely grueling but the plants that have mulch have noticably perked up.

    Bookmark   July 10, 2008 at 11:38PM
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Pine bark nuggets are fine for the soil. The people at your Lowes store are idiots.

    Bookmark   July 11, 2008 at 6:13AM
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Dummy me, I had to go and look up pine nuggets to find out what they were.!! lol One definition I found referred to them as being dyed shredded boards from tearing apart old pallets. If the material you are using is dyed, I would be concerned and would check to see what they were using for dye as many of those are toxic. When I had my big garden I used the lasagna method which is very similar in that the top layer is always a type of mulch and when I ran out of stray and pine needles one year I saw that the country had just chipped the brush in the ditches of one of the county roads so I asked the land owner if I could collect them and he said go for it, so that is what I used. It is important for good break down to make sure that you have a good combination of brown..dead...and green material and most wood chips fit in that category. Paul, at the
Back to Eden garden has a heavy clay soil and for years he used all different types of mulch until he by accident or God's design, stumbled upon the wood chips and started seeing better results with them than with anything that he had used previously. Check with as many tree companies as you have to, also check with your municipality as many of them have sites where they dump their shredded material from their street maintance crews and often they give that away. One of our towns actually has added mulching worms to the pile. They are tiny red worms and some people I know go to the mulch pile just to get a free scource or worms to go fishing with ...although in my opinion they are too small. So, check for dyes, add as much green material to your mix as you can...lawn clippings, etc, and whatever you do will turn to gold. One of the great things about the shredded wood, is that it gathers the moisture from the dew and feeds it to the plants as they need it, it does not blow away like top soil does, and it feeds the soil nutrients from the compost tea it makes as it is breaking down. Its all win win to me. I'm setting up a new garden area on sandy soil this year. I am going to start with lasagna layers...I'll use as many as I can afford to, and end up with wood chips on top. I'm starting this week, can hardly wait.

    Bookmark   May 7, 2014 at 2:53PM
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