Barkdust vs. Mulch – What’s the Difference?

mulch around treesThe words barkdust and mulch have created a mound (pun intended) of confusion due to the way they are incorrectly used interchangeably. Well-meaning, but ill-informed people often assume that the two products are one-in-the-same. However, each one has its own unique characteristics and uses it is ideal for. If you’ve ever wondered what the difference is, prepare to be dusted with insight as we break down the differences in this post dedicated to barkdust vs. mulch.

Honestly, it is easy to understand why there is confusion when comparing barkdust vs. mulch. Mulch is a generic term that describes organic materials that are used as ground covering. Since both barkdust and mulch are used as a protective and decorative layer in landscape, they are both technically mulch. But they are different.

Does Barkdust Befuddle You?

Barkdust is – wait for it – literally the dust of bark! That said, it should be noted that barkdust comes in a wide-range of coarseness; anywhere from fine shredded particles to larger chips. Barkdust is the recycled outer layer of trees that are milled for lumber. It can also be produced by way of composting yard debris.  According to the Mulch and Soil Council, bark is the “corky exterior covering of trees” and does not exceed a wood content of more than 15%. The main uses for barkdust include controlling the growth of weeds, the regulation of the soil temperature, and prevention of erosion and water loss.

It is also ideal for providing a soft surface in areas like playgrounds due to its softness, yet durability. Barkdust comes in a variety of colors depending on what type of tree it was derived from. It should be noted that barkdust can cause the depletion of nitrogen in the soil.

Are You Mystified by Mulch?

Mulch, on the other hand, is any type of material that is used with the intention of augmenting the soil with nutrients or insulating the ground around vegetation because it needs added protection from harsh elements. Mulch can be comprised of any combination of organic material such as leaves, grass clippings or compost that has decayed. It is usually broken down into smaller pieces through the composting process and is typically dark in color. For the record, bark can be composted alongside other yard debris and turned into mulch too.

Which is Best? Barkdust vs. Mulch?

Determining whether barkdust vs. mulch is best depends on where you intend to use it. In our professional, yet humble opinion, we suggest that in areas you wish to enrich the soil, that is to say, add nutrients without having to fertilize as often, and aren’t particular about the aesthetic – texture or color, and want the benefits of soil protection and weed control, go with mulch. (For tips on applying mulch, visit our previous post: What is Mulch and Do Your Trees Need It?) In areas where you want a little more decorative flair or need a buoyant surface like a playgrounds or walkway, barkdust is our pick.

If you need additional guidance or have a pile (see what we did there?) of questions about barkdust vs. mulch, our team here at ArborPro  Tree Experts would be happy to assist you. We offer a number of tree care services including tree planting, pruning, and removal. Give us a call at 503.473.TREE.

Related posts