Although there are lots of different kinds of mulch, there is a reason why pine mulch is such a popular choice; it looks really pretty as well as being pretty useful. To the pests though it just screams 'Delightful new home, close to a yummy food source.' So what can you do?
Can You Keep your Pine Mulch Free From Pests?
Pine mulch is a great addition to your garden, only it has one major flaw: it attracts those darn pests! Pest-free pine mulch options do exist - let's take a look.
Mulch and Pests
Mulch is regularly used in the garden for lots of different reasons:
- To prevent loss of water from the soil.
- Reduce the growth of weeds.
- Keep the soil cool in summer, and warmer in winter.
- Prevent soil splashing that can lead to the spread of plant diseases.
- Organic mulch adds goodness to the soil.
- Add color and texture to improve the look of the landscape.
Whatever reason you are using your mulch for, will likely dictate your choice of mulch. Pine bark is an organic mulch, that is often a favored option among gardeners because of its attractive appearance.
Using an organic mulch though, will always encourage more insects to your garden - not all of them are welcome visitors. Termites are the pests that will most happily run free among pine bark mulch, and if you are planning on using your mulch near the house, then pine bark is probably not the best option for you.
Choose Your Variety with Care
Mulch made from pine bark comes in various different guises from small shredded bark pieces, to larger sized "nuggets." If you are intent on using pink bark as a mulch in your garden, and you want your mulch as pest-free as possible, then going for the smaller shredded bark pieces would be the best option for you, as larger wood chips and nuggets do tend to attract termites, and various other organic-loving insects, like earwigs.
The beauty of pine bark, as well as the attractive appearance, is like all organic mulches it will attract many insects, and slugs, and therefore the birds that like to eat them. So, although you may want your pine mulch as pest-free as possible, you could see this as a bonus point in your garden; nature is at work getting rid of pests, naturally.
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Alternatives to Pine Bark
So what other ways can we keep our gardens attractive and pest free without using pine bark?
As pine bark is regularly a first choice mulch option for mainly aesthetic reasons, using weedmats, landscape fabric, rubber mulch, or black plastic sheets, probably isn't a viable alternative.
If your reason for using pine bark is entirely because it will make the garden look more attractive, then using a highly organic alternative like grass clippings, straw or leaves probably isn't for you either.
Some attractive mulch alternatives to pine bark are:
- Pine needles - this is a great option to use around acid-loving shrubs and trees like heather and rhododendrons, which also allows water to penetrate easily.
- Shredded hardwood mulch - a very attractive alternative to pine bark, but with less attraction to pests. Decomposes slowly, and does an excellent job of suppressing weeds.
- Cocoa/Pecan shells - both long-lasting and attractive options, effective at retaining moisture in the soil. Makes good use of an unwanted product, but can be hard to obtain.
- Pebbles and ornamental gravel - attractive option but obviously not organic, so won't improve your soil or decompose. Not suitable for acid-loving plants, and can raise the heat of soil in summer, so only use for more tropical/Mediterranean plants.
If none of these options appeal to you as an alternative to pest-free pine bark mulch, then why not consider planting some ground cover plants like ivy, bellflower, creeping Jenny, periwinkle and mondo grass. They not only form an attractive carpet of foliage and flowers, they act as the most natural kind of mulch around.