“ Brand: Homebase / Type: Bark Chippings „
~A useful mulch from Homebase~
Over the years I have bought and used a number of types of bark chips from Homebase and found them to be mostly of a reliable quality. I have found that there can be a degree of variation in quality between types and even packs of the same type at times, so care should be taken when choosing your bark chips so as to ensure that you purchase the right product from the outset. It is my experience that the general Homebase bark products are fine for use as an all round mulch, top dressing or weed reducing layer around some if not all plants and trees, although not all types of this rougher bark are suited for other uses.
~Choosing the right bark chips~
If wanting to use bark as a general covering to be layered around childrens play areas etc, (which in my experience require a specific type of bark product from the Homebase range) the rougher cheaper bulk buy bark chips from the range are not the best option. This is due to the fact that the larger sized bark chips seem to also include rough wood shavings that can and do have sharp edges and larger splinters sticking out that might be harmful to a child. I know that when I have bought the larger cheap bark chips from Homebase there have been lots of roughly shredded bark pieces that have been mixed in with roughly shredded wood chippings and I would say that these are not at all suited to such uses and should not be considered a suitable option in this case.
The best of the Homebase bark chips I have bought have been the smaller sized chips which have a nicer more rounded finish to them in my experience. There do seem to be less sharp and roughly cut edges and splinters sticking out from the wood chips in these packs which makes them far better to handle and work with in my opinion. I find that these slightly smaller chips look nice when used as a general mulch in smaller flower or shrub borders. The smaller bark chips are also easier to spread around as they are a little smoother and easier to handle. They can sometimes be a little bit more expensive to buy, however I feel the small extra cost is worth it as they are much kinder to you hands and look better in smaller planted areas in my experience.
I do find that when I first open a bag of Homebase bark chips the smell that greets me is very often quite pungent, this is especially true if the bags have been in contact with too much moisture as they have small holes punched into the plastic bags they come in that seem to draw water into the bark, which in turn can make the freshly unpacked bark smell quite strong. I try to make sure that any bags I buy appear nice and dry and undamaged as the bark within them always has a fresher more appealing fresh cut wood chip aroma that is far more appealing. Once the bark chips are in place the smell of them does fade over the course of a week or so until you no longer notice it at all in my experience.
~How long do the bark chips last?~
I tend to top up the planted borders in the garden that need new bark chips every other year as I find that the chips last really well for this length of time but do begin to need topping up at the end of it. The chips do break down slowly over time and this is something that should be expected from them as they are a natural product. The smaller sized bark chips will break down more quickly than the larger sized ones in my experience. I like to place a nice 3 inch layer of bark around the areas that need it, so as to ensure that weed growth is kept to a minimum, moisture is retained and planted areas look well kept and attractive all at the same time. I feel that the 2 year time span that these bark chips last for before needing to be topped up is quite good.
~How easy are the bark chips to work with?~
I wear gloves when handling the bark chips as there can be some sharp bits, although as mentioned this is kept to a minimum if buying the smaller bark chips which I do prefer using. I have handled the bark chips without gardening gloves but feel it is safer to wear gloves just in case of splinters. I find it quick and easy to take out a few handfuls of bark from a freshly opened pack and then pour more out from the pack once it becomes a little lighter. The larger 90 litre / 120 litre bags are quite heavy and I do need some help to move them around when full, although they do become lighter as the bark in the bags is spread onto the areas of the garden I am treating. The bark is easy to spread around as required and for larger areas I find that a garden broom, or rake can be useful as they can help to ensure that the bark chips are layered evenly and thickly enough so as to suppress weeds and retain moisture at the same time.
I find that the larger bags of Homebase bark offer best value for money as they contain double the amount of bark. The smaller bags hold a minimum of 60 litres which is enough to cover a very small area. The next size up is a 90 litre bag, with the larger sized bags holding 120 litres of bark chips, which is the size I most often opt for. The cost of standard bark chips is £5.99 for 60 litres, £8.99 for 90 litres, the same price for a 120 litre standard bark bag and a really good price of £6,99 for the 120 litre play bark bags which I feel can be used in all child friendly areas that require a mulch or top dressing.
I find the bark is easy to spread out where needed and goes quite a long way, although I generally need to buy a number of bags to keep borders looking neat and tidy. I am due to top up the bark chips I have again this year and will soon be buying some more of these chips as I find that they work well and offer fair value for money. My rating for the Homebase bark chip range does differ slightly depending on the size of the bark chips as I prefer the smaller sized chips which I feel deserve a 4 star product rating. The larger rougher chips contain wood chippings that can sometimes feel rough and sharp, which is why I can only rate them as a 3 star product.
WHAT IS IT?
A pack of chopped bark pieces for use in your garden. They can be used for weed control, underneath childrens play equipment or in an ornamental manner.
HOW TO USE THE BARK CHIPPINGS
You first need to undo the compacted bark to make it into separate pieces, this is easiest done by putting the bark where it's required and scraping at it with a garden fork. This loosens the bark from the edges and it gets easier the more you pull off with eventually the lump just collapsing. Then you use a rake to spread it. The depth depends on what you are using it for so look at the guide on the box.
WHAT I THINK
The bark chippings smell beautiful and woody, they have got a fresh smell that lingers for a long while after you've laid them. They never turn to an earthy or musty smell even after a lot of rain and damp conditions. When it is very hot for a few days after rain the chippings go brittle and you can hear them snapping when you walk on them. I've had this happen with other bark chips but not all of them.
I don't think they are soft enough to go under my children's swings because they would not provide a soft enough landing even at 2" deep. I've got them around two trees and along the flower bed to keep weeds out. I have laid it at less than 1" deep so weeds do still come through but I don't like to layer them too deeply to allow sunlight to reach the soil.
These chippings have been down for about 6 months through this wet summer and they are still colourful with a fresh appearance. None of them have gone mouldy and the rain and standing water hasn't affected them.
The bark chippings are £8.99 for a pack of 120 litres. This is a product where it is easy to underestimate how much you need, I bought two packs and needed another two when I'd started laying them.
5 Dooyoo Stars.
Our house has a mature tree at the bottom of the garden which I love, I have no idea what type of tree it is but it gives our garden a bit extra privacy and some lovely shade, as with a lot of trees we struggle to get much to grow underneath it. After re- seeding that patch of lawn every year since we've lived here and still had no luck we decided to cut a little bed under the tree and cover it with something. After a trip to our local Homebase we decided on bark chips thinking they would look more natural than of the other ground cover products they had.
Homebase Bark Chips are sold in the same thick plastic style bags as their compost, the front of the bag has the Homebase logo on the front along with the shape of a white watering can, the background of the bag shows a picture of the bark in use in a flower bed. The front of the bag also informs the customer that this will create a decorative finish for beds and borders, suppress weed growth and help retain the moisture in the soil.
The front of the bag also shows the FSC logo which shows the bark has come from well maintained forests. The best way to open the bag is to cut along the top with a knife. I also found it best to have the bag of bark where you are going to be using it as it is quite heavy and once open its not that easy to move.
The recommended depth for laying the bark is 3 to 4 inches, this will not only look good but also suppress the weeds, protect plants roots and help prevent the soil from drying out.
Homebase Bark Chips cost £8.99 for a 120 litre bag which is a pretty average price on my opinion, however they nearly always have some sort of multi buy offer on this product and currently its buy 3 bags and save £2.00.
As I mentioned we wanted the bark chips to put on a little bed under a tree, we followed the recommendation and put a good thick layer of bark down, when you first get the bark from the bag it feels a bit wet and slightly slimy, I found rubber gloves useful for this job, the bark does tend to come out in clumps at times but its easy enough to break up as you lay it. The bark smells lovely, it has a slight pine fragrance, not like toilet cleaner but as you would expect a nice natural smell. The bark chips are a nice size, we didn't get any big lumps in our bag.
Once down the bark looks nice and gives the bed a natural look. Bark chips can also be used for flower beds or even if you have big pots in the garden bark can look quite nice in these too.
All in all we have been pleased with the bark chips from Homebase, they do suppress weeds, retain moisture in the soil and in my opinion smell lovely when first laid, however they do have a few downsides cats being one of them, although we have haven't actually had any problems with our cats I do know people who have had a problem with cats using the bark as a toilet, our main problem are the birds, they absolutely love pecking about in the bark which is fine in itself but they have a tendency to flick it everywhere. The bark does need topping up from time to time as it will eventually breakdown and dry up in hot weather
Despite this though I would definitely recommend the Homebase Bark Chips, they look really nice and natural.
It grieves me to shop at Homebase as I think their customer service is very poor. However, there are no alternative stores close to us that sell bark chips at a decent price and we needed to top up the original supply we bought about 5 years ago when we first moved here.
A 60 litre bag costs £4.99 and although we only needed a couple of bags, I found myself buying four as you get a fourth free for every 3 you buy. We have actually used three and it is nice now to have a good thickness of bark on our rockery and over our poo digester.
Because we live in a rural area, we don't have mains drainage and all the poo goes in a big digester with a pump permanently running. It's a bid ugly old thing and the previous owner who converted the barn and installed it had built a little wooden fence around it and we subsequently covered the lid of the tank and the surrounding area with bark chips to make it look a bit more acceptable and yet we could still easily sweep it to the side if we needed access to the tank. We also planted some ivy which has done really well, thriving on liquid manure!
These bark chips aren't the finest quality in that they are not uniform in size and you get some quite big irregular pieces which wouldn't look very good in a fancy setting. I would say they were more like contractors quality rather than gardeners quality.
They come compressed in a huge shrink-wrapped bag which is large and awkward to carry, but we have a pick up so it was easy to transport them home. 60 litres is actually quite a lot of product but like compost and other similarly packed garden items, it can be quite tough once you open the bag to loosen the bark chips for distribution. I poured a good quantity into a wheelbarrow and used the garden fork to break it up a bit before dumping it in the various areas of our garden for the Head Gardener to spread as she sees fit.
It's tough and fibrous stuff and very dark in colour. The smell is quite strong when you first open it - a bit like creosote - and hangs around the garden for a while after spreading. After a few days, the smell disappears and only reappears for a short while if you then disturb it or rake it over.
We have found that provided you aren't too tight when you spread it around, it does do a good job in suppressing weeds. We live in a very dry part of the UK and this bark helps moisture retention in the soil. It doesn't rot down too well, but it does have a tendency to disappear. I've seen the birds steal some of the more fibrous stuff for their nests. I don't know where the rest goes. One of life's imponderables. There are so many.
Now that we have added to the existing bark and barked a new area not previously barked, the garden is looking good. We just need some rain now to give the lawn half a chance of surviving the summer.
If you allow for the fact that this is quite a cheap product, I think it provides decent value. It will be good enough for most ordinary mortals.
After almost two years of continual landscaping, our garden, which had previously been neglected for near on twenty years finally provided us a welcome break this spring from the relentless, labour intensive digging as we finally managed to build some bona fide borders ready for planting. As an avid but somewhat novice gardener I have spent hours swatting over garden manuals researching the flora and available ground covers as well as the impact they may have on my garden and the environment.
Homebase offered a variety of cover but I decided an organic mulch would be the most sustainable option and bark chippings would not only act as an aid to suppress natures acne, the persistent, undesirable pox commonly referred to as weeds by making favourable growing conditions less appealing, blocking light and air source to the ground below but also as a natural, ornamental, year round enhancement for my borders. Homebase's best offering and most readily available thanks to high stock levels was their own, which in comparison to other stores was the more cost effective option. I opted for larger 120 litre bags due to the extensive area I needed to cover. The size I purchased are currently retailing for £7.29 per bag (£2.00 off if you buy three bags in one transaction) and it is these larger (standard) bags I will concentrate on for the purpose of this review.
Now, if your not partial to the fresh scents of woodland timber then chippings are not for you as the pungent aroma of fresh, damp pine strikes the nasal passage as soon as the bark is unleashed. I actually find it pleasant and it's a smell that, although dissipitates after a short time, does remain for a good few weeks resurfacing when the bark becomes wet which exaggerates the rich, deep brown colouring, enhancing the appearance of the border, particularly when offet against the flora of vibrant hues.
Handling of these bags is a definite two man job. Bags are a cumbersome 70cm long x 30cm high x 40cm wide and very heavy although credit to the Homebase staff as they will provide assistance in placing in your car if you ask. Obviously an allowance for transportation needs consideration as well, even with a Vauxhaul Zafira, which offers a substantial boot I only just managed to fit three bags in and the back end was heavily weighted so with a smaller car their size alone could pose a problem and unfortunately this product is not available for home delivery.
The bark used for Homebase's standard bags are taken from conifers which have been specifically grown for the timber industry and with the exception of a few larger, unusable pieces most are an average four to five inches in length. To the best of my knowledge conifer and other soft bark taken from mature trees contains a higher proportion of glucose, resisting decay, so theoretically this bark should have a longer life expectancy. I'm making an assumption now. For the low retail price, I would expect Homebase's chippings to be fairly low grade, probably derived from younger, fast growing trees in order to supply the demands of the mass market which would, in contrast have the opposite effect resulting in the bark degrading quicker, although this should not deter from buying because at the end of the day it's an organic product so rot is inevitable.
A sharp blade is required to open the bags, made with a thick, durable plastic. I make an incision along the full length for a wide opening and easier removal although air perforations along the width at either end would probably provide the simplest cut. The bark is moist and tightly compressed which hampers it's release and so creating an opening alone is not enough to loosen the contents. A good amount of elbow grease is needed although once the bag has been allivated of around a quarter of contents in can be easily tipped on end for the rest of the bark to follow suit.
Homebase recommend the bark be laid fairly densely (2 inches or so) but I feel this depends on your purpose of use. For weed suppression this is acceptable but for pure decoration you could stretch the bark further by being more liberal. My preference is to spread a dense layer as it takes longer before it becomes sparse and even using three bags this way I still managed to cover an approximate area of five square metres although it may be more.
---- Overall ----
If I am being honest, I can't compare Homebase standard bark chips with any other brand as these are the only ones I have used, both in the past and most recently. This particular bark is not only cost effective compared to other brand alternatives but also the alternative aggregates and of course being conifer they offer good protection from frosts helping plants maintain healthy roots although despite this I'm not convinced that these barks alone will provide enough protection, especially if this years winter is harsh and so I am expecting to cover with an additional mulch.
The benefits to my borders have been confirmed. Chippings have assisted in retaining vital moisture to the soil by reducing surface evaporation, critical in warmer weather such as that we have experienced in the past few weeks and although daily watering is still required the time is dramatically reduced as is the water quantity. A good layer of the mulch has stunted the growth of weeds in some areas of my garden although, less effective around the dominating oak tree who's continual assault of debris is relentless as seeds can still be dropped or blown onto the bark and easily take root so in some areas I will almost certainly be left with no other choice than to set a membrane before I add the bark which will only add to the expense. But something I have found that I was not expecting and one which will certainly appeal to those who are not feline friendly, this bark seems to repel cats, thus no kitty poo. I'm not entirely sure if it's the pine they despise or just the bark itself, but it does work.
Transportation issues aside, Homebase's standard bark chips are good value for money, the downside being the size of the bags they are contained in. You do get to cover a lot of ground for a relatively low outlay and the natural benefits they provide have made my purchase worth while and if you really don't like the completed look you can of course always dig them into the ground to compost naturally. Five stars from me!