Product Type: Homebase garden chemicals
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The Chips Are Down
Homebase Bark Chips
Member Name: savvyshopper6476
Homebase Bark Chips
Date: 05/05/11, updated on 03/06/12 (498 review reads)
Advantages: Surpress weeds, retains mositure, repels cats,
Disadvantages: Bag size is awkward to transport, yearly replenishment is advised
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!
Summary: A natural, sustainable ground cover with plenty of additional benefits
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