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Fighting a Losing Battle - with Mulch

20 comments


Two winters ago I decided to purchase Gro-Sure Smart Cover Bark Alternative mulch for my raised border. Now this is the border that is full of extremely heavy sticky clay. To an extent, it has always been something of a plant graveyard, in spite of my digging in compost and sand. But you have to work with what you’ve got, unless you have millions in the bank, so I keep on trying.

Anyway, the idea behind buying this mulch was to keep weeds down and also to get rid of the slimy sheen that comes with winter wet on clay. So I bought it and laid it down.

But this has been a mistake. Last winter I top dressed the border again with a nice cosy bark mulch, having been a bit dubious about the Gro Sure product. Just wasn’t keen on it. It seemed to go extremely heavy, just like the clay, and it formed a solid mat on top of the soil, which is not great as it stops air getting in.

So, this year I have had some terrible trouble with that area. Lots of the new plants I’ve put in have died, and some of the old ones have been sick or just not returned.

The other day I decided to bite the bullet and buy some more plants to fill gaps before my open days. And when I came to plant them, the soil was absolutely sodden under the bark. This in a raised bed when the rest of the garden was fairly dry.

So, I must say, I cannot recommend this product to you at all. I am going to have to try to dig it in properly and add yet more compost. It has undone all the good work I did to improve drainage before laying it. I might even remove lumps of it as I go as it really has made my soil anaerobic and that’s the very last thing I wanted!

We live and learn. From past experience I would say Mushroom Compost and Bark are the best mulches for your garden. Just bear in mind that the first is alkaline and the bark promotes acidity as it breaks down.

I know, it looks great, but you can’t see all the little newbies that just haven’t grown at all.

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Comments

 

it takes courage to tell us all about a problem of that type. There's a reason it's called soil science, right? after my neighbour had a disaster with coconut husk mulch and an infestation of earwigs... I've been reluctant to use any mulch over clay or any other soil type. if it dries out too fast it may become baked..and that really is a disaster. Good luck Karen. I hope you can work it out.

4 Jul, 2019

 

Thanks Lori. I'll try my best :)

4 Jul, 2019

 

I'm sorry to hear that,K....I remember you often said how pleased you were with the bark in the past,but,of course,time does tell.....after all your preparation work too.
I did do the same last Autumn but used Westland bark....have reduced the watering on those areas compared with the unbarked areas...
Hope you can conquer the situation.

4 Jul, 2019

 

I think the easiest thing for me to do now Julia is probably dig in the bark to break up the horrid Gro-sure stuff, and then add fresh bark as mulch. Mulching in itself is great for keeping in moisture and keeping out weeds.

4 Jul, 2019

 

I would try that...is it a large area to do?

4 Jul, 2019

 

Fairly...but a day’s work should see it remedied. I’ll do it in the autumn. :)

4 Jul, 2019

 

I was going to say,now might prove a harder job with surface soil being dry.

4 Jul, 2019

 

Sharing your problem will hopefully save someone else from the same. Gardening is very like life in general, hard work sometimes, but well worth it - your garden looks beautiful.

5 Jul, 2019

 

oh Karen that is so disappointing and costly too. have you written to them to appraise them about the problems you have had with their product? You may find they offer you a refund or an alternative. after all they don't want bad publicity.
I do think that new products are unleashed on the public with a good name associated with it to encourage us to buy. even when not fully proven etc.

keep us posted as to how you get on.

5 Jul, 2019

 

No SBG I haven’t the energy for complaining at the moment. They would doubtless say my fault for putting bark over it.

5 Jul, 2019

 

Can you try to put it at the back of your mind for a couple of months..
I know it's not that easy!

5 Jul, 2019

 

I can Julia. I have too much else to think about. :)

5 Jul, 2019

 

:))

5 Jul, 2019

 

I hope you solve your problem, the garden looks lovely and I expect your visitors don't notice a thing!

6 Jul, 2019

 

I'm sorry to read this, after all your hard work as well, I know from experience that you will sort it Karen, we all learn by our mistakes, I only ever mulch with my own homemade compost, can't stand to see the bark everywhere, each to his own though, I only ever tried it once and that was in our dog run, not on the beds and borders, that was on clay also, big mistake Karen and I do feel for you, it went exactly how you have described....

6 Jul, 2019

 

We live and learn. It did cross my mind at the time it could change the balance of the soil but never thought the drainage would be affected. I had a relative that lost plants after using mushroom compost, is it like based?. I'm happy with my bagged well rotted farmyard manure from Wickes, I get it delivered and now and again it's 3 for the price 2.

6 Jul, 2019

 

Thanks for that Dawn. I got the bark from Wickes. I shall get the manure in future! yes, mushroom compost does have Lime in it.

7 Jul, 2019

 

With the manure, it’s good knowing it’s well rotted and ready to use, I mix in when I plant anything new and I mulched the tenders last autumn and my roses have lots around them.

8 Jul, 2019

 

This is a real shame. I read the reason for the 'Smart' designation and found it is because the wood fibres bind together to suppress weeds. How daft is that. As you rightly point out soil needs to breathe and this product seems to suffocate and is not at all what you would want. I have had to deal with clay on several gardens and find 'Claybreaker' ideal for breaking up the heaviest clay. It can be used where you grow flowering plants and vegetables. It does not alter the soil ph but it makes the soil much easier to handle. It can be hoed in to the soil of existing beds but I dug over my garden ground after applying it to the soil in the autumn. Now I buy fresh bark from the local council and spread it on paths. I used old carpets under it and in addition to smelling lovely it has broken down to a fine compost which I mix in to the compost bins. On the borders I use it on top of a layer of newspaper. Estate agents house freebies are everywhere and I can pick up enough in supermarkets etc to save me hoarding newspapers. I give the ground a feed first of bone meal, place the paper, 3 sheets deep, and then spread the bark over the top making sure I avoid putting it right up to the trunks or stems. It is cheap and effective and does not harm the environment.

13 Jul, 2019

 

Thank you SG I have never heard of this 'Clay Breaker'. I shall look out for it and then I can fork it in . :)

13 Jul, 2019

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