Compost, mulch, or bark: What’s best for a flower garden? Ask an expert – OregonLive


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We’re well into fall, but there is plenty of things still to do – or just dream about in the garden. You may have some questions. For answers, turn to Ask an Expert, an online question-and-answer tool from Oregon State University’s Extension Service. OSU Extension faculty and Master Gardeners reply to queries within two business days, usually less. To ask a question, simply go to the OSU Extension website , type it in and include the county where you live. Here are some questions asked by other gardeners. What’s yours?Q: Which is better mulch vs. compost vs. bark for our existing, healthy landscape flower garden? When/why/how to use some or all of these? We applied high quality compost 1.5 year ago when we first started the flower garden. Nothing added since then. – Washington CountyA: Thanks for your question about the various mulches (they are all technically mulches) that you can put on your flower bed. They all have pluses and minuses so I’ll include an article from Oregon State, but skip down to the part where it says “Choosing a mulch” to see what is available.Since you already added compost, I would suggest getting a soil test if you want to use that as mulch, as the nutrients in compost can last awhile.If you are looking to control weeds and conserve water, you probably want bark or wood chips. I love arborist chips which can be had for free on They are rather big but don’t need to be replaced often. You do have to have a sizeable area where they can be dumped, however.Bark and wood chips can be bought at gardening stores and also last a long time. And if slugs are a problem for your flowers, I have had good luck with hazelnut shells, although they are expensive to put over a very large area.Of course shredded leaves are also a good mulch if you have a tree that is dropping leaves at this time. They will decompose faster than wood products, but then the tree will supply you with a new batch next year. Here’s more information.Whatever you choose, mulching is a great way to help your plants stay weed free and well-watered! – Rhonda Frick-Wight, OSU Extension Master GardenerQ: I plan to build a hoop house in order to grow food year-round here in Port Orford. Do you have any thoughts on the best way to go about this ie. Best type of film, single or double-layer shade cloth, etc.? – Curry CountyA: Here, here and here is some info on building hoop houses, cloches, greenhouses and things to take into consideration when choosing materials for building. – Samantha Clayburn, OSU Extension Master GardenerQ: I’m looking for a dappled shade tree for my west-facing backyard. I’ve come upon the thornless honey locust tree (‘Sunburst’ or ‘Imperial’ specifically). But the articles or info I find only mention the pests, mites, midges and other things that seem to attack these trees. Some suggest spraying the trees on a regular basis, like with malathion. But I would think this could harm bees.My question is, are these things truly a problem for such a tree planted in a back yard, and if so, what would be the appropriate safe way to manage these things? I like the look of the tree, but if it comes with this hassle factor, then I’ll opt for something else. – Yamhill CountyA: Here are some pros and cons: The thornless locust is a gorgeous tree. It will grow rapidly and provide the shade you are interested in. However, there are a few other things you need to know.They develop long seed pods that drop to the ground. These must be picked up otherwise they will start new trees. Their rapid growth is due to their very efficient root system and will take moisture from the soil. If you have other plants or veggies in the area, the tree may take too much water leaving the other plants needing more.The leaves turn a golden yellow in the fall and the pods contents are edible. They can develop cankers which are holes or growths that seep sap. This attracts insects. Cankers are difficult to get rid of if you can at all.They grow very tall – 40-50 feet tall and 30-40 feet wide. This may not be an issue for you though. Pruning will help keep the size down, if you wish. They do well in areas with vehicle traffic so they tolerate exhaust fumes making them pretty hardy. The leaves are easily mowed into the grass around the tree. They also have very strong wood so they are not prone to breaking off branches in wind storms, not that a wind storm could not break the branch, it just doesn’t happen as often as with other more fragile trees.The insect issues are bagworms, webworms, mites, midges but with organic sprays you can keep the populations down if you have the insects. A horticultural oil spray will kill insect eggs sprayed in the fall and after petal fall. The flowers of the tree are extremely fragrant and attractive. They are a creamy white and form in long panicles hanging from the tree.Approximately 10 years ago I simply threw out some honey locust pods into the wooded area in back of our home. Never did anything; did not even cover them. We have a beautiful stand of locust trees, no issues that I can see. But they do germinate readily. – Sheryl Casteen, OSU Extension Master GardenerNote to readers: if you purchase something through one of our affiliate links we may earn a commission.
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