Sunday, February 2, 2014

Garden Tips A to Z: BARK

Do you have any other tips for using or protecting bark?  Share your tips in a comment!
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Bark is often an underutilized landscape feature.  I pass a house on my way to work that has several small, oblong-shaped gardens, each with a tree planted in the middle.  The trees are gorgeous, even in winter, because of their lovely barks.  Some popular varieties are white paper birches, dogwoods, forsythia, and golden willows.  My favorite place to buy trees is the National Arbor Day Foundation website.  I have bought a variety of trees from them for over a decade.  Their prices are the best I've seen and all my trees have done well.  I get the membership in order to get great member prices and the free tree specials.
White Paper-Birch trunk

Lawnmowers and weed-whackers can damage bark, allowing an entrance for pests and disease.  Protect bark with a plastic trunk guard or a circular mulch mat that fits around the base.  I like the look of plants around trees, so I've circled the trees in my lawn with shade-loving plants, like hostas, pachysandra, periwinkle, and day lilies.  I don't have to worry about trimming the grass too close to the trunk and it makes mowing under branches easier.

If rabbits and mice are eating the bark off trees, wrap the bottom with a fine metal mesh or tree-wrap.

An old-fashioned method of sealing up tree wounds was to paint shellac or tar over the wound.  Most experts agree that this is not necessary as trees will generally heal themselves.

Bark mulch is lovely when spread around plants; will repel slugs and snails; keeps soil cooler and retains moisture in hot weather; and protects roots from winter damage.  I used bark mulch in the paths between my raised beds and among shrubs.  Our town refuse/compost area would offer it free to town residents. I've also picked up loads of wood chips off the side of the road after town limb-trimming.  
Signs of the Emerald Ash Borer

If you notice D-shaped holes on the bark, S-shaped grooves in the wood under the bark, vertical bark splits, or leaf sprouts along the trunk of an ash tree, you likely have an Emerald Ash Borer infestation.  Here in Connecticut and in other parts of the U.S., this insect is killing millions of ash trees. has excellent information on dealing with this terrible blight.

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