Hey Landscape Architects, Do Medium-sized Bark Chips Last Longer than Small-sized Bark Chips?

Am I doing the wrong thing? Do larger bark chips last longer than smaller ones? I know many landscape architects use AutoCAD, so what say you? Are larger chips a better investment? Here's my personal story.

Apparently I have become a connoisseur of bark chips. I am no longer a fan of the medium sized chips:


For years, I have always gotten my gardening supplies at Home Depot. They have good prices. The problem with this approach is that it's a crap shoot. I never know what they will have in stock until I get there. When in pursuit of bark chips, I have always walked away from the painted ones (red or brown) but have been comfortable purchasing the natural chips in the small or medium size. For the last year, I had been buying the small ones. For this last trip, Home Depot only had the medium sized, so I went with it. After only being in place for a week, I regretted my decision and decided to remedy it.

So I removed the old chips:


Luckily, there was an area behind our house which was bare and needed attention, so this was a great place to put the one-week-old chips:


With the chips removed, this was my chance to add fertilizer. I use Miracle-Gro Shake 'n' Feed. These little green pellets release nutrients continuously for up to 3 months:


The Autodesk Gallery has an "internet of things for gardening" exhibit that features an Edyn unit that tracks light, humidity, nutrition, and moisture for a garden. I have one (see blog article). The Edyn unit shows my nutrition as just right, and this fertilizing with help keep it that way:

2017-04-01 13.53.55

So rather than face the uncertainly of Home Depot (since it had only been one week), I went to our local nursery, Encinal Nursery, and bought as many bags of small bark chips that my Smart Car would hold:


I even had one on the passenger seat:


I also bought some plants. Since the edge of the garden near the sidewalk doesn't get much water, I went with 3 succulents. To add color to the middle section, I got one each of:

  • Coleus Sun Jade
  • Coleus Ruby Slipper
  • Coleus Rustic Orange
  • Coleus Electric Lime

These plants can take full sun, so we'll see how they fair. I positioned the plants (in their containers) in the garden to get a sense of spacing and the bags of chips to make sure I would have enough. From this, I think I will need 4 bags, but I have 5 just in case. It's better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it:


I planted the plants and watered the garden:


I spread the chips and indeed needed only 4 bags. When it was all said and done, I definitely prefer the smaller bark chips to the medium ones. But is such a preference sentencing me to more frequent gardening? Do the larger ones last longer or provide so additional benefits? Inquiring minds want to know.


People with gardening knowledge can post a comment on this blog article or reach us at thelabs@autodesk.com.

Gardening is alive in the lab.