Last Modified: April 1, 2024

Pine Bark

Unbiased Guide to Pine Bark Products

Close up of pine bark and needles

By Ben Parrot - Landscape Gardener & Amateur Geologist

Classification:

Bark decorative material and landscaping aggregate

Scientific name(s):

Pinus pinaster (maritime pine)

Other Name(s):

Bark pine, pine bark mulch, mulch pine bark, pine bark chips, pine tree bark, pine bark nugget, pine bark fines, pine bark nuggets, fine pine bark

Overview

Welcome to the only encyclopaedia for decorative aggregates and landscaping materials. Pine bark chippings, also known as pine bark, is a mid-priced and durable decorative material that can be found in many different forms, from fines to chunky nuggets. The bark usually has a dark brown to reddish colour that creates a beautiful contrast against the plants and shrubs, highlighting the greenery and giving beds and borders a beautiful, natural look. Good quality maritime pine nuggets are imported from Spain and Portugal, where most of the maritime pine coastal species grows. This aggregate is best suited for landscaping projects where durability and appearance are the key factors.

This encyclopaedia entry provides a thorough overview of pine bark mulch, a landscaping material and compostable, decorative aggregate. It details the type of product's general specifications, accompanied by photographs, and outlines its benefits, applications, and incompatibilities as a garden material. Additionally, this entry serves as a gateway to a wealth of DIY resources, with a list of comparable alternatives, articles offering design inspiration and fundamental principles, and a collection of straightforward, step-by-step instructions for constructing your own garden features.

Important note: As this is a general page about different kids of pine bark, it is essential to note that variability factors exist, not just between brands but also between products from the same supplier. If a product's appearance or any other aspect is important to you, we advise requesting a sample prior to ordering.

Pine Bark Chippings Specifications

material

colour

shape

sizes

fall safety

price

Bark

10mm - 60mm

white wood

Dust & Fines

Certification

degradability

ph

diy friendly

5-20%

Varied

3-8 years

Acidic

Material

Pine tree bark

Colour

Dark brown to reddish brown

Shape

Nuggets, shredded and fines

Pine logs breaking down in a forest

Size Range

10-60mm (0.4-2.4")

Fall Safety

Certified types suitable for play surfaces (at correct depths)

1.6m @ 100mm, 4m @ 200mm, 5m @ 300mm

Price

Mid-priced

White Wood Content

5-20%

Dust and Fines Content

Varies by product

Close up of pine tree bark. Jpg

Fire Safety

Yes

Degradability

Compostable over 3-8 years

pH

4.5-5.5 pH

DIY-Friendly

Yes

Chipped pine bark close up

Benefits

Using decorative aggregates like pine bark as mulch offers numerous benefits in garden and landscape design. They are aesthetically pleasing, providing a natural and textured finish to any space. Decorative aggregates also aid in moisture retention, reducing the need for frequent watering and suppressing weed growth, reducing maintenance efforts. Additionally, they provide insulation to soil, protecting plant roots from extreme temperatures.

The use of pine bark chippings, in particular, is favoured for its natural, rustic look and its ability to create a cohesive woodland aesthetic. It can add an acidic balance to the soil, benefiting acid-loving plants. The lightweight nature of pine bark makes it easy to spread and ideal for a variety of garden projects.
However, its acidic nature may not be suitable for all plant types. In gardens requiring a neutral to alkaline pH, pine bark could potentially hinder plant growth. Conversely, for acid-loving plants, it's an absolute boon, enhancing nutrient uptake and overall health.

Commercial pine barks obtained from pine tree species, such as maritime pine or Scots pine, can offer a significant lifespan improvements over spruce-based barks. 

  • Inhibits weeds
  • Improves drainage
  • High durability
  • Eco-friendly, sustainable
  • Low-maintenance
  • Moisture retention
  • Versatile all-rounder
  • pH acidic
  • Transform spaces fast
  • Fire safety rating
  • Root protection
  • Easy to lay

Certifications

This section lists the types of certifications that are available for this type of product and what they are for. However, this is a guide about the generic type of product, pine bark for gardens. There may be many brands sold under this product category, but that does not guarantee their individual compliance, and it may not always be necessary depending on individual preference.

For example, BS 7188 does not provide fall safety certification without the complimentary BS EN 1177 certification, yet some suppliers advertise it as fall safety certification when it is not.

This guide equips you with an understanding of certifications to consider, depending on their relevance to your specific use case, or whether they are deemed essential for your individual project outcomes. We add advisory for particular use cases, where we consider the certification to be critical for that type of application or situation. Any products listed on our site will always show their compliance, where it is applicable. 

*BS 7188 is an optional supplement to BS EN 1177, offering further testing procedures and criteria for resistance to abrasive wear-and-tear, slip resistance, resistance to indentation, and flammability.

Certification

TYpe

applications

recommended

BS EN 1177

Fall Safety

Play Areas

Yes

BS EN 4790

1987 Fire Tested

Fire prone areas

Yes

BS 7188*

Product resistance

Play areas

Optional

Sustainable Forestry

Sustainability

Optional

Applications

There are three main types of pine bark garden products. They are pine bark mulch, pine bark fines and pine nuggets. Each type of pine bark product has its own set of characteristics that make it suitable for different applications. While there are few hard and fast rules, next we list the main ones.

Pine Bark Mulch

Pine bark mulch is typically made from shredded and chopped pieces of pine bark. It's a versatile material used in various gardening and landscaping applications. It can be commonly called decorative or ornamental bark, among others.

  • Mulching Borders and Flower Beds: Ideal for suppressing weeds, retaining soil moisture, and adding a decorative contrast to plant borders and garden beds.
  • Aesthetic Appeal: Provides a neat, tidy finish to garden beds and borders.
  • Pathways: Can be used to create natural-looking walkways that blend into the surroundings.
  • Erosion Control: Helps prevent soil erosion in sloped areas by reducing the impact of raindrops and water flow.
Shredded bark chippings around conifers

Pine Bark Fines

Pine bark fines are very small pieces of pine bark, often resembling a coarse powder or very small chips. They are known for their soil conditioning properties.

  • Soil Amendment: Excellent for improving soil structure, particularly in compacted or clay-heavy soils, making it easier for roots to grow.
  • Potting Mixes: Often used as an ingredient in potting mixes for containers and raised beds to enhance drainage and aeration.
  • Top Dressing: Can be used as a fine, attractive top dressing for pots and beds, providing a neat finish and additional soil benefits.
  • Acidifying Soil: Suitable for use around acid-loving plants like azaleas and blueberries to naturally help maintain a lower pH.

Pine Bark Nuggets

Pine bark nuggets are larger chunks of pine bark and are often used for their decorative appeal as well as their functional benefits in play areas and deluxe borders.

  • Decorative Mulch: Provides an attractive, rustic look to garden beds and landscaping features, ideal for larger areas where a bold visual impact is desired.
  • Play Areas: Larger nuggets may be certified and can be used in children's play areas to provide a softer, safer surface.
  • Moisture Retention: Effective at retaining soil moisture in larger garden beds due to their size and slower decomposition rate.
  • Slope Stabilisation: Their larger size makes them less likely to wash away than finer materials, making them suitable for sloped areas where erosion control is needed.

In the following section, we list many common pine bark mulch uses in landscaping. Wherever there is a hyperlink beside an item, an article from Outdoor Aggregates about the topic is available.

Natural pine nuggests garden edging

Inspiration and Informational Articles

DIY-Friendly How-To Guides

Need to work out how many bark nuggets your project needs? Try our free pine bark nugget calculator.

Other Applications

Some other excellent applications for pine bark include:

  • Base for terrace, patios or outdoor seating areas
  • Ideal for use around plants that prefer acidic conditions, as they can slightly lower the pH of the soil.
Shredded pine mulch around ground cover plants

Unsuitable For

The following list represents the kinds of applications that pine bark may not be suitable for:

  1. 1
    Plantings that like highly alkaline garden soil.
  2. 2
    Use around young plants or seedlings which need more Nitrogen, especially if turned-in to the soil.

Fall Safety Comparison

For your information, we provide the critical fall height safety of comparable materials.

Material*

Depth 

15cm/6"

Depth 

23cm/9"

Depth 

30cm/12"

2m/7'

3m/10'

3.3m/11'

Pine bark nuggets

1.8m/6'

3m/10'

3.3m/11'

Engineered wood fibre

1.8m/6'

2m/7'

3.6m/12'

Fine sand

1.5m/5'

1.5m/5'

2.7m/9'

Coarse sand

1.5m/5'

1.5m/5'

1.8m/6'

1.8m/6'

2m/7'

3m/10'

Medium gravel

1.5m/5'

1.5m/5'

1.8m/6'

Taken from page 5 of 'The Handbook For Playground Safety'.

*For the uncompressed depth of each material.

Similar Alternatives to Pine Bark Mulch

The following is a list of decorative aggregates which are alternatives to pine bark chips. They may offer you a more suitable variation on the primary colour, a more economical option, or a close substitute for cases where the base material may be unsuitable for the project you are creating, e.g. landscaping bark for a play area, where play chips may be safer. The price averages are based on the cost of a standard bulk bag, approximately 1㎥.

Name

Colours

Material

Size

Shape

Availability

Price

brown to red

Bark

10-60mm (0.4-2.4")

irregular

UK, USA, EU

brown to red

Bark

20-60mm (0.8-2.4")

irregular

UK, USA, EU

brown to red

Bark

20-60mm (0.8-2.4")

irregular

UK, USA, EU

brown

Straw

10-60mm (0.4-2.4")

mulched

UK, EU

white or red

5-40mm (0.2-1.6")

chips

UK, USA, EU

white or red

10-40mm (0.4-1.6")

chips

UK, USA, EU

white or red

Wood

10-40mm (0.4-1.6")

chips

UK, USA, EU

brown

Cocoa

5-40mm (0.2-1.6")

shells

UK, USA, EU

Under £80

£80-£120

£120-£150

£150-£200

£200-£300

£300+

Maintenance

Rake garden gloves and other tools

Pine bark is generally low-maintenance, especially when a heavy duty weed membrane is installed underneath to suppress weeds, with most work limited to raking and the occasional removal of debris. It is recommended to occasionally hose or power wash the product in order to prevent the buildup of dust and grime.

Pine bark generally settles lower over time, up to 10-15%, so infrequent replenishment of the bark chippings will be necessary to maintain safety depth and coverage, wherever applicable.

Purchasing Tips

Large pine tree trunk breaking down

When purchasing pine bark chippings, consider product safety certification and future replenishments when calculating the type and quantity optimal for your project. If it is a priority, request a copy of the product's compliance certificate before purchasing any play grade bark. Also, where available, it is always cost-effective to request a sample to assess the chippings' quality against your design requirements, if aesthetic characteristics are important to your project.

Our bark and wood chip calculator will give you a quick and unbiased estimate for your project needs just by taking a few measurements of the space. It is one of the best and easiest ways to order the right amount and helps avoid shortfalls or over-spending. Purchasing a bulk bag of play bark or ordering in loose loads can offer better value than purchasing in smaller quantities. Therefore, calculating accurately can save both time and money. It is also important to consider the delivery aspects, including vehicle access to the site. Additionally, you can use our site to check stock availability and factor in VAT and transportation costs if applicable. (Feature coming soon)

FAQs

What is pine mulch used for?

Pine mulch is used for suppressing weeds, retaining soil moisture, and adding an aesthetically pleasing, natural look to garden beds, paths, and around trees.

How can pine bark benefit my garden?

Yes, pine bark benefits gardens by enhancing moisture retention, suppressing weed growth, adding a rustic aesthetic, and potentially acidifying the soil for acid-loving plants.

Is pine bark safe for pets?

Pine bark is generally safe for pets.

Where can I buy pine bark?

Pine bark can be purchased at garden centres, landscaping suppliers, and from online retailers via our website. (Feature coming soon)

Can pine tree bark be used as mulch?

Yes, pine tree bark mulch is excellent for gardens, especially around trees, shrubs, and acid-loving plants.

How long does bark pine mulch take to decompose?

Pine bark takes 3-8 years to decompose, depending on environmental conditions and the size of the bark pieces.

There are many wonderful types of wood chippings available for your project needs. Check them out!

About the author 

Ben Parrot

Ben Parrot, is a landscape gardener and amateur geologist. He is the founder of Outdoor Aggregates, with the mission to create the first encyclopaedia for decorative aggregates. From natural stone through to decorative bark, these aggregates are critical to garden and landscape design, universally.

The problem: There isn't any place where all the different types of decorative landscaping materials and construction aggregates can be found, nor are the specifications of each type readily available. So, enriched by his extensive experience, and inspired by the timeless elegance and raw beauty of stone and rock, etched by nature's artistry over millennia, Outdoor Aggregates was born.