I turned a bed I want to use for herbs. I thought it was bark on top and sandy soil. I laid out "compost" materials and some soil additions and turned the soil, but down past a shovel lenght it's all beauty bark. Now the beauty bark has been there for at least two years, I'd guess 4+. The top was a light grey, the lower is more redish. Is this better or worse then sandy soil?
May I suggest you work two beds - barrow out 2 or 3 loads of the mulch from bed A, remove same amount of topsoil from bed B - and swap them over. Dig B into A, and A into B. Now you have two improved beds.
It's shredded bark or wood, no more then two inches long that people insist on putting in there yards to keep down weeds and to make it more "pretty". I hate the stuff. As far as I'm concerned it's just a good way to get splinters. I especially hate weeding it. It's used in the same way lava rocks or river rocks are used, but has to be replaced every couple of years of it goes grey.
Here is a close-up picture that shows how the aged stuff looks and where you can see the individual wood chunks.
But, zhinu, it decomposes and amends your soil, as well as retaining moisture and holding down the weed growth. Rocks do none of that, or more correctly they do significantly less (no decomposition, poor water retention and poor weed control). Stay away from the dyed stuff, and then there is less change when it ages. If you use natural mulch to begin with, a light topdressing is all that is needed to spruce up the appearance.
Jeff - don't get me wrong, I dislike rocks almost as much as I dislike beauty bark; except river rock or native rock (stuff you pulled out of your soil) those are ok. Rock is kinder to your hands to weed, but still sucks. I don't want anything in my yard like that. I just want to plant things until it's bio-intensive so I don't have to worry about weeds too much. I don't like grass either, but you have to have something to walk on, if I could pull mine up I think I'd put in a pond, some vegetable beds and plant the rest with wooly thyme.
"...I don't want anything in my yard like that. I just want to plant things until it's bio-intensive so I don't have to worry about weeds too much. ..."
Sounds good, but is much harder to execute than you may think. Some plants do poorly when crowded (ask me about my tomatoes). Many will drop most of their lower foliage if there is poor circulation near the ground, which is what happens in a crowded bed. Even with a full canopy that blocks weed development, a layer of mulch will retain moisture and build your soil as it protects the roots.
Well I already have beauty bark at least turned into my beds, so I don't have much choice even if I was opposed to mulching my beds. I'm not opposed to mulching, though I would prefer if the mulch was not bark.
zhinu, those are usally found for free so I do like them to. Only problem is it is so hot here that a good layer of bark mulch often does a good job for me. It's been in the hundreds almost all summer long with little rain.