Top 5 Reasons to Use Wood Chips in a Garden

These are the top 5 reasons we use wood chips in a garden. There are many more wonderful ways to use a load of wood chips. While you can buy wood chips, free wood chips are available from arborists if you can find one in your area willing to drop a load at your property.

1. Wood Chips in Garden Paths

The paths in your gardens can be made with wood chips. This is a very cost-effective method of creating long paths in the open ground that will be walked on regularly. The wood chips hold up very well to foot traffic. It is even possible for you to use carts and wheelbarrows regularly on a wood chip path and not have to worry about creating a muddy trail.

The fact grass can still grow through wood chips if applied directly to fresh grass is the biggest downside to using chips. Therefore, it is recommended to create a weed barrier of some kind before placing the chips down on the grass. The best solution is a few layers of cardboard and then the wood chips. This is the recommended method anytime you are using wood chips to cover new ground and expect grass or weed growth.

2. Multiple Uses for Backyard Poultry

If you raise chickens or ducks then having a pile of wood chips on hand can be very convenient. Using wood chips to help manage the grounds in your chicken or duck run is effective. Due to the chips having a very high carbon content they are excellent at absorbing large amounts of waste material from backyard poultry flocks.

We keep a 6 to 8-inch layer of wood chips in the chicken run area. This is easily turned over with a pitchfork to keep it clean on the surface layer. After several months in the chicken run the wood chips are scooped out and applied to our backyard orchard and vegetable gardens.

Our ducks and chickens love to hunt and search the mulch for snacks. Worms, bugs, and creepy crawlers make a living and home in the mulch paths.   With this in mind, we let the ducks come through regularly and clean out the insects for a snack and playtime.  Ducks snacking in the wood chip mulch is fun to watch while hanging out in the garden.

wheelbarrow bringing wood chips for duck run in garden

3. Excellent Carbon Source in Compost Pile

Wood chips are an excellent source of carbon for a compost operation. If you have a large volume of green / heavy nitrogen materials then combining them with wood chips for a hot compost is a great solution. Wood chips can be used to support composting larger items.  For example, things on some people’s do not compost list such as meat, animal remains, manure, etc can be done in heavy wood chips. We use a lot of wood chips in our compost pile to balance out the pile when we have a lot o extra green material. The end resulting compost is very rich with nutrients and crumbly making it easily spreadable. I like to use the wood chip compost that we make as a top dressing.  Especially around vegetable and flower beds.  In time any remaining wood chips breakdown right in the garden beds.

4. The Best Mulch for Fruit Tree

Wood chips as mulch around food forest fruit tree and ornamental trees is critical if you live in an area with very dry seasons. The mulch layer around the base of the trees will help keep the soil cool and moist. This condition is what trees need to grow and thrive. By adding wood chips as mulch to the ground it is acting like nature with limbs and branches falling to the forest floor to break down over time and feed the microfauna at the soil level. Trees love mulch!

5. Wood Chips as Hugelkultur Material

What is a hugelkultur garden bed? Basically, it is a garden bed built with lots of wood and debris material that breaks down over time and absorbs water for later use by plants. Finding enough material for filling all the cracks and crevices in a hugelkultur mound can be hard. However, a few scoops of wood chips and the bed can fill in the gaps and spaces before continuing to add the soil layers and plants into the bed.

Wood chips are also great as a pot filler. In a similar concept to the hugelkultur bed, I put a scoop of wood chips from our duck run into the bottom of every pot to reduce the amount of soil needed and give the benefits of those partially broken down chips to the plant.

Use Wood Chips When Free

The biggest deciding factor for me when deciding to use wood chips for the garden and landscape is whether I am getting them for free or not. There are so many places to look to get free wood chips so do not spend a bunch of money to get a load of wood chips. Find an arborist in your local area that will give you a drop and find all the ways you can use wood chips in your garden.

Wood Chips online. Check out chip drop and see if there are active tree trimmers in your area. If your area is active then get on the list and you will get a drop quickly. If not, it is best to look for other avenues to get free chips. Call tree trimming companies and talk to arborists. Stop and ask when you see tree-trimming workers in your area. State and county workers maintain the tree growth along roads and can be a source for more rural individuals looking for a load.  In this type of situation you need to act now otherwise the truck may be gone in no time.

Happy Mulching with Woods Chips

A good wheelbarrow and pitchfork make the task of moving wood chips easier so they are a wise investment.  If you have a garden fork in your tool shed than that also will work as a good option for moving wood chips.  Remember you do not want to use a shovel for digging wood chips it’s the worst.  A tined implement like a garden fork for pitchfork and woodchips are a breeze to load into wheelbarrows.