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Can You Use Wood Chips for Mulch? (Discover the Pros & Cons)

Can You Use Wood Chips for Mulch? (Discover the Pros & Cons)

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Mulch is an integral part of most gardens today because of the endless benefits it can provide.

However, many gardeners still have unanswered questions about mulching. One of these questions is: “Can you use wood chips for mulch?”

The answer is yes. You can use wood chips for mulch. Still, there are several benefits and disadvantages to this type of mulch you need to be aware of.

In this post, I’ll provide all you need to know about using wood chips to mulch your garden.

Are Wood Chips Good for Mulch?

Just like any type of mulch, using wood chips has its advantages and disadvantages. Let’s take a look at them:

Wood Chip Mulch Benefits

The following are the benefits you’ll get when using wood chips to mulch your garden:

Provides Nutrients to the Soil

As wood chip mulch breaks down over time, it releases many nutrients and organic matter that can benefit the soil.

For this reason, it can reduce your need for chemical inputs and fertilizers in the garden.

Regulates Temperatures

The extreme heat of the summer and cold snaps of the winter can pose risks to plants’ health.

Using a thick layer of wood chips will help regulate temperatures around plants. It can keep the ground warm during winter and cool during the summer months.

Retains Moisture

Your plants can experience insufficient humidity due to quick water evaporation if you live in an area with a hot, dry climate.

Adding a layer of wood chips to the soil minimizes water evaporation. This can significantly decrease the chances of trees becoming drought-stressed.

Costs Little to No Money

There’s an endless supply of wood chips everywhere because of the annual tree pruning.

This abundance makes the cost of these chips highly affordable or even free.

Reduces Weeds

You can shade your garden soil with a layer of wood chips to reduce weed seed germination.

This will limit or completely inhibit the growth of weed. Even the weeds that may emerge from the mulch will be weakly rooted. That way, you can easily pull them out with your hands.

Even better, because you’ll have fewer weeds in your garden, you won’t need to use string trimmers or mowers near the tree trunks.

As a result, you’ll avoid trunk damage from mowers which can negatively impact the trees’ health.

Good at Handling Water Flow

Some mulch types can partially prevent water from accessing the tree’s roots because of their solid and compact clump.

Luckily, wood chips are far from doing so. This type of mulch is irregularly shaped, which allows water to penetrate it quickly, reaching the porous ground cover.

That way, they can easily access the deep roots of trees.

Using It Is Good for the Environment

As you may know, wood chips are byproducts of tree wood. If no one uses them, they’ll eventually be thrown into a landfill.

Unfortunately, this green waste can be hazardous to the environment if it decomposes in inappropriate conditions.

It can produce a massive amount of methane, which significantly harms the environment.

Methane is more than 20 times as powerful as carbon dioxide in its negative impact on the planet’s atmosphere.

Disadvantages of Wood Chip Mulch

Besides all its benefits, using wood chips has a few drawbacks. Here they are:

Ties Up Nitrogen Temporarily

Most types of fresh wood chips tie up the nitrogen in the soil during their decomposition. This can be great for reducing weeds.

However, they can be detrimental if you’re planting new seedlings or plants with shallow roots. In this case, seedlings and shallow-rooted plants won’t receive sufficient nitrogen to thrive.

To avoid this, use wood chips that are at least six months old.

Might Choke Your Plants

Wood chips can choke a tree if you use them right against its trunk. As a result, they’ll cause damage to the base of the trunk.

Can Retain Excessive Water

Many plants will benefit from the water retention advantage that wood chips provide. Nonetheless, this isn’t the case for all plants.

If your plants don’t prefer continuously wet soil, using wood chips can increase the probability of root rot in your plants.

Can Attract Termites

Wood chips can be a temporary destination for termites before they infest your house.

For this reason, I recommend keeping wood chip mulch at least 2 feet away from your home.

If you can’t keep it at this distance, you need to monitor it continuously to avoid the invasion of termites.

Can You Use Fresh Wood Chips as Mulch?

Yes, you can use fresh wood chips as mulch. However, it’s better to use them around plants with established deep roots rather than ones with shallow roots.

For example, avoid using them around annual flowers or in vegetable beds. Instead, use wood chips around shrubs, trees, and perennials.

This is because fresh wood chips can tie up the nitrogen from the soil’s surface during their decomposition.

As a result, this can significantly impact the health and growth of your plants with shallow roots. Things become even worse if you use it around plants that require nitrogen-rich soil.

To stay on the safe side, try to use wood chips that are at least one year old for mulching.

This is to ensure they won’t negatively impact the chances of your plants thriving.

Are Pine Wood Chips Good for Mulch?

Yes, pine wood chips can be good mulching material. It’ll provide your garden with all the benefits of wood chips.

Although pine wood chips are acidic, they have minimal to no impact on the soil’s acidity.

Contrary to popular belief, your garden’s soil can easily resist any acidity effect these wood chips have.

Still, I recommend using pine wood chips that are at least six months old to avoid the temporary nitrogen deficiency issue the wood chips may cause.

Are Cedar Chips Good for Mulch?

Cedar chips can be an excellent choice for mulching your garden. This type of wood chip lasts longer than most other types. It also does a great job of repelling pests.

In addition, this type of mulch comes with exquisite natural colors that can add a beautiful touch to your garden.

That said, cedar chips come with a few drawbacks that you need to know.

They can release acetic acid if stored improperly after production without exposure to sufficient oxygen. Moreover, their natural color fades fast, so you’ll lose their decorative effect quickly.

Lastly, this type of mulch has a strong smell that many people consider unpleasant.

Are Maple Wood Chips Good for Mulch?

Maple wood chips can be excellent for mulching if they’re at least 6 to 12 months old.

However, like all other wood chips, using them as a mulch around plants when they’re fresh isn’t recommended.

This is because fresh maple wood has an improper carbon-to-nitrogen ratio for the soil around plants.

If you place them around your shallow-rooted plants, bacteria will consume all the nitrogen in the soil.

As a result, the plants will receive little to no nitrogen, which can severely damage them.

Still, you can use fresh maple wood chips in garden pathways with no problem.

Final Thoughts

Can you use wood chips for mulch? Yes, you can use wood chips for mulching your garden. In fact, wood chips are one of the most used materials for this purpose.

This type of mulch can provide your garden with multiple benefits. It can add nutrients to the soil and retain its moisture. It can also regulate soil temperatures and control weeds.

Even better, it’s good at handling water flow, and you can get it cheaply.

On the other hand, wood chips come with a bunch of drawbacks. They might tie up the nitrogen in the soil or serve as a temporary destination for termites on their way to your house.


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