Landscape mulches are a vital component of flourishing gardens and thriving green spaces. Choosing the right mulch material leads to fertile soil and healthy plants, but selecting the wrong one can result in issues with weeds, soil drainage, nutrient levels, and even fungi.
Wood chips are one of the most commonly used mulch materials due to their excellent moisture retention, temperature regulation, and weed-reducing capabilities. They’re also visually pleasing, affordable, and easy to apply.
In this guide, we’ll discuss whether or not you should use wood chips for mulch and the kinds of wood chips that are safe to use. We’ll also run through the many benefits that this organic material has to offer.
Yes, wood chips are a great mulching material, and the good news is they’re widely available for little to no cost. Mulching with wood chips enriches the soil, reduces weeds, boosts plant health, and enhances the natural appearance of your landscape.
Some communities and organizations provide free wood chips from environmental projects that residents can use for their gardening activities. You can source your wood chips from local tree-trimming companies, land-clearing companies, lumber yards, or home improvement stores.
If you have a bunch of tree limbs and branches in your yard, you can also rent wood-chipping equipment to produce your own chips. This alternative helps the environment as well by reducing the amount of yard waste that ends up in your landfill.
Here are some advantages that might convince you to start mulching with wood chips:
Wood chips regulate soil temperature and prevent plants from overheating by absorbing a low amount of the sun’s radiant energy and reflecting heat back into the air. As a result, mulched soil is often cooler than bare soil during the hot summer months.
Throughout winter, wood chip mulch acts as a protective covering that insulates the soil and keeps the root systems warm. You can also use wood chips in the fall to protect your plants from weather damage and winter shock.
Did you know that spreading wood chips around your garden can help keep pesky weeds under control? A layer of wood chip mulch blocks out sunlight, suppressing the germination of weed seeds and making existing weeds easier to pull.
Fewer weeds mean that your plants experience less competition for nutrients. It also saves you time and effort in cleaning up your plant beds.
Wood chip mulch prevents water from evaporating and helps your soil retain much-needed moisture. This is particularly helpful if you live in an area with hot and dry weather, as it prevents your trees from experiencing heat stress.
It also reduces the number of times you’ll need to water your plants. Unlike other types of mulch, wood chips are chunky and irregularly shaped, which allows water to flow easily to your plant roots.
If you want to boost your garden’s natural appeal by adding a decorative finish, a layer of wood chip mulch is an attractive, affordable, and low-maintenance option. Its natural look, texture, and colors won’t clash with your plant varieties and can even make them look brighter and healthier.
What’s more, wood chips absorb excess moisture during heavy rains, preventing soil from getting washed away. They keep your gardens pristine by hindering mud development and are a great material to use when filling up muddy patches.
5 – Repels Pests From Your Garden
Mulching using wood chips will reduce the pest population in your garden. Say goodbye to fleas, ticks, gnats, and other damage-causing critters, because certain wood chips do an excellent job of repelling them naturally.
For instance, cedar wood chips contain chemical compounds that effectively repel insects, including moths, cockroaches, beetles, house ants, and termites. However, avoid piling mulch against tree trunks as it can create a moist environment resulting in fungal diseases.
Wood chips break down over time and gradually release nutrients into the soil, supporting healthy plant growth. Your soil becomes more fertile, resulting in healthier and more bountiful harvests in the long run.
What’s more, adding organic materials such as wood chips to your soil allows earthworms to thrive. These creatures play a vital role in nutrient cycling and maintaining the health and structure of your soil.
A common concern in using fresh wood chips as mulch is that they’ll tie up nitrogen levels in the soil and cause nutrient deficiencies in plants. Although it’s true that some nitrogen will be depleted from your soil due to decomposition, this primarily takes place on the soil’s surface.
What’s found on the surface of your soil are only weed seeds. Trees and shrubs are unaffected because they have deep and extensive root systems located several inches below the surface.
So, you can safely use fresh wood chips as a surface mulch on deeper-rooted trees and shrubs, on pathways between raised garden beds, and on permanent walkways.
However, vegetables, herbs, and annual flower beds tend to require more nitrogen and have shallow root systems. For this reason, it’s best to avoid using fresh wood chips as mulch for them.
Yes, pine wood chips, shredded pine, and pine needles are ideal materials for mulch. They’re natural-looking, long-lasting, and great at keeping weeds at bay while allowing water to pass through freely.
In addition to promoting plant health and performance, pine wood chips add to your garden’s aesthetics with their lovely brown color. When used as a surface-level mulch, pine wood chips have minimal impact on soil pH, so you don’t have to worry about them affecting soil nutrition.
One thing to note is that pine wood chips aren’t suitable for fire-prone landscapes and areas with hot and dry summers as they can quickly become combustible. They can burn fast and spread quickly, so spreading this mulch next to your house isn’t recommended.
Cedar chips are a favorite mulch material among gardeners because they provide the additional benefit of repelling insects. Garden pests dislike the smell of cedar, so they’ll stay away from your precious plants if you use it as a mulch.
Compared to other organic mulches, cedar chips don’t deteriorate immediately, so you can use them for many months. They also have a warm red-brownish hue that blends in with the landscape and nicely colors your garden.
What’s more, cedar chips produce a refreshingly pleasant aroma, which is most noticeable after heavy rainfall. They have strong water retention capabilities, so they’re not the best for moisture-hating plants as well as nitrogen-hungry vegetables and annual flowers.
Yes, maple wood chips are a suitable material for mulch. Their chunky texture and light natural color add visual appeal to any garden in addition to yielding benefits such as reduced germination of weed seeds and more stable soil temperatures.
Maple wood chips are also highly effective at insulating the soil during the winter months and replenishing the soil with nutrients. When applying them as mulch, stick to a depth of two inches because thick layers can lead to fungal growth.
Adding wood chip mulch is one way to keep your plants lush and healthy, regardless of season. Whether you prefer fresh wood, pine wood, cedar wood, or maple wood for your mulch, these organic materials will help you save time, money, and effort in growing a flourishing garden.
Hopefully, this guide has convinced you to include mulching with wood chips in your landscaping strategy. This affordable and easy solution will boost the well-being of your beloved trees, shrubs, and flowers in the years to come.
Growing up with a mom who filled her home (inside and out) with all sorts of plants, Lisa got her start in gardening at a young age. Living now on her own with a home and yard full of plants (including an indoor greenhouse), she shares all the gardening tips she’s gained over the years.