Wood chips are made from a variety of materials that would otherwise end up in the landfill, including discarded trees, landscape prunings and Christmas trees. Beneficial in a variety of ways, wood chips moderate soil temperature, prevent erosion and deter growth of weeds. Wood chips also return organic material to the soil. Wood chips are used as an attractive alternative to bark chips, landscape rocks, pine needles and straw.
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Spread a 1- to 3-inch layer of wood chips around plants in a perennial, annual or mixed flower bed after the soil warms in spring. Wood chips can also be applied around perennials in autumn to protect the roots from damage caused by freezing and thawing. Wood chips give the flower beds a rustic, natural appearance, and the mulch protects plants from splashing mud during a hard rain.
Surround newly planted trees and shrubs with 3 to 5 inches of wood chips in a 3- to 6-foot ring around the tree to keep the soil moist and warm and get your tree or shrub off to a good start. A 1-foot ring of wood chips protects mature trees and shrubs from lawnmowers and weed trimmers.
Create easy access to any part of your landscape with a natural-looking path or walkway consisting of a 1- to 4-inch layer of wood chips. A wood chip walkway will prevent wet feet and muddy shoes, even after a hard rain. During hot, dry summers, wood chips will keep dust under control, especially if the soil is lightweight or sandy.
Spread 6 to 9 inches of wood chips in a children's play area and under swing sets or other playground equipment. Wood chips provide a softer landing than concrete and is less abrasive on young knees and elbows than sand. Replace wood chips as they decompose or become crushed or compacted.
Tips and warnings
- Purchase quality wood chips from a reputable dealer, as cheap wood chips may contain weed seeds, and may contain toxins that harm plants.
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- Kansas State University Cooperative Extension: Using Wood Chips as Mulch; Charles W. Mar; 1995
- Colorado State University Extension: Mulching with Wood/Bark Chips, Grass Clippings, and Rock; David Whiting, et al; 2009
- Lane Forest Products: Wood Chips
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