Wood chips are an inexpensive mulch and ground cover. Tree companies are often glad to dump their chip truck in a homeowner’s yard – the company doesn’t have to pay a disposal fee and the homeowner gets free mulch.
Jim Foote at Arborguard Tree Specialists reminds homeowners that the chips are often mixed with pine straw and leaves – you won’t always get pure wood chips. Don’t forget that the tree company truck is often very large. Be sure you have a spot where 5 – 10 cubic yards of chips can be dumped.
Spreading a thin (one to two inches) layer of chips under a shrub or tree should pose no threat to the plant. A thicker layer, theoretically, could cause harm from the water-soluble sap materials that rain would wash out of the chips.
A safe rule would be to wait until a pile has had several rains or waterings to dissolve out any harmful chemicals before the chips are used in your landscape.
Q: Can I use wood chips as mulch around my vegetables?
A: You can use wood chips as long as the chips do not come from walnut trees and do not have other contaminants in them. If the chips are fresh, it is best to let them age and be rained on a few times before you spread them. Don’t make the layer too thick – an inch or less is fine. Also, keep the chips three inches away from the stems of the vegetables. Use the chips to cover the space between your garden rows. They will decompose over the summer and can be tilled into the earth this fall.
Q: I want to know what to do with the chips that are left after a stump is ground up. Can I put them on my flower or vegetable garden? Can they be mixed with the dirt or should they only be used on top of the ground?
A: I think it is best to rake up as many of the chips as you can and use them as mulch under shrubs in your landscape. You don’t have to be obsessive about getting them all, just try to get most of the chips. I foresee no harm in using them as mulch under flowers or vegetables either.
You could dig them into the soil of your garden if you occasionally add extra fertilizer to feed the fungi that break down the chips. Without the added nitrogen, your plants will not get all of the nutrients they need.
How much extra fertilizer to add? My guess is that increasing your normal fertilizer application by twenty five percent should satisfy everyone’s needs in your garden. Another rule of thumb is to mix in six pints of 10-10-10 fertilizer with the chips and soil per 100o square feet.
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