Wood Chips – Use As Mulch

Q: I have an older friend whose yard and beds I’ve taken on as a fall project to make them low maintenance. I’ve read online about using thick wood chip mulch to make better soil. What do you think?

A: I think the best use for wood chips is for mulch under trees and shrubs and to cover paths. A loose layer 4″ thick will compact to 2″ and will protect the plants for a year or two. For potential garden plots, a foot-thick layer of wood chips can be spread over the area and allowed to decompose over a couple of years. The resulting soil will be rich and black.

That said, mulching flowers and vegetables with wood chips can be problematic. Chips can make an effective flower mulch but the layer should be no more than an inch thick. At this depth, the chips will decompose in one season and will not be immediately tilled into the soil, which could lead to a loss of nitrogen. In your friend’s case, I think tilling the flower beds once, after adding a two inch layer of composted organic matter, will make them plantable.

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