Beyond Mulch: 10 Ways to Use Wood Chips in Your Yard
Getting a tree removed, a large tree pruned, or a tree stump ground out is a big event. You’ll probably first notice how different the spot where the tree or stump was looks now.
Then you’ll notice the wood chips. LOTS of wood chips!
Tree removal and pruning result in a lot of wood that has to be dealt with. When a tree is cut down or large branches removed, the branches and tree trunks are usually run through a chipper that turns them into wood chips. You’re left with a large pile of chipped or shredded wood – and it’s probably a much bigger pile than you expected.
Similarly, a stump grinder grinds the tree stump into smaller pieces. We usually rake the stump grindings into the hole where the stump was but some homeowners prefer to fill the hole with soil instead. As a result, they’re left with a pile of wood chips.
Chipping wood on-site is convenient and lowers the overall cost of removal, pruning or stump grinding (because you’re not paying for disposal fees). However, you’re still left with the question of what to do with all of those wood chips.
In this article, we share our top recommendations for ways to use wood chips to benefit you and your plants.
NOTE: We don’t haul away stump grindings or chips but we’re happy to connect you with a local landscaper who’ll do this if you prefer not to use the chips yourself.
Use Wood Chips as Mulch
The first and best thing to do with your wood chips is use them as an organic mulch in planting areas and around your trees.
Applied correctly, mulch suppresses weed growth, keeps water in your soil, and regulates soil temperatures. If you already have mulch on your beds that’s getting thin, replenish it. You should use a three-inch layer of mulch, as a thin coating won’t do much to keep weeds down or insulate your soil.
Contrary to popular belief, mulching with wood chips does not tie up nitrogren, attract termites and carpenter ants, acidify soil, pass on diseases or kill nearby plants. Not convinced? See the research summary here >
But if you have a small garden or a lot of wood chips, you may have more mulch than you need…
What Else Can You Do With Wood Chips?
Get creative! There are many ways to use wood chips beyond just using them as mulch in your own yard.
Be neighborly. You can ask a neighbor if they would like your wood chips, and offer to help move it to their yard in buckets or a wheelbarrow.
- Got kids? If you (or your neighbor) have a play area for children, wood chip mulch that’s free from sharp twigs or branches can be used to cushion the ground and prevent soil compaction around play structures.
- If you have plants and trees in large pots, they can use some mulch. Any open soil, even potting soil, benefits from a layer of mulch.
- If your roof has downspouts that empty water out into a garden bed, a layer of wood chips can intercept water that misses or isn’t slowed by a splash block. This will keep the force of water from eroding surrounding soil.
- If you have a summer vegetable garden that doesn’t get used over the winter, layering wood chips over newspaper or cardboard over the garden beds will keep your soil ready for spring planting. The newspaper or cardboard underneath means you can keep the wood chips from migrating into the soil that you’ll turn over to start your spring vegetables. And a layer of compost laid over your vegetable garden first will break down faster when protected by cardboard and wood chips.
- Informal paths in your garden can be mulched with wood chips to prevent soil erosion and compaction.
- If you have a median strip between the street and the sidewalk, its appearance can be enhanced by mulching. A well-cared-for median strip topped with wood chips can unify the look of your front garden.
- Have a compost pile? Wood chips can be added to compost, where they will break down and add nutrients.
- If you have an unused area in your garden that you don’t know what to do with, a thick layer of wood-chip mulch is a good interim measure. It’ll keep weed growth down and the soil moist until you know what you want to do with the area. And if you end up planting trees and shrubs in that area, the mulch can just stay where it is.
- Sheet mulching. If you have a lawn area that you want to convert to a planting bed, cardboard laid over a mown lawn and covered with a thick layer of wood chips will kill the grass and compost it for you. You can also leave the cardboard and mulch layers in place! When you know what you want to plant, you can use a rake to move away compost, cut an opening in the cardboard, and dig a planting hole. This is much less intensive than sod removal, and you keep the nutrients in your topsoil and grass to enrich your soil.
Hopefully, this article has given you some ideas for how to use wood chips in your own yard, rather than having them hauled away. You may even decide to get some wood chips even if you aren’t having a tree or stump removed! (ChipDrop is a good resource for free, local wood chip mulch delivery).
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