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Do Wood Chips Hurt Plants?

Discussion in 'Homeowner Assistance Forum' started by ClayMcC, May 14, 2007.

  1. ClayMcC

    ClayMcC LawnSite Member
    Messages: 57

    I need a cheapo (preferably free) solution to create a soft walking path for my wife that will traverse from the house through her wildflower garden to her gardening shed. The other day I noticed she had purchased several bags of brown mulch. When I asked why she had gotten it, she replied that she wanted to use it to make the walkway to the shed.
    Telling her that I thought it was a really good idea (our original plan was to use a mixture of brown and white gravel) I suggested that instead of buying mulch by the bag (the most expensive) or even truck load (cheaper), that because I know the owner of a local tree service company, I might be able to get a truck load of wood chips for free.
    She replied, "No, (she) didn't want wood chips because if they get into the garden... they will hurt the plants."

    Is there anything to that? If there is, wouldn't mulch be just as destructive?
  2. Grassmechanic

    Grassmechanic LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,697

    Wood chips (or mulch) will decay and add organic matter into the soil. During this decaying process, the soil may become depleted of nitrogen. Add some nitrogen to replenish what is being used. That is the only drawback - other than possibly a few mushrooms.
  3. leejp

    leejp LawnSite Member
    Messages: 129

    I'd be worried why the tree cut down in the first place? Was it disease/insect infested?

    If I was making a soft walking path I would NOT use mulch/chips though... Any moisture and you'd be staining your clothes and if you inadvertantly walk in the house, your carpet.

    What's wrong with peastone? They've been using it for hundreds of years. a 4" layer is soft and nice to walk on (I like the sound of footsteps on peastone). I've got it under my kids' playset, drains well, dries fast and you can clean up leaves/debris with a blower.
  4. Tvov

    Tvov LawnSite Bronze Member
    from CT
    Messages: 1,157

    It is hard to say if wood chips "hurt" plants. In general, what I've heard is that as wood chips break down, they use up more of the nutrients in the soil than bark mulch, and that bark mulch will decompose and add some nutrients back to the soil. If this makes any sense.

    Just from experience, what I have seen is that planting beds that use shredded bark mulch seem to have healthier looking plants than beds that had wood chips. It seems to me that this is difficult to quantify since there are so many variables. I also think that shredded bark mulch looks better, but this is just my opinion.

    As to a walkway, as has been posted you might want to think about stone or something different. It would provide a better, harder surface and won't track dirt / material everywhere.
  5. leejp

    leejp LawnSite Member
    Messages: 129

    Plain wood chips are caviar for termites and carpenter ants. I always buy cedar mulch to keep the bugs away.
  6. cgaengineer

    cgaengineer LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 15,778

    My only gripe about wood chips is how quickly they decompose...they also will float away in a walkway if it has sides to contain mulch and they dont drain well.

    Termites in wood chips is an old wives tail, now maybe its true about carpenter ants (Need to research the ants). I researched termites in wood chips before placing them around my home.
  7. Tvov

    Tvov LawnSite Bronze Member
    from CT
    Messages: 1,157

    As for ants and termites, if they are around your house, well, they are there. I don't think that ants or termites from the next town over will seek out your house just because there are wood chips around it. The customers I have who use wood chips in their beds don't seem to have any more ants / termites than anyone else.
  8. ClayMcC

    ClayMcC LawnSite Member
    Messages: 57

    Thanks all :)

    We have both read all of the responses and have made the decision to go back to the original idea of using gravel and peagravel.

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