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Wood chip ground cover for large areas

I'm wondering about using wood chips as a ground cover in non-grass areas of my yard, such as around some pine trees and a large area with many different plants/shrubs with paving stone walkways through it.
The wood chips sink into the soil and partially decompose. Does this rob the soil of nitrogen for the spreading roots of the shrubs? Are there any reasons to rake out old wood chips every few years and replace them, rather than just topping off these areas with chips every so often?
Also, what are the alternatives to leaving these areas as dirt (mud, often), gravel or "walkable" ground covers? I walk around these areas often to water, maintain the plantings and work on the house exterior.

Timothy Miller
Re: Wood chip ground cover for large areas

Howdy, i use the wood chips that tree trimmers otherwise haul to the land fill. Getting a whole truck full for a 12 pac or $20 is great. I use it around trees and walking on 4" of chips is a great path verses mud. It also hinders evaporation of water out of the soil so its like not having to water about 2" each summer. Be reminded not to chip right next to the house if you are in a termite area.

A. Spruce
Re: Wood chip ground cover for large areas

I agree with Tim and use them in the same manner myself. I too get them from tree trimming companies, but I don't pay for them, I just watch for trucks in my area and tell them to dump in my driveway. I can also go over to the local utility yard and pick them up myself for free. If you can get them, eucalyptus is the best because the euc repels fleas, ticks, and mosquitoes, they also help to deter cats from using your yard as a litter box as well as mask odors.

When laying the chips out, keep in mind that they'll compact down to about half the thickness that you apply them, so you'll need 6" to 8" deep for it to compact and finish out at the 3 - 4" depth that is recommended. Keep the chips 8" - 12" away from trees, plants, and shrubs or you can cause problems with the plants.

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