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Wood chips instead of back lawn?

Hi, all!

I did a search on this subject, but didn't find much. We're first-time homeowners, so forgive my ignorance in advance. As winter ticks away, we're really thinking about our back yard, which right now looks like it survived a war. We're talking tree stumps, craters, etc. The previous owner was an 86-year-old woman who didn't do a thing to the yard for 30 nearly 30 years.

The yard is only about 20' by 35', some of which is taken up by Bilco doors and a back stoop. Our plan is to level out the yard, employ Uncle Contractor to bring his mini backhoe over to help get the stumps out, and then level out the yard a bit while removing what's left of the old English ivy. The problem is that we have two large silver maples with considerable canopies. From the looks of it (and we haven't seen them with leaves yet), we'll be really hard pressed to grow any grass back there. The areas that do get sun are going to be saved for vegetable/herb/flower beds.

That said, in an attempt to get the yard up and running quickly, would something like wood chips be a good alternative to grass for pretty much the whole yard? Any advice on the best way to go about making that happen? Are there any problems with wood chips we should watch out for?

Re: Wood chips instead of back lawn?

First of all, silver maples are not a very desirable tree. The roots tend to be invasive and they often have a tendency to drop limbs.
Even if you keep both of them, and personally I would think about removing at least the one closest to the house, you'd be surprised how much more light can be let in by having the trees professionally thinned.
I wouldn't use wood chips, I would be concerned about attracting termites. If anything I would use shredded oak bark mulch because termites don't like it.
Aesthetically, if the trees aren't thinned to allow grass to grow, I would think about ground covers and paving. A play area or swing set could be mulched, but doing the whole yard doesn't sound nice.

Re: Wood chips instead of back lawn?

Thanks for the reply. I could be wrong about the tree identification. I'll double check. We'd prefer to keep them for the time being, but it wouldn't be the end of the world to remove them.

We'd thought about paving, but being first time buyers, we'd rather wait a bit before adding that expense in this year. Maybe ground covers and a mulched walkway/area for a table and chairs is a better idea. Can you recommend any ground covers besides ivy?

Thanks again!

Re: Wood chips instead of back lawn?

Two old standby ground covers are pachysandra and vinca, but their are many more. I'm not versed in ground covers. A recommendation from a local nursery would be better. Full service nurseries will often provide a bit of landscape design for you. You also could use different ground cover in different areas.
Think about thinning the trees. It will cost a bit, but may be worth it to get some sun in. They could also advise about the trees.

Re: Wood chips instead of back lawn?

Last winter our 2 active dogs made a muddy bog out of the back yard. It is 50 X 30 and like yours is shaded by 2 large mature maples. This fall we divided it in half and reseeded 1/2 with new shade mix grass and put hardwood chips on the other 1/2. The dogs stay cleaner and clean up is fairly easy to tell the difference between the brown and the chips tan color. We spread the chips about 2" deep and when we got them delivered got enough so we have an extra large trash barrel full to fill in when the dogs scrape a bare spot running around. 3 yards was more than enough for 30 X 30 area. Locally in Albany OR. the chips cost about $50p/yd and delivery was another $15. Hemlock or cedar bark was another option but nothing can grow where you put them so later if you want to plant ground cover or grass it would all have to be removed. The chips will eventually break down but are not caustic to other plants. The chips are larger size and can be easier to spread or remove if you don't like them. Rain Water goes through easily and does not make puddles.
Yuo may not like to walk barefoot on the chips as one drawback.

Re: Wood chips instead of back lawn?

So do we have any indication that the chips will encourage termites?

Re: Wood chips instead of back lawn?

If I were you, I would go for back lawn. ed21 is right, the all-too-friendly termites would love you if you use wood chips. A landscape designer would be a great help too.
Colour Laser Printer

Re: Wood chips instead of back lawn?

Here is my two cents worth.I used to have a huge tree in my back yard and nothing would grow under it.A hurricane took it out and covered a kidney shape area about 30x25 with colored mulch about thee inches deep.It compacts down and easy to walk on.No weeds and if I do get any I just spot spray with Round Up.Looks pretty and hods the color well.Scotts puts it out and is available at Home Depot for 3.97 a bag of 2 cubic feet.Lowes also carrys it but you will have to ask them to price match with Home Depot.

Re: Wood chips instead of back lawn?

Kind of related to this, I have an area of my backyard..under trees that I spread cedar mulch and planted ornamental shrubs. I found the past summer that a couple of the shrubs picked up a fungus (brown spot I think it is called). I tried fungicides and it would halt the spread of the fungus for awhile...then the fungus would re-emerge. I'm told and have a feeling that this can be a result of the mulch and or wood chips. Does anyone have any input on this? It may give the original poster more information if he/she is planning on any plantings in the area.

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