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Wood Chips vs Mulch | Organic Protection of Plants & Other Uses - GardenAware.com

Wood Chips vs Mulch | Organic Protection of Plants & Other Uses

The debate on wood chips vs mulch has come a long way. From the nature of the two to the importance they wield, mulch vs wood chips are both great gardening options. Wood chips and all kinds of organic and non-organic mulch help to strengthen the soil and retain plant nutrients.

In this piece, we’ll tell you all you need to know about wood chips and mulch - Their types, uses, and distinction.

Types of Mulch

organic mulch

1. ORGANIC MULCH: Wood Chips, Nuggets, or Bark

Organic mulch like chips, nuggets are bark are useful for gardens. Hardwood barks are best for trees and shrubs while softwood (made from pine) is for large trees and shrubs.


Clean wheat, barley, or oat straw are excellent and ideal for newly seeded lawns. The straw mulch prevents the grass seed from washing away. It also deters feeding birds and rodents, and, until it decomposes, preserves the moisture the seeds need for good germination.

3. ORGANIC MULCH: Grass Clippings or Shredded Leaves

You can make mulch from grass clippings or shredded leaves. Leaf mulch is best for garden beds and areas around trees and shrubs, while grass clippings are great for vegetable and perennial beds. However, do not apply thick layers of grass clipping.

4. ORGANIC MULCH: Newspaper or Cardboard

Shredded black-and-white newspaper or undyed natural cardboard helps to suppress weed. Do well to apply two to three layers at a time, then cover with another heavier organic material, such as leaves clippings, to hold the lightweight mulch in place.

5. INORGANIC MULCH: Landscape Plastic or Fabric

Water and other nutrients cannot pass through plastic polyethylene. So, it’s an excellent short-term weed killer,  But plastic is not suitable for long-term use.

Shredded mulch vs wood chips

In gardening and landscaping, the use of shredded mulch and wood chips overlaps. Most times, gardeners use these organic and inorganic materials to nourish and protect their gardens. Although the general definitions and use of shredded mulch and garden wood chips for gardens are similar, they have some distinct differences.

What is mulch?

organic mulch limits water evaporation

Mulch is basically any material that’s placed on the surface of soil close to and around plants. Mulch is mostly organic.

Organic mulch limits water evaporation, help to stabilize soil moisture, control weed populations, moderates soil temperature in extreme conditions, and prevent soil erosion and compaction.

Also, the makeup of shredded mulch includes both organic and inorganic substances. Significantly, organic mulch increases the activity of microorganism in the soil; this improves soil quality. Gardening resources such as the Clemson Cooperative Extension and the Colorado State University Extension point out that mulch lends an aesthetic uniformity to gardens and landscape environments.

Types of Mulch

Organic mulch includes hay, straw, pine bark, grass clippings, leaves, leaf mold, pine needles, shredded hardwood material, compost, pecan shells, coffee grounds, and wood chips. In fact, any organic yard waste can work as a mulch.

Technically, ground cover plants such as ivy and periwinkle also constitute types of organic mulch. Furthermore, inorganic mulches include gravel, pebbles, plastic sheeting, rubber crushed stone, and landscape or woven ground cloth.

Also, wood chips as a form of organic mulch is a suitable option available to gardeners seeking diverse mulch types. Wood chip mulch also helps to create paths. Hardwood mulch is another organic much that suppresses weed, retains moisture and gives your garden an appealing look.

Wood chips as Mulch

Wood chips for yards are a good source of mulch, they are made from pieces of ground-up wood or bark. Wood chips are excellent for trees, shrubs, perennials and small fruiting species. Its primary benefit is that it increases the survival rate of small trees. It also prevents damage to such plants in areas with heavy rainfalls.

wood chips as mulch

A team of horticulturalists with Kansas State University Agricultural Extension recommends applying 2 to 4 inches of wood chip mulch in a diameter of 3 to 6 feet around the base of a plant. Do well to note that the larger the plant, the deeper and broader the area of wood chip mulch required.

Wood chips are the byproduct of wood chipping or breaking down bark and wood. But, some people don’t know what to do with wood chips from a chipper.  

Wood chips are a great source of biofuel material used for burning and organic mulch.  It’s easy to get wood chips with these models.

However, wood chip mulch may prove dangerous to garden plants if not used properly. Wood chips suffer from poor oxygen circulation when they are left outdoors in large piles for a long time. This condition leads to the production of harmful compounds and acid.  So, be sure to spread out your wood chip mulch before putting them in your garden.

Wood chips landscaping is also a thing. It helps suppress weeds, retain soil moisture and improve the appearance of the landscape.

Bark mulch vs wood chips

Most times, people begin to wonder about the differences between bark mulch and wood chips. The difference between the two is that wood chips are made from the interior wood of a tree, while bark mulch chips are composed of the outer portion, or bark of various tree species like cedar, pine, or eucalyptus.

Shredded bark mulch can come in the form of all bark mulch, or contain some wood.

Uses for wood chips

You’ll get wood chips from trees felled during winter storms and selective tree felling to keep gardens light and airy. Wood chips are organic goodness. They are useful for many things.

1. Mulch

uses for woods chips

Wood chips are classic when it comes to mulching. They help your plants retain water, and they also keep them warm. Significantly, wood chips also reduce the growth of weeds in your garden beds. They make it easy for you to maintain your garden.

Spread a layer of wood chip mulch over your garden during springtime.

Your garden will look clean and well-layered. Wood chips ground cover are also used during fall to protect your plants from freezing temperatures and snow.

However, it’s best you add nitrogen fertilizer to supply the needs of your plants and remove old mulch before mulching again, so your plants are not buried under the wood chips.

2. Composting material

Wood chips have carbon, and they're pretty good for building up the soil.  Using wood chips as mulch will improve the condition of your land. But that’s not all, composting wood chips offers you a great deal.

You can add wood chips to your compost as a carbon topping. Wood chip mulch around trees will enrich the soil and make it more nutritious for trees and plants.

3. Fuel

Like most wood products, wood chips can make great fuel, and they're great fire starters for small and controlled fires. Wood chips are also ideal for biomass reactors, which can be used to power engines and help to provide heat.

4. Walkways

wood chips can be used on sidewalks or paths

Wood chips can be used on sidewalks or paths. They are great for this purpose because when they are laid evenly on the ground, they suppress weeds in the garden and lawn areas.

Be sure that you lay down a weed barrier before you make a wood chip walkway. However, wheelchair users and individuals with mobility impairments may have trouble navigating a sidewalk that's not well layered.

To get a well-graded walkway, remove any large debris regularly so it won't trip people.

5. Decor

Yes, wood chips are useful for decorations. Do you work with dried or artificial flowers? Use wood chips in the vase to stabilize them and hold them upright. Generally, wood chips are useful in furniture and art construction. The varying colors and shapes of wood chips can create a great deal of visual interest.

6. Erosion control

Wood chips can help fix areas of the yard where erosion is occurring. It is a safe and temporary option while you think of a long term plan. Just use the wood chips to make a barrier to prevent soil loss. This temporary fix is useful during the rainy season; do this while you talk to a landscaper about the best bet to combat soil erosion in your garden or yard.