The top five benefits to using wood chips in your garden and property
Let's begin with just exactly what these wood chips are. They're also known as arborist wood chips and that's the key, as a tree services company, after felling a tree or removing significant branches, we'll grind down the trunk and the branches and the leaves using a specialised wood chipper. What makes this so special is that every handful has small pieces, big pieces, little bits of leaves or needles. It's not all one size, it has degree of variation that makes it different to a mulch that you might buy in a bag. Commercial mulch has been processed, all the pieces inside are roughly the same size so that you can spread it on a perennial bed as a decorative look, but that is not one of the 5 primary reasons of using arborist wood chips as a mulch.
Soil Nutrient Supplementation
- They are great at improving the nutrient levels within your soil.
- They're almost unparalleled in natural weed suppression
Soil Moisture Retention
- They do a great job at maintaining the moisture levels within the soi
Soil Temperature Moderation
- They help moderate soil temperatures between day and night and seasonally both in winter and summer which can benefit your plants
- They do a great job of holding your soil inlace and protecting it from adverse weather avoiding physical and quality soil erosion.
Supplementing Soil Nutrients
The first advantage of using woodchips comes is improving the fertility of the soil, by spreading a deep layer of woodchips in the target area. After a little time the wood chips at the contact point break down to add organic matter to the soil, and that difference in particle size helps ensure that there's a steady stream of nutrients being released into the soil. The very small particles are going to decompose pretty quickly, those large pieces will take a lot longer. So, the wood chips in this area will be slowly breaking down over a long period of time, and in a steady manner, adding nutrients into the soil.
You might be thinking that by adding these chunky pieces of wood to the soil that you're going to be stealing it of nitrogen, and that it's going to negatively affect the plants. However that is not the case. First, when you place the wood chip on the soil the contact layer that touches the soil will have a loss of nitrogen, as the wood begins to decompose, but it only happens at the very surface. It's not happening, deeper down. So any plants that are growing below that soil surface level will be well provided by nitrogen. As these wood chips begin to decompose that imbalance changes. So in the beginning, there is a loss of nitrogen right at the soil level. But as it decomposes that reverses. And actually, the nitrogen and the nutrients increase as the woodchips decompose.
The steady decomposition of woodchips continue to add nutrients to the soil as those pieces are breaking down. It's adding organic material for the beetles and the earthworms and all those other insects and bacteria and fungi that are beneficial to the growth of plants within the soil. If you are starting with a pretty poor soil and then add some wood chips on top of it in just the matter of a couple years, the entire thing becomes a wonderful nutrient rich growing area for your plants.
If you have weeds or you're concerned about future weeds, wood chips are great at suppressing and killing weeds. A simple two inch layer of woodchips is enough to keep most weeds from germinating because a lot of the seeds in our garden need the sun and the woodchips are blocking out that light. If you lay a six inch layer that's enough to smother and kill, almost all weeds. If you do get a few weeds that pop up in a thin layer of mulch they're usually very easy to pull out because their roots aren't very well established because they have the mulch, that they have to grow through.
Retaining Soil Moisture
Another great advantage to the woodchips is that it helps retain soil moisture. The different size pieces of the woodchips allows for a lot of air pockets so when it rains or when you water your plants it allows the water to actually work its way through the woodchips to get to the soil. You don't always have that with a lot of other mulches like shredded bark, this may actually form mats and it makes it difficult for the water to get through to the soil. But for woodchips the water gets through, and it moistens the soil and some of those smaller particles are like little sponges so they'll soak up some of that water as well. This leads to the soil being moist and the woodchips being moist. Now having a layer of wood chips evaporation is almost cut to nothing. If the soil attempts to dry out it encounters that layer of mulch, and that retains some of the moisture so the soil is moist. The woodchips are moist and that moisture stays put which also means you don't have to water as often.
Moderating Soil Temperature
If you have a hot soil temperature during the day, and / or a cold soil temperature during the night or seasonal fluctuations like frosts and hot spells those fluctuations can really affect plants. With a layer of woodchips that temperature is moderated, it's not as hot during the day, and it's not as cold during the night or throw wood chip soil become from frozen so roots aren't damaged. So just like the wood chips help to retain soil moisture, they help retain a more consistent soil temperature, which is great for your garden.
You should think of your soil as a living thing with all the micro organisms and animals that reside in the soil and the sun can be very harsh on that environment, not only fluctuating temperatures and fluctuating moisture levels, but the fact that the sun can actually kill that upper layer of soil. If it's not protected by something and that's where the woodchips come in, they protect your soil from damage. And it's not just the sun damage it can be water damage as well, wood chips help reduce erosion - heavy rains are not impactful as you've got a thick layer of wood chips in your garden.