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In Praise of Wood Chips

In Praise of Wood Chips

Wood chips are among the most versatile and inexpensive materials you can use around the yard and garden.

If you've got some landscaping to do around your house, don't forget the wood chips! It's amazing how useful they are, and the best thing is that they cost next to nothing: they're the natural result of yard cleanup, and many municipalities will give them to you for free if you'll just ask.

Now, you may be wondering: what's the big deal with chopped up little pieces of wood? Well, we'll tell you.

Compost and Mulch

First of all, chipped and shredded wood makes an ideal carbon-rich "brown" compost component. When mixed appropriately with "greens" like grass clippings and vegetable waste, then given a spritz of water and a good turning now and then, they break down into rich compost for your garden in just a few weeks.

They make wonderful mulch "as-is" for your shrubs, trees, and flower beds, too. Not only can they help control erosion, they'll regulate the soil temperature, help retain moisture, act as a weed barrier, and return nutrients to the soil as they decay.

Down the Garden Path

One way to control compaction in your yard and garden is to create permanent pathways. Wood chips make a great surfacing material for such paths. They offer good footing, you can easily remove them if you want to change your pathway configuration and, again, they enrich the soil as they decompose.

Speaking of enriching the soil, they can also help decrease soil alkalinity when tilled into the soil. They work best as a soil amendment when mixed with rock sulfur and peat moss. And don't fall for the old canard that wood chips leach nitrogen from the soil: that's a myth.

Burn, Baby, Burn

Some chips make excellent barbecue wood, especially aromatic varieties like mesquite, hickory, and apple wood. Even when they don't, you can always use the chips in your fireplace or wood heater as tinder, once you've given them a little chance to dry out. Pine, with its high pitch content, works especially well.

It's also possible to use wood chips as a primary fuel. Pellet heaters can burn a wide variety of materials, including chips, and some manufacturers have started to sell chip-fired boilers and furnaces to replace oil and coal-fired models.

Chips at Play

As if all that weren't enough, wood mulch makes a great base for spreading around playground equipment. At depths of a foot or so, they form a safe and soft padding for playful kids to fall on. It's organic, biodegradable, and safe for both kids and the environment... and, again, it's super-cheap.

It's easy to see how useful something like wood chips can be, especially for the savvy consumer who wants to save a bundle of cash!


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