Wood Chips & Mulch: Common Types & Benefits

As a gardener, wood chips and mulch are specific things you’re likely to work with.

Besides helping to enrich the soil with nutrients, mulch helps suppress weeds, retain moisture, regulate soil temperature, and prevent soil erosion.

Other benefits of using mulch materials include increasing biological activity in the soil and preventing nutrients from leaching out from the ground.

Wood Chips Mulch

Plants are also protected from frost damage; soil drainage is improved, the visual appearance of your garden is improved, etc.

Now our focus isn’t on the use or benefits of mulch materials. It’s a well-known fact that mulch has many benefits.

The focus here is on the type of mulch.

Mulch Types

Before we detail wood mulch and its characteristics, we must also identify other mulch materials.

Common mulches used in gardens include compost, well-rotted manure, leaf mold, carbon-rich organic mulches, wood chips, bark, wood bark, and wood shavings.

More mulches include fall leaves, straw, nitrogen-rich organic mulches, pine needles, grass clippings, green, leafy materials, seaweed, and coffee grounds.

There are other types, like non-organic mulches. Examples include landscaping fabric, slate, cardboard, pebbles, gravels, seashells, etc.

Wood Chip Types

Here, we focus on wood chips and the different types available.

Varieties include mixed hardwood, cypress, cedar chips, and pine fines. Others include pine bark nuggets, melaleuca, eucalyptus, playground mulch, and dead recycled wood.

With this said, it’s necessary to provide information on each wood chip type’s essential characteristics. This includes the pros and cons of each.

As we explain, you’ll notice that certain wood chips are more suitable for specific uses.

  • Mixed Hardwood Chips

Mulch made from mixed hardwood comes from hickory, ash, birch, and other hardwoods.

It mostly has a dark brown appearance that creates a uniform and natural look. The pros of this wood chip mulch are that they’re a less expensive option than other mulch types.

What more? Mixed hardwood chips can be gotten for free from tree service companies. However, the drawback is that using freshly ground mixed hardwood can cause nitrogen to burn on plants.

Also, its coarse nature may not be visually appealing for some gardens.

  • Cypress Chips

While cypress mulch material may serve many beneficial functions, the problem arises from the negative impact of cypress tree harvesting on wetland ecosystems.

A clear benefit of using cypress chips is their insect-repelling properties. It’s the right wood chip mulch to use when dealing with an insect problem in your garden.

However, it tends to be more expensive than other hardwood mulches and may affect water penetration to plant roots. Overall, mulch from cypress chips isn’t sustainable.

  • Cedar Chips

Both the bark and wood of cedar trees are used for making this mulching material. Common species include white cedar, western red cedar, and eastern red cedar.

This mulch material is one of the gardeners’ favorites because it decomposes slowly, is highly decorative, and has a pest-repellent effect.

Cedar chips also last long. However, its decorative effect fades fast except when dyed. Beneficial insects may be affected if you have a fragrance allergy; using cedar chips might present a problem.

Also, not many nutrients are supplied to the soil. This mulch can also be expensive.

  • Pine Fines

Pine fines should be considered if you want wood chip mulch with a fine texture. It’s applied chiefly to vegetable gardens and flower beds.

Made from pine barks, refined pines have shorter decomposition times than wood mulches. It has an aroma and serves as an excellent soil conditioner.

On the other hand, pine fines aren’t ideal for use in significant mulching jobs such as applying over large areas or around trees. Because it decomposes quickly, you’ll have to reapply more frequently.

Also, pine fines are more expensive to use.

  • Pine Bark Nuggets

As the name suggests, pine bark nuggets are made from chipped bark. The sizes of these wood chips will determine what they’re used for.

This is the best mulch to use if you have acid-loving plants around. Also, it retains its color for longer and is an excellent mulch for evergreen planters and shrubs.

With pine bark nuggets, the need for replenishment isn’t as frequent as it is for other mulch materials. However, it may be unsuitable for some landscapes due to its coarse nature. What more?

The acidic nature of this mulching material might affect plants considered neutral or alkaline-loving.

  • Melaleuca Chips

This mulch type is made from an invasive tree species. It’s mostly known as Florimulch and has a medium brown color and medium texture.

It’s ideal for use if you have a termite problem due to its repellent properties. Also, it’s the best way to repurpose an invasive tree species.

Outside of Florida, this mulching material isn’t readily available.

  • Eucalyptus Chips

Eucalyptus wood chips are considered sustainable.

This dark brown and pleasant-smelling mulch material is viewed as a gardener’s favorite. Benefits include its repellent effect.

However, the problem is that it also affects beneficial insects.

Like melaleuca chips, eucalyptus chips might not be available in all areas. Also, certain harmful chemicals released by this mulch might be detrimental to some plants.

  • Playground Mulch

As the name implies, playground mulch is ideal for children’s playgrounds.

For it to be used in such places, it must be safe. Playground mulch is milled soft so that it doesn’t pose an injury threat when kids play on it. It can be produced from a wide variety of trees.

The advantage of playground mulch is that it’s made from untreated wood.

In other words, such lumber doesn’t have chemical residues like paint. Playground mulch is mainly considered environmentally friendly over different types that aren’t biodegradable.

The cons of using playground mulch are seen in the non-certification of some products clearly labeled “playground mulch.”

It’s essential to check for certification to ensure you’re buying the right product. Depending on use, replacement is also needed every 2 to 4 years.

  • Dyed Recycled Wood Chips

This wood chip mulch is made from recycled wood.

Such may include construction debris, demolished decks, old pallets, etc. After being milled, they’re dyed into varying colors to suit buyer needs. This is a great way to recycle wood.

Also, buyers have a variety to choose from.

Dyed wood chips are less expensive compared to others discussed above. Despite the benefits of this mulch type, there are concerns about its toxicity which is why it isn’t used in places like vegetable gardens.

It adds no nutrients to the soil and may lose its color quickly.

There you have it. With the details covered above, you have a better idea of wood chip mulch and how to put some to good use.

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