Home Gardening Wood Chips vs. Mulch

Wood Chips vs. Mulch – GIY Plants

Wood chips vs mulch. Two piles, one of natural wood chips the other red mulch.

When landscaping your garden, the choices are aplenty. Two popular options, wood chips and mulch can add aesthetic appeal and offer functional benefits. However, knowing the difference between the two can be quite a problem. We are here to help clarify that for you.

Wood Chips vs. Mulch: Understanding the Basics

Firstly, let’s understand what these two garden additions are. Wood chips are typically chipped or shredded pieces of wood. They are usually a byproduct of tree pruning and trimming activities.

Conversely, mulch refers to any material spread over the soil surface to protect or improve the covered area. It can be organic (like bark mulch or shredded wood) or inorganic (like pebbles or rubber).

The Manufacturing Process

How these two are made adds to their distinctiveness. Wood chips are made by chipping or grinding branches, while bark mulch is made from the bark of trees, often pine or cedar. Inorganic mulch, however, is made from non-organic material and doesn’t add any nutrients to the soil.

Bark Mulch vs. Wood Chips

Bark mulch around tree in the yard.

Consider their applications when choosing whether to use wood chip mulch or bark mulch. Both serve similar purposes: they prevent weed growth, help retain soil moisture, and can improve soil health over time.

However, wood chips are excellent for creating pathways and around trees and shrubs due to their chunky texture and durability. Mulch, especially the shredded type, is typically used in garden beds where plants require high nutrient content.

Benefits of Mulch vs. Wood Chips

Mulch vs wood chips. Spreading dark mulch around flower bed.

There are several benefits for your garden with both options. Organic mulches like bark and wood chips add nutrients to the soil as they decompose. They also help prevent weed seeds from sprouting, keep the soil cool, and retain moisture. But while fresh wood chips might draw nitrogen from your soil during decomposition, a layer of mulch provides immediate nutrients.

Choosing the Best Mulch for Your Garden

Choosing the best mulch can depend on various factors. If you live in an area with high winds, wood chips, being heavier, are more suitable. In contrast, shredded mulch, less likely to wash away, is better for slopes.

Remember to consider the aesthetic appeal too. While wood chips provide a more rustic look, mulch comes in different colors and offers a more polished appearance.

Considerations When Using Wood Chips and Mulch

Close up of a pile of wood chips for landscaping.

One primary consideration when using wood chips or mulch is the potential for disease and pest introduction. Sourcing these products from reputable providers is advisable to reduce this risk. Inorganic mulches don’t carry this risk but don’t enrich the soil.

The Environmental Impact

If you’re environmentally conscious, you might favor wood chips. They are usually sourced from local tree waste and have a lower carbon footprint than mulches, which are often made from recycled wood products and shipped from afar.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between wood chips and mulch?

Wood chips and mulch are both types of organic material that can be used to cover the soil in your yard. The main difference between them is the size and shape of the pieces. Wood chips are larger and chunkier, while mulch is finer and more shredded.

Can I use wood chips as mulch?

Yes, you can use wood chips as mulch. Many people prefer using wood chips as mulch due to their natural appearance and ability to retain moisture in the soil.

What types of wood can be used as mulch?

Various types of wood can be used as mulch, including pine bark, shredded wood mulch, and arborist wood chips. The choice of wood depends on personal preference and your yard’s specific needs.

Are wood chips considered a type of mulch?

Yes, wood chips are considered a type of mulch. They serve the same purpose of conserving moisture, suppressing weed growth, and regulating soil temperature.

How do I use mulch in my yard?

To use mulch in your yard, spread a layer over the soil around your plants or bare patches of ground. Make sure to leave a small gap around the base of each plant to prevent moisture buildup.

Can I use wood chips instead of mulch around a playground?

Yes, wood chips are commonly used as a safety surface around playgrounds. They provide a cushioning effect and can help reduce the risk of injury from falls.

What are the advantages of using wood chips or mulch?

Using wood chips or mulch in your yard has several advantages, including conserving moisture, suppressing weed growth, improving soil fertility, and enhancing the overall aesthetic appeal of your landscape.

What is the best type of mulch for my yard?

The best type of mulch for your yard depends on various factors such as your climate, soil type, and personal preference. Some popular options include pine bark, shredded mulch, and arborist wood chips.

Can mulch be made from different types of wood?

Yes, mulch can be made from different types of wood, including pine bark, cedar, cypress, and hardwood. Each type has its unique characteristics and benefits.

Is mulch better for my yard than wood chips?

Whether mulch or wood chips are better for your yard depends on your needs and preferences. Some people prefer the finer texture of mulch, while others prefer the natural appearance of wood chips. Both options can be effective in conserving moisture and suppressing weed growth.


Whether you choose wood chips or mulch, both can enhance your garden’s health and appearance. Each offers unique benefits and minor drawbacks, so choose according to your garden’s needs and preferences. You can improve your garden’s vitality and visual appeal with either choice.

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