What Is Wood Chip Gardening?

Wood chip gardening is the practice of covering your vegetable garden  with wood chip mulch. Wood chips are the best mulch to use in a garden! Back to Eden Gardening is the top wood chip gardening method that is perfect for backyard gardens, home gardens, and vegetable gardens. Wood chip gardens conserve water, prevent soil erosion, suppress weeds, and increase soil fertility.

In fact, a 1990 research study comparing 15 different organic mulches reveals that wood chips were the superior mulch for holding moisture, moderating soil temperature, and controlling weeds. 

Moisture Retention: Wood chips absorb more water than any other mulch; water which both cools the soil and is slowly released to plants. It was found that covering the soil with at least 2 inches of wood mulch slows moisture evaporation from the soil.

Moderating Soil Temperature: A layer of wood chips also blocks the sun and helps keep the soil cool during hot weather. 

Weed control: Weeds have difficulty emerging from beneath a cover of wood chips.

So what are you waiting for? Request a free delivery of wood chips to your home garden today


Studies have found that one of the reasons wood chip mulch leads to better vegetable gardening results than straw or other mulch sources is because of the slow release of nutrients. Instead of breaking down and disappearing after one season, wood chips continue to deposit compost-tea nutrients into your soil for many years to come. While you are sitting back enjoying your lush vegetable garden a sort of passive natural fertilization is occurring constantly without the need for costly inputs, harmful chemicals, or intensive labor.

Unlike the uniform nature of straw, grasses, sawdust and bark mulches, wood chips include a diversity of materials including bark, wood, and often leaves. The chemical and physical diversity of wood chips containing various sizes and materials of wood and leaf matter enables them to resist the tendency towards compaction that is seen in other organic mulches. The naturally occurring air pockets allow for an ideal combination of air circulation and moisture retention without compacting.

When applied to the surface of the soil wood chips create an interlocked blanket and ideal habitat for beneficial microorganisms to thrive. These environmental conditions provide plenty of air, moisture, moderate temperatures and an ideal rich carbon food source for bacteria and fungi. These microorganisms are the ideal farm employees, working on a fair trade system in which you supply them with wood chip food and they supply you with fertile soil for your food to grow in your garden. 

In terms of the economic benefits for the gardener and farmer, wood chips are one of the most readily available mulching resources that exist. Since they can often be obtained from a free wood chip delivery from a tree trimming service company wood chips are considered one of the most cost effective and sustainable mulching material. Plus, the reuse of plant material as a mulch keeps wood chips out of a landfill - a priceless benefit for our environment. 

It is not surprising to us that wood chips have been scientifically proven as a superior mulch for enhanced plant productivity. From our personal experience, wood chip gardening is the ultimate no-till gardening method. Anyone who dares to try wood chip gardening will grow to love it!  


Fresh wood chips created from freshly cut tree branches sourced from multiple species of trees provide the most well balanced composition for a garden. Fresh wood chips have been fragmented through a wood chipper and have not undergone the process of composting. The resulting small pieces of chipped wood have a variety of shapes and sizes and contain plenty of brown branches, green leaves/needles in the mixture. It is important to understand that the leaves are a source of nitrogen and the branches are a source of carbon. This ratio creates an ideal mulch gardening material when the wood chips have composted. 


The words "wood chips” are often misunderstood since people use wood chips as a broad term that encompasses all wood waste byproducts such as bark nuggets, wood shavings, sawdust, landscape mulch. It is crucial to understand the different materials that are lumped into the same category of wood chips and the very different compositions, uses, and applications. 

Some of the common materials that fall into the same category as gardening wood chips that we do not recommend the following:

  1. Bark Nuggets: Bard Nuggets do NOT have the carbon to nitrogen ratio that creates a good gardening mulch.
  2. Sawdust: Sawdust or wood shavings is only recommended when mixed in with manure, which is typically then composted.
  3. Decorative Landscape Mulch: Do not use dyed or chemically treated mulch. This is sold as a decorative landscaping mulch. It will not be what you receive from tree trimming service drop off. When in doubt, always ask the supplier.

Wood Chip Gardening Is a No-Till Gardening Method!

Wood chip gardening is a no-till gardening method that mimics the way the natural forest generates healthy, resilient, fertile soil. Instead of tilling, you simply apply a layer of wood chip mulch to the surface of soil. 

Traditionally, gardeners dig, loosen, or turn over the top layer of soil in the Spring before planting. Their intention is to eliminate weeds and make it easier to plant but it literally does the opposite causing more work and more weeds. Tilling the soil kills microbial life in the soil which makes farmers dependent on chemical fertilizers. Plus, tilling releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

In stark contrast, wood chip gardening, no-till gardening, and cover crops keep the carbon cycle in balance. If fact, these growing practices actually sequester carbon in the soil. That is why we cannot recommend enough times to switch to wood chip gardening which eliminates the practice of tilling and the need for chemical fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides. 

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Dana Richardson

Article written by Dana Richardson. Dana is a gardener and documentary filmmaker. She has been growing organic, no-till vegetable gardens for over a decade using the Back to Eden Gardening principles. Her passion is to empower people to grow their own food and inspire more sustainable living through video, photography and writing. 

Article photography by Dana & Sarah Films. All Rights Reserved. 

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