Benefits of Arborist Wood Chips
In areas where trees are a dominant feature of the landscape, arborist wood chips are one of the best mulch choices for trees and shrubs. Studies have found wood chips to be one of the best performers in terms of moisture retention, temperature moderation, weed control, and sustainability. In many urban areas, arborist wood chips are available free of charge (Figure 1), making them one of the most economically practical choices.
Unlike uniformly textured sawdust and bark mulches (Figure 2a), arborist wood chips include bark, wood, and often leaves (Figure 2b). The chemical and physical diversity of these materials resists the compaction often found in sawdust and bark mulches. Additionally, the materials vary in their size and decomposition rate, creating a more diverse environment that houses a diversity of microbes, insects and other organisms. A biologically diverse soil community is more resistant to environmental disturbance and will in turn support a diverse and healthy plant population.
Arborist wood chips provide substantial weed control in ornamental landscapes (Figure 3). The mechanism(s) by which wood chips prevent weed growth are not fully understood, but likely includes light reduction (preventing germination of some seeds and reducing photosynthetic ability of buried leaves), allelopathy (inhibiting seed germination), and reduced nitrogen levels at the soil-mulch interface (reducing seedling survival).