What are recommendations for using arborist chips in a vegetable garden?


Please provide recommendations for using arborist chips in a vegetable garden for plants and seeds.


Abi Griffith, Horticulture Community Education Assistant

Wood chips are really great for mulching in perennial beds, around raspberries or high bush blueberries, on permanent walkways or between raised beds to help with weed suppression and water retention. They can also be used in your compost pile (see page 2), if you have one, as a carbon source, for a healthy pile.

Generally, when it comes to wood chips and vegetable and herb gardens, you want to avoid directly mulching or mixing chips into the soil or garden bed you are planting into.  But, again, it could be effective, applied thickly in between your beds.  Bark, and wood chips, because of their high carbon content, can cause “nitrogen lock-up”, where soil organisms actively consume the carbon in the wood chips, using available nitrogen in the process, and potentially depriving your vegetable plants of much needed nitrogen. It would be better to stick to mulches like straw in your vegetable garden beds. .
I included a few pictures of how we use wood chips between our vegetable beds at our demonstration gardens at Tidewater Farm for a visual. The second picture you can see straw mulch used in the actual beds.
garden with wood chips between rowsgarden with woods chips between rows







You may want to check out these fact sheets from the Colorado State Master Gardener Program that go into more detail about appropriate use of mulches, including wood chips. Additionally, if you have more than you can use in a few years, I’m sure your gardening friends and neighbors would love to hear from you!