What to do with woodchips?

wood, chips, wood chips-567571.jpg

Woodchips can be considered a by-product of garden maintenance, tree felling operations or site clearance however they are far from what you would call a waste product. There are numerous uses for woodchips and we will explain how they can be utilised in ways that you may not have thought of. There are several types of wood chips, which differ in size, grade and composition and there are materials that you shouldn’t chip but we will discuss that in a future post.

Note: the list below are ideas for uses and you should undertake your own research before utilising in ways mentioned below.

What are woodchips and how are they made?

Woodchips are small, shredded pieces of woody material. Branches, small logs, twigs, stumps and wood waste are reduced down in size in several ways. Being fed through a wood chipper being the most common method although there are other ways – stump grinding for example creates small woodchips as a way of removing tree stumps.

A wood chipper has an encased cutting disc that revolves at high speed cutting timber into smaller pieces and expelling through a discharge shoot.   

What to do with wood chips?

There are a multitude of ways to use woodchips. They are organic and sustainable and are perfect for recycling. So before heading to the tip site read on to learn of the many ways you can utilise this eco-friendly material.

Use as mulch

Using woodchips as mulch has many benefits and is also an easy way to re-use chippings. Spreading a thick layer (about 3 inches) around plants and trees will help to keep weed growth to a minimum, keeps water in the soil and helps to regulate soil temperature. Just remember to keep an area around tree or plant bases clear of chips.

Note: The type of woodchip that you have will depend on how you use. As a general rule fresh woodchip should not be used around annual crops, fruits or vegetables.

Use to create pathways

A perfect way to create paths, edging or to protect areas in your garden from wear, soil erosion and compaction. A border or edge may be a good idea to keep woodchips contained to minimise spillage and to prevent chips being mown. Replace (and reuse) as they naturally break down to keep your paths and edges looking sharp.

Use as compost

Woodchips make very good compost. Adding layers to your compost pile will add nutrients through decomposition. Remember to add a little at a time – bigger chips will take longer to breakdown.

Use in the playground

Do you have a play area in your garden or could you donate to a playground or nursery?

A thick layer of woodchips free from sharp branches and twigs can provide a soft landing, prevent wear around play equipment and prevent muddy patches forming.

Use as winter coverage

Using as winter coverage is like popping on a cosy blanket. This will keep your spring veg patch in optimal conditions ready for replanting. To use this method, firstly lay newspaper or cardboard on your veg patch and then cover with woodchips. In spring reuse the woodchips in one of the other ways mentioned.

Use as a substrate

Did you know that you can use woodchips as a base for growing mushrooms?

Woodchips have to be sterile to use in this way. Boiling and then draining the excess water is all it takes to sterilize. Then mix with mushroom mycelium.

Mushrooms growing from woodchips.
Mushrooms growing in woodchips

Use in animal shelters

Using hardwood woodchips is an eco-friendly type of animal bedding. It’s an especially good medium for use in chicken runs and for smaller pets such as rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters and reptiles. When replacing, the soiled matter can be used as mulch or popped on the compost pile.

Note: Softwoods and bark woodchip should be avoided. Bark can mould and emit spores. Likewise softwood chips can splinter easily and some woods emit oils that can be hazardous to animal health.

Use in a smoker

Depending on the type of wood that has been chipped, dampened woodchips can be used to create smoky, earthy flavours in meat, fish or cheese. Delicious!

Use as kindling

Just burn. Large chips that have been left to fully dry out make great kindling for the fire. Once dried they can be stored in containers or bags until needed. They must be fully dried or will start to rot.

What if I can’t use wood chips?

If you have no need or no means to use woodchips there are a couple of options to consider. Think about asking a neighbour, allotment, gardening society or community group if they can make use of them.

Alternatively you can load up and dispose of at a tip site. Tip sites can be found using tip directories. Websites such as arbtalk.co.uk contain an online directory of tip sites all over the UK. Please refer to the site for individual tip site regulations and fees.

What will you do with yours?

So many uses for this by-product of garden clean up exist. As a natural material woodchips can be reused in various ways and depending on reuse method, can be reused more than once.

Are you using woodchips in a different way than mentioned above? Then let us know. 

Making your own wood chips?

At P J Gaul, we have a range of wood chippers available for hire. Hire machinery including chippers, stump grinders and log splitters can be found here.


More information about P J Gaul, our products and services can be found here.