Wood Chips as Mulch

Asked June 26, 2015, 8:52 AM EDT

Will I harm my plants/soil if I use "green" (freshly cut) tulip poplar wood chips as mulch?

Anne Arundel County Maryland

2 Responses

Yes, you could damage your plants by using 'raw' wood chips as mulch. The better plan would be to compost the wood chips for a year or so, then use them as mulch.
The problem is this: wood chips contain a high percentage of carbon and not very much nitrogen. The decomposition process involves both fungi which consume the carbon and bacteria which require copious amounts of nitrogen in order to live and reproduce. Consequently, if you place the raw chips around the plants, the decomposition process will begin and the bacteria will participate, but if there is inadequate nitrogen available, in the chips, they will rob it from the plants and the plants will suffer.
Adding additional nitrogen is extremely problematic and is not recommended.

Thank you. This is very helpful. I'll use my wood chips for my walkways, NOT around my plants.