Wood chips in a vegetable garden

Asked June 2, 2019, 3:40 PM EDT

We have a raised-bed vegetable garden (approximately 16'x5') that we've been using for 20 years. We planted tomatoes yesterday and my wife wants to mulch with wood chips. I don't think that's a good idea. We have red plastic from last year that we will be putting around the tomatoes, but may plant some other vegetables too, if space allows. Please give us some advice on using wood chips in a small, raised-bed vegetable garden. Thanks in advance. --Joe and Yvonne Laurel, MD

Howard County Maryland

1 Response

Hi- we used to recommend that people use wood chips in permanent paths but not between vegetable plants due to the potential for nitrogen tie-up as soil microbes digest the high carbon chips, and the danger of physical injury to tender plant stems.

However, over the years we have seen many photos of productive vegetable gardens mulched with wood chips. This works best when the soil is high in organic matter, wood chips are not tilled-in or turned under, and plants receive supplemental fertilizer as needed.