PNW Landscape Plant Guide

brought to you by the plant geeks at Calendula Farm

Wood Chips (Ligneolus velamen)

Ok, we made up the latin name, but we like cracking ourselves up. We are our own most reliable audience.

Wood Chips a.k.a. Arborist Chips have been the subject of considerable debate in gardening groups and communities. In the last few years a lot of research tips the balance dramatically in favor of wood chips being very, very good.

We use wood chips in nearly every landscape project we construct unless our client is absolutely set on something else like bark or compost. In the end, the client is king (or queen, or supreme ruler, or grand poobah) but we will always argue strongly in favor of wood chips. Here’s why:¬† after years of using them in our display gardens, production beds, in the pots of every plant we sell in the nursery, and in hundreds of landscapes, we see them inhibiting weeds better than anything else, lasting for 3-4 years without refreshing, regulating soil moisture during dry summer months, and they have a natural PNW woodsy look. We install them 4-6 inches thick.

Some arguments against use of wood chips have been: they rob the soil of nitrogen, they prevent exchange of gasses from soil to air, they are a vector for pathogens, and they attract insects like termites.

Countless studies show that the appropriate response to those concerns is: No, No, No, and Nope. None of that is true.

The best wood chips are of mixed materials – different woods, bark, leaves, and varying sized pieces. We use wood chips sold by Tacoma’s own TAGRO. They are not related to TAGRO products, they just sell them. They come from the yard waste collection at the Tacoma dump. They are super cheap, are a 100% recycled resource, and they always look the same, so when you need to refresh your landscape, it will still look the same years later. The only time they look a bit different is in January when we see tinsel here and there from the recycled holiday trees.

If you don’t believe all this, here is a great fact sheet from WSU Extension. You can download the publication for free. It’s actually very engaging reading!