I love it when there are free resources and you can make good use of them on your plots so here are my top 5 uses for wood chips.

  1. Use wood chips for paths. In fact a lot of us have already done this and it works well. It keeps the soil damp and plant roots from the beds can move into it and gain moisture. If I am making a new path I tend to put cardboard down first, water it (this helps the cardboard to break down) and then put the chippings on top of this. The cardboard prevents the weeds breaking through and saves having to scrabble through the chippings to weed. On paths which have been down for a while, the chippings need topping up depending on how thickly you used them.  If they have been down for at least a year, I tend to flick them onto the nearest bed as they will have composted or I scoop them up and put them in the compost bin and put new chippings down. You could, however, just put more chippings on top of the old ones.
  2. Build a heap on your plot and compost them. This can be as simple as a pile or you can put them in some sort of container - pallets, dalek bins etc, and leave them for at least a year. I had two bins full of wood chips and had to move them. They had been there for about 4 months and already they had started to break down. After a year you could put them in your compost heap in layers with green stuff, use them on paths or as a mulch for raspberries after putting a bit of compost down first. Wood chips make a fungally active compost and this is good for perennial fruit and veg.
  3. Build a Johnson-Su bioreactor - a very fancy name for a wood chip pile with  worms added to help the break down and in theory speed up the process. There is a bit more to this pile - it needs air holes so that all chippings are no more than 20-25cm away from air. This video explains it much more clearly.

If, however, this all seems a bit complicated, how about a much simpler method created in this video.

4.  Use the chips as a mulch but there are ways of doing this to make it successful. This way of gardening is called ' Back to Eden' First you need 7-10cm of compost then wood chips which have been composted for at least a year topped off with very well composted cow or chicken manure. After this, the composted wood chips are topped up each year or when necessary.

5. Use a wood chip pile to heat water! You need a very large pile of wood chips for this. As you build the pile, you coil a hose pipe attached to a cold water tap. Once the pile of chips has heated up - several days - run the water until it comes out of the pipe and then turn it off. Leave for a day and then to use the hot water, run the tap again and warm/hot water will come out until it runs cold and then turn it off.  There are camp sites which use this method of heating water for showers.