Garden weeds can be the bane of a gardener’s existence.
In fact, one of the reasons I procrastinated starting my own garden years ago was because of the weed-pulling.
I imagined myself locked into 1 hour per day of weed management, and decided it just wasn’t worth it.
Now, as a more seasoned gardener, I’ve realized it’s INCREDIBLY simple to have a weed-free garden.
This method even works in places like Arizona, where we primarily have Bermuda grass, which shouldn’t be called grass at all because, let me tell ya’, the stuff is invasive like no other. It acts just like all the other garden weeds.
Garden Weeds: How to keep weeds out of garden
The best way to keep garden weeds at bay is by fighting nature with nature by using wood chips.
Wood chips can do amazing things, my friend.
While mixing wood chips into your soil is a BIG NO-NO (it will compete for nitrogen and starve your plants’ roots), keeping a nice THICK layer of wood chips on top is exactly what your garden needs to get rid of those garden weeds.
And the best part?
That layer of wood chips will slowly break down, providing an amazing boost to the plants by encouraging microbial activity, reducing insect activity & disease, reducing the need for fertilizer, helping retain moisture, keeping the soil soft, and more.
What you’re doing, really, is mimicking nature.
Instead of using weed-killers or breaking your back pulling out weeds, you’re creating an environment you’d find in the forest. As the tree drops it’s leaves, it creates it’s own mulch, keeping the other competing plants away and feeding itself naturally during the breakdown process.
What if I already have garden weeds that I need to pull?
This is the best part. Placing wood chips over the weeds will kill them, so if you’ve got a large area to work with, pile on the wood chips and expect the garden weeds to decompose into the soil within a week.
How to apply wood chips to your garden (and get ’em for FREE)
- The best thing to do is to start calling local tree trimming companies, and asking for them to come dump a load of wood chips at your home. They are usually happy to do it, although you do need to call every day to be put on the list. We get a load about twice a year, but if you need a much smaller amount, you can team up with local gardeners in your area and share it.
- After you’ve prepped your garden soil and you have seedlings that are at least 3 inches high, start to layer mulch around your plants. As your plants grow, continue to add wood chips up to 6 inches around your plants. This should keep away all of the garden weeds.
- When it comes time to re-plant your garden, scrape back the wood chips and put them aside as you add any compost or additional soil. Then, when your seedlings reach the correct height again, add those wood chips back.
REMEMBER: You NEVER want to mix wood chips INTO the garden. It will lock up the availability of nitrogen and you’ll notice your plants will grow about 2 inches then stop forever. (ask me how I know;) Think of wood chips as a topdressing only.
Will wood chips attract termites, snakes, mice, or scorpions?
Dr. Linda Chalker-Scott, an Extension Urban Horticulturist at Puyallup Research and Extension Center and Associate Professor and Horticulture and Landscape Architecture at Washington State University, says it well…
Termites hate wood chips – in experimental taste tests they only eat them if nothing else is available! Termites like nitrogen and phosphate-rich mulch. Wood chips have neither. Given a choice, termites would rather eat nutrient-rich mulches; they’ll settle for cardboard but they avoid wood chips. Mice don’t really care for chips either. They collapse into burrows. Rodents love tunneling under sheet mulch. (source)
Walter Reeves, known as The Georgia Gardener, also has an interesting view…
Termites are an integral part of nature. Their job is to decompose the limbs and stumps you are too busy to remove. Termites do not smell the mulch (or other cellulose material) and come running. Subterranean termite colonies forage randomly and continuously. They find their food sources accidentally and then leave a pheromone trail for other worker termites from the colony to follow to that food source. To be safe, keep all mulch materials at least twenty four inches from your home’s foundation. (source)
As for scorpions, the best evidence I can give you is my own. Living in Arizona means lots of scorpions each summer. I’ve used wood chips in my garden for 5 years now, and I haven’t found one scorpion in my raised garden beds. I do, however, find them about 4 feet away on our concrete block walls, but never in the garden.
We don’t have a snake problem here in Arizona, but from what I’ve read, snakes prefer to hide in stacks of wood, but people don’t notice more in their garden because of wood chips. If you’re really concerned, you can use deterrents like cedar wood chips, or peppermint essential oil sprayed over the wood chips. Peppermint is really effective against mice in the garden.
Other Wood Chip Myths vs. Facts
You’ll see some articles floating around about how wood chips can be poisonous for your garden or how they will rob nutrients from the soil. These are simply not true. If you’re concerned and want to do your research, check out this myths vs. facts about wood chips article.
Keeping Garden Weeds at Bay
It might sound too simple or too good to be true, but using wood chips has made such a huge difference in the garden! It’s given us more free time to do things we love (check out our adventures on our YouTube Channel) and made gardening a breeze! We’ve also noticed our soil has gotten better and better with each year.
Have you ever tried wood chips in your garden? What has your experience been?
How do you keep bermuda grass out of your garden? We live in a similar climate and I’m thinking of creating a pasture area for chickens and other animals. Bermuda is on my list to invesigate.
This is one of DaNelle friends and someone she goes to for gardening advice from. Thought her article might be helpful to you: https://growinginthegarden.com/how-to-kill-bermuda-grass-without-chemicals-before-planting-a-garden/
Best of luck with your garden!
Thank you -Bobbi (DaNelle’s Assistant)
My landscaper used wood chips. I ended up lots of lizards and toads.
I had to remove the chips. It is better now.
What do you think.
By the way, I live in Florida.
If removing the wood chips works best for your garden and yard then I would go with that.
Thanks! -Bobbi (DaNelle’s Assistant)
Karen Dollar says
Pvc piping is bad for your health. It has chemicals in it that’s bad for us humans. Think its called BPA ” It’s a lot safer to use something else. You should Google safer alternatives for piping water to your garden. Just so you know.
Hi! I am starting a small garden in my Arizona backyard, just like you, I love how you persevere and create such a wonderful garden in Arizona! I love the use of wood chips to ruin these darn weeds! Again, I am confused if I can place the wood chips in the planter box of fruits and vegetables? I know I am supposed to place wood chips in tree’s plant spots, which I will if I grow fabulous fruit trees. But I still would like to know if the wood chips in planter boxes is safe. Thanks so much!
Yep, you can use them for your fruits and veggies! Thanks! -Bobbi (DaNelle’s Assistant)
Thanks again! I appreciate is greatly!
I find the best way to get rid of garden weeds is to eat them. Surprisingly, many are edible and very tasty in salads!
do you know if wild strawberries are safe or not to eat I have heard rumors they are NOT and also what other weeds do you eat and or put in salads?
Raised beds, if done right, really rock !! I have tried raised beds before, but did not dig them deep enough or amend the soil properly. Now my beds are 8 inches deep and about one third topsoil/peat moss. I spend ten minutes a day when I get home, mostly walking, weeding my beds. Many days, I don’t find any. If my three chickens had to depend on the weeds I pulled, they would starve. Also using pvc drip irrigation. Another great time saver.
Chrissy Davenport says
I’m so going to try this in the beds around our porch. Ain’t no one got time for weeding! 🙂
Question on fertilizing….I have been composting my chicken coop shavings and droppings as I’ve heard the chicken poop makes a great garden fertilizer. My question is, since we use pine shavings as bedding in the coop, and the droppings are mixed in with that, would I still be able to use that in my garden beds to fertilize the soil without robbing it of the nitrogen you were referring to here in this article with mixing wood chips into your soil?
DaNelle Wolford says
Yes, the pine needles & chicken manure should be fine as long as it’s sat at least 3 months before you add it.
Lisa C. says
I have used a wood chip/mulch in flower beds in the past they looked great but I found it a little frustating that, when I watered, the mulch would “float” away and be displaced. I wondered if it was because I only had the mulch 2 inches deep instead of more. What has been your experience with this issue?
DaNelle Wolford says
I haven’t had that problem, but I don’t irrigate my beds, I use drip irrigation so maybe that’s why:)
Jenna Ali says
We have about 400 square feet of border beds in our back yard and the weeds were a never ending nightmare because we live right by hills and the wind blows in all the wild weeds. We recently put up a very simple border involving concrete blocks with special slots for 2×6 lumber, and 8 ft lengths of the lumber. Then we lined the beds with cardboard and filled the rest up with free wood chip mulch. Tell your readers to check out http://www.chipdrop.in for free wood chip mulch! It’s a free service that basically does exactly what you’re talking about. It pairs homeowners who want the stuff with arborists who want to get rid of it. You can get just chips, chips and logs, or logs. I signed up and had a mountain of fresh, locally sourced wood chip mulch in my driveway within two days. After using all we needed I put the rest up on craigslist and it was gone in under 24 hours! It looks awesome, smells wonderful, and so far, so good on the weed control!
Totally agree that wood chips have been a game changer. Also, we lined the sides of our raised bed with a few layers of cardboard to keep that crazy Bermuda and everything else that hitches a ride in on the irrigation water at bay.
Would this work in my flower beds as well?
We tried wood chips for a little bit- but we have a huge garden and in our area it’s hard to find a lot for free (everyone wants to charge!) We are slowly adding raised beds to our rows and do plan on doing wood chips in those to keep the weeds down!
Is there a reason you choose to use wood chips instead of straw for mulch? I’m new to gardening and I am not sure which mulch to use. Thank you!
DaNelle Wolford says
You can use straw, but I prefer wood chips because they break down better and are usually pesticide free.
We’ve been gardening a community plot for 2 years that is 8’x8′, mostly sand and clay, was very hard and depleted. We put down about 3 inches of compost and then 6 inches of wood chips and haven’t had to weed. The wood chips are almost gone now and there are a few weeds so we know it’s time to add more chips. We add more compost and more chips every 6 months. The soil is light and fluffy, deep brown and needs to be watered half as much as before the wood chips.
Betty Adams says
How can one get rid of weeds naturally from lawns.