Wood chips as ground cover - Knowledgebase Question

New York, NY
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Question by bob929
November 27, 1997
We have a corner lot 47 x 70. On two sides, totaling 750SF we need to place a ground cover to eliminate weeding. Typically, homes in the area use black blankets with a stone covering 3"+/-. Will a corner area on a barrier island near the ocean be suitable for wood chips as a ground cover instead of the more usual but cost prohibitive stones? Budget is a major consideration, we have access to a free unlimited supply of wood chips from the town recycling center, but we need to know the pros and cons of substituting the chips for the black plastic cover/ stone combination ( the surefire solution ). There are no plantings in this area.

Two of our concerns are bugs throughout the ground cover and TERMITES.

Answer from NGA
November 27, 1997
The area you describe would lend itself nicely to a wood chip ground cover. The wood chips will have to be replaced every few years (or simply topped off with fresh wood chips), where stones are a bit more permanent. There are a number of living groundcovers that you can plant after placing the wood chips down, that will grow over the wood chips and eventually hide them. If it's a sunny area, Hypericum (St.John's Wort), Aubrieta, or prostrate Veronica would do well. If it's shady, try Vinca Minor or Saxifraga.

To block weeds effectively, you can either use the black landscape fabric under the chips, covering it with a 2 or 3 inch layer, or use a 6 or 7 inch layer of straight wood chips. I'm not aware of any problem with termites and wood chips--you might avoid piling the chips deep against your house foundation. And they shouldn't attract any other bugs to your yard.

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