Closeup of shredded pine tree bark with flowers and mulch on wooden bench in garden.

Wood Chips vs. Mulch

Wood chips versus mulch, it’s a debate as old as gardening itself. Some avid gardeners will defend wood chips with their dying breath and others will break out the bats to defend their beloved mulch but which one is truly better? Although each has its advantages and disadvantages, only the user can declare a winner. This article will hopefully shed light as it will break down the pros and cons of each and let the readers decide for themselves which takes the cake.

Pros and cons



Mulch has been a long-time favorite of gardeners, and it’s not hard to see why. Made from natural tree bark, mulch is quite resistant, often lasting upwards of five years until decomposing. It’s a prized staple for any garden as it has a tough, elegant texture that comes in a variety of colors to give a clean finish to any project. 

Not only does it look good, it feels good and helps plants in numerous ways. As it decomposes, it releases nutrients back into the soil and helps to balance the carbon to nitrogen percentages in your garden. Not only that, but it helps to insulate your garden by retaining those moistures and protecting the roots from the sun. It helps with weed prevention as while it will protect the deeper growing roots of your plants, shallow roots like weeds tend to get burned up,  making it an all around garden pro.


However, in spite of their good properties, mulch is not the longest-lasting things. As it retains more moisture and breaks down those nutrients, it tends to decompose quicker and need more frequent replacing. Granted, the time between replacements is fairly long, but sometimes gardeners want to leave it and forget it.  Mulch is also not the greatest for wet areas as it tends to absorb a lot of moisture. This is great in dry climates however but not in places known for lots of rain and wind. Mulch is much more easily blown away as the pieces are fairly finer than wood chips. Still, an enclosed garden will still keep those pesky winds away so with the right tools, your mulch will stay in place for years to come.

Wood chips


Right behind mulch is the trustworthy wood chip. While bark mulch earns its name from bark, wood chips come directly from the interior of the tree. Because of this, it’s much softer and denser than mulch and a bit easier for everyday use. It’s a great option for shrubs and trees as while it’s not as moisture-retaining as bark mulch, it does a fairly similar job. Not only does it do that it also is a great thing for footpaths and playgrounds as they’re not easily eroded away, especially once beaten into the soil. They are great for water-dense areas as well as they can’t be swept away as easily, and are in fact great for soil erosion. Many landscapers will use wood chips to keep the soil in place, as they’re larger and dryer than mulch and thus help the soil for much longer than its counterpart.


Wood chips, although similar to mulch, lack the stellar qualities mulch possesses that make it vital to gardens. While it can do similar jobs, it just can’t do it as well, and it only comes in one color for the most part. It doesn’t release nutrients as quickly into the soil as mulch does, and while it lasts longer the plants don’t receive the nutrients they need as quickly, and the wood chips may absorb more carbon from the soil than it releases.  However, the hardiness and longevity of wood chips have made them a staple for many gardeners, and if you like the look of plain wood, then it’s right for you. 

The Choice is Yours

Like anything in life, the choice of mulch and wood chips comes down to preference. Mulch has its ups and downs, same as wood chips but in truth, it depends on the project. Mulch, although fantastic for gardens, isn’t something you’d want on a footpath and wood chips are perfect for playgrounds but not for your begonia’s. Even then, you have to take into account your environment so you may end up going against the grain in ways you wouldn’t even suspect. Doing the research and finding what works best for you is a great way to ensure the longevity of your projects, and provide peace of mind. The problem is, where do you find it?

At the end of the day, whether you are an avid mulch lover or a die-hard wood chips fan, it’s best to get your supplies properly sourced, and where better than Hawkins Landscape Supply? As a family-owned store, Hawkins Landscape Supply is in touch with the needs of local gardeners and consumers as they have been providing excellent service in Maryland and northwest Washington DC region for the past 50 years. They carry a wide array of wood chips and mulch to fit whatever your garden requires. With a guaranteed 100% satisfaction rate and free delivery (who doesn’t love free?) who better to give a shot! If you don’t believe me, give them a call and find out for yourself. They’d love to add you as another valued customer and help your garden to look its best for years to come!

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