Woodchip is an excellent source of compost, so making friends with a local tree surgeon who is happy to provide you with a load of woodchip from time to time is a really good idea! It’s useful for paths too.
Many tree surgeons will be delighted to offload some of their wood chip and often for free or at a low cost, around £20/£30 for a load. A full load makes a fairly decent sized pile that you can leave in a corner of the garden for approx 12-18 months as it breaks down into the most lovely, crumbly compost to use in the veg patch. What we like about this, is that it is minimal effort for you in terms of compost management (you don’t need to turn it or add to it) and it is nearly always free from any weed killer residue or pesticide residue so you can use it with confidence. Just let the tree surgeon know that you intend to compost it and use it in the garden, and they can make sure they’re not bringing you anything unwanted!
Of course, the size of the pile will reduce as the wood chip breaks down, so if you think a load is a lot, don’t worry, it’ll be around half the size by the time it has turned to compost.
It does take a while to break down, but if you start now and then get fresh loads of wood chip delivered once or twice a year, then you’ll soon have a fairly steady supply of your own compost. Also, it’s worth noting that the larger the pile, the quicker it will break down. Wet wood chip breaks down faster, too, which is another reason we like to compost wood chip as you don’t need to worry about covering the pile.
Another use for wood chip is pathways – it will break down much more slowly in a thin layer on top of a garden path, but acts as a good weed blocker and is beneficial for lots of insects too. Some gardeners report finding lots of slugs where there is wood chip, although that has never been our own experience. In a similar respect, it makes a good mulch for new herb beds, blocking weeds until the new plants get well established and provide better ground cover.