The Pros & Cons of Woodchip Paths – Diary of a Rocket Gardener

Over Christmas and New Year we had a surprisingly nice spell of dry and fairly still days. I took advantage of this weather and the time off work to get out into my veg patch to sort out all the wood chip pathways. I have a fairly big plot, and a lot of pathways. After 4 years, the paths were really quite weedy, and the wood chip had broken down quite a bit, so I thought it was easiest to scrape it all up and start again with fresh wood chip. It’s a fairly laborious process and I found myself weighing up the pros and cons of using wood chip for the paths. Here are my thoughts:

Pros

  • It’s easy to get hold of at a cheap price – I had 4 loads delivered from a local tree surgeon. It cost me £60.
  • It’s natural and tends to be free of pesticides/weedkiller – this is a good way of keeping things organic in your plot.
  • It will break down to compost eventually. I’ve scraped up all the old wood chip and added it to my compost pile  – I’ll be able to use it to cover several beds next year.
  • It looks nice. Enough said.
  • It does tend to keep weeds down fairly easily when combined with a weed control fabric.

Cons

  • The need to use a weed control “fabric” underneath the wood chip. For me, this is less than ideal as it invariably frays leaving small strands of plastic to blow around and get tangled up in raised beds etc. I really regret using this now for that reason. I probably could have laid down cardboard instead to stop weeds from coming up from the soil below, but I honestly don’t think this would have been as effective.
  • You have to top it up each season. I don’t mind this job, but I do think it needs to be done. For me, laying down an extra load of wood chip on top of existing paths has helped to keep the number of weeds down.
  • Weeds will sow themselves easily once the wood chip breaks down a bit. This doesn’t take long – I reckon in year 2 I was already weeding the paths quite regularly.
  • After a few years, you may need to start again – I’ve just scraped all the wood chip up, as I mentioned, and added it to the compost pile. Now I’m laying down brand new wood chip in its place.
  • Slugs. I include this tentatively – I see so many posts from fellow no-dig gardeners advising against using wood chip as it provides a good habitat for slugs, but I have to say that I haven’t found this to be the case. I do have a lot of slugs in my plot, but I have rarely found them hiding in the wood chip. More often than not they have congregated under pots, in weedy spots, along the edges of raised beds and so on. But, hundreds of other gardeners can’t be wrong…