Thinking of Free Wood Chips As Base Layer?

Maybe it is this whole social distancing exercise and the idea of being cooped up for who knows how long.  Or maybe it is just the weather turning a little bit nice that has me thinking more and more about getting our yard in shape.  Either way, it has me turning my thoughts to mulch.  In the past, we've had our mulch delivered and spread by pros, but we haven't done the full yard.  I mean...we have a BIG yard to mulch and we've really only done the little bit in the front plus a little bit around the house/beds that were already created and planted.  That left the back 2/3rds of the yard with what I'd loosely call 'beds' around the perimeter of the back of the yard.  They haven't been tended to at ALL in terms of grooming and mulching with hardwood mulch (or fines).  I have, however, been taking my lawnmower and mulching up the Fall leaves and piling them up in the beds around the back as a

Knowing that we might be hanging around the house A LOT more has me thinking that I might do my own mulch this year.  You know...get a delivery of like 10 or 12 yards of mulch on the driveway, then distribute it around the yard one yard cart a time.

I mentioned a few days ago about how I went and picked up some biosolids from the Village of Downers Grove this week.  In that post, I did the calculation that it is 11 carts full for 3 yards.  For rounding sake, lets' say that we took 12 yards of mulch.  That'd be 44 cart fulls.  Again...doesn't seem insurmountable, right?  Especially if we're homebound for a few weeks.

The other thing that I learned when I went to get the biosolids was that in addition to the big pile of biosolids, the Village of Downers Grove offers a big FREE pile of wood chips. They're arborist wood chips.  What are arborist wood chips?  Well...they're anything and everything that comes as part of someone taking down a tree.  Any kind of tree.
Arborist chips are essentially any material that gets processed through a wood chipper. Arborist wood chips are a by-product of tree work, which includes all parts of the tree (bark, branches, leaves, berries, blooms, etc). By using all parts of the tree, the wood chips help retain and release moisture into the soil.
So..they're not always super high quality.  Just look around the Web or YouTube and you'll see all sorts of content that examines the pros and cons of using wood chips in your landscape and as mulch.    This .pdf from Washington State University is a good primer on the pros/cons of using arborist chips.

When I was at the pickup site, I started to wonder:  what if I was to use the free wood chips - which I KNOW are not as high quality as something like a hardwood fine mulch as a BASE LAYER underneath some eventual hardwood fine mulch?

Could I spread out chips to suppress the weeds and then apply the mulch on top for a nicer look?  And, would the chips potentially help by aiding in non-compaction?

Well, that's what I did - in just a little spot so far.  And you can see it in the photo at the top of this post.  That's five or so gallons of the wood chips that the Village of Downers Grove offers that I spread around the trunk of the Crimson King Maple Tree in the far back of our yard.  If you look at the top of the photo, you'll see the leaf mulch that is down already around this area.  It is a mix of leaf types including the hard-to-breakdown Oak leafs.

It isn't terrible stuff.  It certainly isn't dark brown and fine. But, it is made up of varied sizes and types of wood that have been breaking down a little.  Perhaps now is the right time to use these free Village wood chips?  I'm guessing that most of the trees were taken down last year and have been sitting in the big pile for months.  Ahead of Spring when they'll likely dump MORE chips, I might NOW have access to the *most* decomposed set of chips?

Here's a close-up of what the free chips look like once I spread them:

Might be a useful test before applying the real mulch later this Spring, right? I'm going to see if one of the larger garbage cans that I have on hand might fit into the back of the van and I'll take it over to fill it up.


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