Opinion? Gravel or wood chips?

ninjabut(USDA z 8,CA)April 5, 2008

OK, I finally have someone coming in to do some work to get the pottager really going!

The problem is that we are on the wind side of a horse field and all we get are weeds!

We've been using used carpet and pea gravel for a few years in a protected area of the yard, but got alot of weeds this year in the gravel. It seems like we would get more in the wood chips as they break down, but we could also add wood chips as they break down to mulch the weeds!

HMMMMM. What do you think? NT

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I like the wood chips.


    Bookmark   April 6, 2008 at 12:31AM
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arwmommy(9b So. Calif.)


    Bookmark   April 7, 2008 at 2:56AM
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I'm putting in wood chips. Weeds will come up through the chips if you don't use some sort of barrier. I use newspaper, two sheets thick, well overlapped and soaked. It'll last long enough to kill the grass underneath.. Wood chips are also easy on the feet and knees!

    Bookmark   April 9, 2008 at 12:34AM
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I haven't posted in a long time on this forum, but I saw this and had to make a comment. I've had redwood bark nuggets on my garden paths for a long time, and I must say that my potager is completely depleted of nitrogen. I cannot amend it enough. I've heard that nitrogen depletion can be a problem with redwood, and I think I have that particular problem. Just something to be aware of.

One plus for the nuggets is that when trees drop leaves on the paths, the leaves just decompose and become invisible. A neighbor who has gravel complains that the leaves are hard to pick out.

There have been a lot of posts on gravel paths in other forums....it's worth doing a search. Try the landscaping and vegetable forums. I remember that was quite helpful.

    Bookmark   April 30, 2008 at 10:28PM
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gottagarden(z5 western NY)

I have wood chips. They will not take nitrogen from your garden unless they are tilled INTO the soil. Being on paths will not steal it from the adjoining soil.

    Bookmark   May 4, 2008 at 8:15PM
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What's wrong with using gravel? I have just built a small potager and I'd like to mulch between my raised beds. Right now I have a big pile of gravel that I could use but I'd have to wait (perhaps until next year) to do wood chips. I would rather wait and do the wood chips if there are good reasons to not use gravel.

    Bookmark   May 20, 2008 at 8:00AM
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megajas(z7 VA)

We have a HUGE area in back w/ gravel and a smaller path around our old flowerbed as a walkway. It is difficult. We have a ton of leaves and they are hard to get all off the gravel. Then you have the leaves that crumble up and turn into dirt in your gravel that then becomes a great place for weed seeds to take up residence. The upper part of our back yard (it's got a 3 level tier) is all gravel, we added 2" of gravel last year and it is helping, but I still have to go outside weekly and hoe up any new weed seedlings. The bottom area I'm giving up on and will be taking as much gravel out as possible and putting in mulch/bark chips for pathing. With all the plantings down in that area, it is too hard to keep things from re-seeding into the gravel (grape hyaciths, weeds, butterfly bushes, trumpet vine (evil), ect... ) So basically, gravel is fine if you 1) have a barrier and atleast 2-3" of gravel over it at all times 2) don't have many trees/leaves 3) don't have a lot of plantings directly adjacent to it.

Good luck!

    Bookmark   May 20, 2008 at 8:27AM
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We do have LOTS of trees but the location of the potager is well outside the trees and I don't find many leaves on the ground. I will go observe the ground a little more closely. Perhaps wood chips would be the better choice (especially on knees).

    Bookmark   May 20, 2008 at 9:08AM
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pushindirt(z8 OR)

Stones, not gravel

    Bookmark   May 26, 2008 at 3:02PM
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Reasons not to use gravel:

Weeds still grow in it--some of them will thrive there. (Think of the weeds that sprout in sidewalk cracks.)

The gravel ends up in the grass, etc. where you don't want it. It can get tracked around the yard in your shoes.

As it was mentioned before, leaves are hard to get out of it. Mulch, pine needles, grass clippings, and other stuff blow in it and decompose, creating soil pockets for more weeds.

If the gravel is too thick and not installed professionally, it can be "swimmy" when you walk on it, which is uncomfortable at best and could cause an injury if you twist an ankle or something.

Last of all, and the main reason I hate gravel and any kind of rock used for landscaping: if you change your mind and want to plant where the gravel is it's a huge PITA to get rid of it. The person who previously owned my home used it. Now that it's my house and yard, I want to plant there. I have spent countless backbreaking hours trying clear a small planting bed--I've given up on clearing the whole thing.

Wood chips give you much more flexibility should you decide to enlarge a bed or change your layout.

    Bookmark   May 26, 2008 at 9:22PM
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What about crushed limestone for the pathways? I hear it makes a very compact surface that does not allow for many weeds. This is what I'm planning to use, and it does not cost any more than mulch either. I'd love to hear thoughts on the crushed limestone as a pathway material.

    Bookmark   May 28, 2008 at 3:13PM
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pushindirt(z8 OR)

Wood chips get old, they eventually rot and smell. You cannot clean them. They eventually call bugs from the rotting wood. They are also as much a PITA as stones. They get into your shoe tracks and go everywhere with you.
Stones can be hosed off. They don't age, You can walk on them in your bare feet. They are easily moved and don't create a mess. Turn up the earth, lay down landscape fabric, put down the stones. Then you can fill in with anything. Even wood chips if your heart is set on them (although I suggest gravel). My walkway is going on 9 years now. They look as good as the day I put them in.


    Bookmark   May 28, 2008 at 4:24PM
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ninjabut(USDA z 8,CA)

Well, we went with the wood nuggets. They are very nice looking and easy on the feet!
We have about a 20'x40' area to make into our "potager" area.We started with an 8x8 raised bed (before we knew about things like raised beds, lasagne gardening, and square foot gardening)
Right now we have our origional 8x8 box, plus 2 4x8 boxes, and 2 3x3 herb boxes going in this weekend. We also have about a 4x10 dug up area with corn, squash and pumpkins.
I didn't have time to do flower beds this year, so I drug a bunch of large planters with agapanthus over by the fence to be planted also with million bells.
I'll be putting one of my DH's hand carved benches near the green house to sit in sun OR shade.
Just LOVING my yard! (It's been horse field for 20 yrs)
I wish I knew how to post pics! I'm afraid to put a million pics on the computer again, unnamed.
Happy Gardening! Nancy

    Bookmark   May 30, 2008 at 11:02PM
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You are correct, wood chips can also be used to mulch flowerbeds. It would also be advised that some sort of layer was put underneath to prevent weeds growing up through the wood chips though.
We offer a range of Woodchips that are ideal for the garden as a decorative aggregate or for mulching flowerbeds, take a look...

Here is a link that might be useful: Stoneshipper - Wood Chippings

    Bookmark   August 20, 2008 at 5:20AM
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Hello, I am new here and new to the name of potager gardening even though I have been doing it for years because I liked the look.

Now we have moved to a new house with no yard at all until I started in on it. I had already decided to use these planters for my vegetable garden and add flowers for interest/beauty. They sit on the kitchen side of the house and the large round planter is right out side my kitchen window. In the picture the large round planter is closer to the house than where it will be used. I already pulled it further out. I also added the arches and will be adding the fill for the planters soon. The really bent planter my husband straightened up. I plan on painting the old tanks/planters white and if it keeps peeling that is ok I will just keep touching them up. I have added the arches to the big round tank and plan on growing some morning glories and some beans, or snow peas in spring, up the arches next year. See link for how pretty it looked with morning glories last year at the other house we had. I had not filled it then either and good thing because we moved and I was able to take it with me. Adding it is hot full sun and I planned to plant the tender veggies in the arches tank.

I am still trying to decide on walkway material. Such good points on which to use. I am going to read some more. I want the yard simple. The front of the house is to the left of the picture and it will be gravel driveway. The pea gravel would look nice and cohesive leading up to the tanks and help keep down the mud coming into the house. So would the chips/mulch. That part of the yard is not nice fill like the rest. It is cement hard so no point in even trying to plant in it. Why the tanks to plant in. We also have to be careful of water usage.

If I used chips and mulch then I will be constantly fighting to keep chips out of gravel and gravel out of chips where they meet up. Had that at the last house we had and it is a pain.

I am not planning on fencing this area because of the lay of our land.It does not show in the tanks picture much but there is quite a drop off where the darker dirt meets the lighter. I need to plant something on that slope.I hope to fence across from house to shop building which is 35 foot from the house on the right out of the picture. So I do not think I want another fence cutting this space off. Maybe later???

Anyway Glad to be here and so glad this thread has surfaced.It is the big decision for me to make now . Hoping my idea of a potager garden fits in well enough to really be considered one.


Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   August 20, 2008 at 11:11AM
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little_dani(9, S. Tex Coast)

I hate to weed gravel/rocks, as it makes my fingers hurt. Wood chips I like a lot, but I found something I like better for pathways.

There is a mulch that is made of recycled paper. It is little round balls of compressed paper, and dyed red, black, or brown. I dislike red mulch, and black, but the brown is beautiful. It does not decompose quickly for some reason, we use it without a barrier, but you could use one. It is soft, easy on the knees and feet. It is almost perfect! You might want to check it out. I buy it at Lowes.

If you don't like that, you might want to try the playground mulch. I am not sure what it is made of, but it also has admirable qualities. I like it a lot.

Both of these products make beautiful pathways. Both last a long time, too!


    Bookmark   February 16, 2009 at 9:07AM
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prairiegal(4/5 NW Iowa)

I put down bags and bags of cedar chips when I built my potager in 2007. Not only did they suppress all the weed,s it smelled wonderful as I knelt in the mulch, to work.

Last year they were still in great shape, with only the occasional weed breaking through. What I did like, though, was that the cedar mulch allowed for some self-sowing my cilantro, dill, and basil, which I just left in clumps throughout.

This year I'll probably have to put down another inch or two, but nothing like the $120 worth I used the first year.

The pups like to find a big piece, settle down for a chew, and keep me company, by the way...so they like the mulch, too.

    Bookmark   February 28, 2009 at 1:31AM
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natal(Louisiana 8b)

Old thread, but always current topic. My choice is pine straw (needles). It's easy to work with, kind to knees & barefeet, and as it slowly breaks down it nourishes the soil.

Janie, I've never seen the paper mulch. How does it hold up to rainfall?

Prairiegirl, pretty potager! And so big!

    Bookmark   February 28, 2009 at 12:25PM
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I didn't read the whole thread but wood chips or gravel, you'll still have weeds. Whoever suggested newspaper has my vote. Some type of barrier needs to be in place or the rest won't matter except from an aesthetics standpoint... and then I'd prefer wood chips.


    Bookmark   March 1, 2009 at 2:10PM
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little_dani(9, S. Tex Coast)

We had the paper mulch down for over 4 years. We replenished it once.

Rain doesn't hurt it. I don't know how they seal it, but I really do love this stuff.

The pic is of a pathway we used this mulch on.


Here is a link that might be useful: paper mulch path

    Bookmark   March 3, 2009 at 8:55AM
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I don't buy any of my wood chips - I get shredded wood from the electric company tree service and at recycling dump sites from city tree services. It's free and no tree has to die needlessly, especially Redwoods. It smells terrific and isn't toxic to my family or animals.

I also sometimes find it in little piles along road easements where utility companies and farmers cut overgrown trees and bushes. It is a little bit of hard work, but if I can do it (I have multiple handicaps), then anyone else who gardens can do it. It's good exercise.

I also found a plant nursery about 20 miles from here where they allow tree service companies and city tree services to dump their shredded wood too. It is also free.

I find sources of the stuff and help myself.
When it decays, I scoop it up and put it into the growing beds. Then add more to the path.

Pine straw is great when I can find it. Many people put their bags of pine straw at the curb for trash pick-up and are happy to let me take it home for the asking. It is especially great around evergreens, rhododendrons, azaleas, blueberries, gardenias, camellias, magnolias and strawberries which all benefit from the acidity. It stays put and is easy on my feet and legs (and knees if you can get down on your knees - I can't any longer).

I also use thick layers of hay (or wheat straw when I can get it).

I recycle shredded leaves and grass clippings in the rest of my gardens.

Grow Green!

    Bookmark   March 3, 2009 at 1:05PM
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Prairiegal and Janie. You both have lovely yards/gardens.

I am still trying to decide what to use between my containers. I am leaning towards wood chips. Since it will have no effect on the growing of the plants,not that I have ever had a problem with them, I like the soft feel. I have never seen the paper mulch. No idea where I could get something like this around here. It looks great.


    Bookmark   March 5, 2009 at 10:09AM
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eaglesgarden(6b - se PA)

Biggest plus for wood chips....THEY ARE FREE!!!

You can have a tree company come and drop off wood chips almost whenever you need it. If you need more, call a tree trimmer!

I just got about 12 cubic yards of wood chips delivered to my house (for free). Granted, there were/are some bigger pieces...but you can pull them out easily enough. This delivery cost me a 30 second conversation with a tree trimmer who was down the block from my house.

I said, "Hey, what do you do with all these wood chips?"
He said, "Why, do you want some?"
I said, "I'm the house with twin cedars."
He said, "where do you want them?"

The rest is history. It took me about 5 hours of heavy moving to get them placed where I wanted them, but I now have a 6 inch thick blanket of wood chips in what will become a very nice garden on the side of my house. (Now all I need to do is figure out what plants are going to go in!)

Environmentally speaking, wood chips are a RENEWABLE resource, whereas gravel is not. Gravel will offer you nothing except for the pathway. The wood chips break down, and you can take them OUT of the paths and put them into your compost pile after a few years to finish breaking down (great BROWNS!) and replace the old wood chips with new...which will also be FREE.

Just my $0.02

    Bookmark   March 12, 2009 at 2:29PM
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If you must do gravel, then seriously, do something large like river rock. We have an area in our yard that was a child's playground - Landscape fabric, covered by pea gravel. Weeds grew in in all the time. It was always a mess. We are finally getting rid of the area and reclaiming it as yard. (No garden there - it's in the shade of a huge tree, sadly.) The landscape fabric has rotted away so it is no help lifting the gravel. The gravel itself is embedded in the soil. I've resorted to using a snow shovel to get it scooped up, sifting it thru hardware cloth to get rid of the leaf litter and hickory nut and acorn hulls, then moving the gravel somewhere else. I'm hiding it around the foundation plantings of my house, because I don't know what else to do with it. But the worst part is how much is in the ground now. I don't know how I'll ever get grass to grow. How I wish the prior owners had used mulch!

    Bookmark   March 12, 2009 at 5:48PM
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