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Wood Chip Path

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I am new to permies.com and am very excited to have found this site! My husband and I are installing wood chip paths in our woodland berry/mushroom garden. We dug out 8 inches of top soil and intend to put wood chips in to create paths. It is a large space and we used an mini excavator to do it. The size of the area is making me think hard about upcoming maintenance. Looking at the paths now, I can see that the buttercups, etc won't be coming up through the bottom since we removed the topsoil however they probably will be coming from the sides into the wood chip paths. I also have blackberries in the area but I am removing those root balls as best as I can. My plan is as follows. I intend to spread lime everywhere (in the paths and in the garden) to help sweeten up the soils to make it less of a buttercup paradise. Early next spring, I will lay black plastic along the edges of the paths to smother out other plants and allow emerald carpet raspberries to get a food hold. I then intend to remove the black plastic and to put down a thick layer of mulch.
A couple of people have suggested that I used weed cloth in the paths to prevent the infestation of weeds. Am I being naive in thinking that my plan will be enough to keep down the weeds at least to a manageable level?
Is there a benefit to the area as a whole by not putting in weed cloth? I know that decomposing wood chips are wonderful for soil life--would the weed barrier prevent that? I expect that these paths will be here for many years to come.

I am hoping I can get some experienced folks to chime in and give me guidance!!

Thank you,

Posts: 1316
Location: Virginia USDA 7a/b
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Hi Elizabeth and welcome to permies!

First it would be good to know your general area, as the "pests" in my chips are desirable in others' gardens. A dry climate will probably be very different fro where I am.

Generally though, if you want the chips to degrade- put them below ground level. It sounds like you have intentionally done so, maybe for drainage? All my paths are above ground, generally on ridges if possible as it makes the chips last longer just like a road. In my limited experience landscape fabric will prevent some plants (seems to do well for rubus) but no barrier to bermuda for instance. I've got bermuda issues so the landscape fabric installed by the previous owner is a major pain. Now there is just bermuda anchored in the fabric, while I can easily pull most weeds including bermuda where there is no fabric.

You might get some good years out of it but overall I rely on depths of mulch. Get it deep enough and it is not hard to maintain.

Hope this helps!
Posts: 1559
Location: Victoria BC
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Woodchips are not impervious... I used alder 3-5" deep to mulch my garlic; the only spots that are still some-what bare chips 9 months after mulching are the accidentally deep 5" areas. Most of the rest is completely overrun with grass and all sorts of weeds. Thistles and pigweed have punched through the 5" parts here and there.

Peel the 5" area back and the bottom is black and well decayed. Soil-building!

Cedar or something like it would suit long-term paths better, but the other option is to peel back the top, scrape the rotten bottom into a garden bed, and just keep adding more chips.. it's great as.long as.younhave enough chips and time!

As noted above heavy fabric only works for some plants, and is a misery when it doesn't work..
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