Can You Compost Wood Chips - Tips For Composting Wood Chips

Pile Of Wood Chips
(Image credit: Coprid)

Can you compost wood chips? The answer is a definite maybe. Yes, you can put wood chips in compost, but composting wood chips isn’t as straightforward as a typical backyard compost pile. 

Can I Put Wood Chips In My Compost?

If you want to put wood chips in compost, the process will work best if the chips are as small as possible, preferably 1 to 2 inches (2.5 to 5 cm.) at most. Be patient; composting wood chips is a long, slow process that can take as long as three or four years. The larger the chips, the longer the process takes.

Some types of wood, including cedar, cypress, oak, redwood, and American mahogany, are especially slow to decompose. If you have a lot of wood chips, you might want to create a separate pile in an out-of-the-way corner of your garden. 

Don’t compost wood from yew or other toxic plants unless you’re sure the pile will be hot enough to break down the toxic substances. Otherwise, let the chips sit for a few months before composting it, then let the finished compost sit a few more months before using it.

Composting Wood Chips: Tips On Speeding Up The Process

Wood chips are a great source of carbon, but they contain very little nitrogen, so you’ll need to add green material to wood chips in compost. For instance, you can add fresh lawn clippings, food waste, coffee grounds, or manure. 

Blood meal or feather meal are nitrogen-rich materials that will help speed up the process. If the pile is large, you can spread a couple of handfuls of balanced, dry fertilizer evenly over the surface. 

Turn the pile frequently, generally every couple of weeks. Turning incorporates oxygen into the pile, which is essential for decomposition. However, don’t turn the pile during the winter, as the pile needs warmth during cold weather.

Add water to the pile if necessary. The compost pile should be damp but never drenched.

Can You Compost Wood Chips? Alternate Ideas for Wood Chips

If composting wood chips takes too long, you can always use the chips as a ground cover. The wood will staunch the growth of weeds, control erosion, and improve soil quality as it breaks down gradually. You can also use wood chips as animal bedding or to build up a raised bed.

Mary H. Dyer

A Credentialed Garden Writer, Mary H. Dyer was with Gardening Know How in the very beginning, publishing articles as early as 2007.