Wild Tip: Switch Your Garden Paths from Grass to Wood Chips


Often I see gardens with grass growing in the paths between the beds. If your garden looks this way it may be causing you problems. Here are some reasons why you should switch from grass paths to wood chips.

So what’s so wrong about grass paths? I mean they look nice and are soft on bare feet. Well there are several reasons why I think grass paths are a mistake.

First, at least in my climate grass is where the slugs hangout. Every time I mulch an area of grass my slug population decreases. I have noticed that slugs seek shelter in the day buried down in the grass.

The less grass the less slugs I have to deal with.

Second, grass paths aren't as good at supporting beneficial fungi as wood chip paths. My wood chip paths are filled with fungi and sometimes mushrooms. This allows for fungi to spread from one garden bed to other nearby garden beds and even other nearby growing areas such as hedgerows and food forests!

This helps to interconnect your garden with the rest of your wild homestead allowing for nutrients and water to be shared between all your plants.

Third, the grass uses nutrients and water. While the grass is not in your garden beds it’s still drawing up water and nutrients. Wood chips on the other hand will continually breakdown and slowly release nutrients into the surrounding soil and will also retain water in the soil instead of drawing it out.

Some people even harvest the soil that builds up from their wood chip paths to use on their garden beds. But I like to just leave it in place and let it feed the beneficial fungi which in turn feed my plants.

Wood chips are a great alternative to the classic grass paths that I see in gardens. There are clear advantages though you will have to top up the wood chips about once a year. This is the main downside but just think about how much less mowing you will have to do!

What do you do in your garden? Please share in the comments—I would love to hear from you!


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They're permeable too, so catch water and stop runoff

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Very good addition to the list for why wood chips are great for paths! :)

Glad you like it. We use gravel because we found that the wiidchips provided a home for our biggest pest... Earwigs

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Thank you so much! Really appreciate it! :)

We're in the beginning stages of building up our gardens. We haven't found a good source of wood chips, but we can get TONS of dead leaves for free. That's probably going to be what we end up using.

Leaves are great but for paths I would shred them first. If you walk on them a lot they can mat down and become slick overtime. Another way around this would be to get some small sticks and chop and drop them on top of the leaves. That would add a little extra traction and make it easier to walk on the leaf covered paths when they are wet. Thanks for commenting and good luck!

Excellent advice!

I have been using a mix of gravel in some places and grass in others for the paths.

But am just swapping over to wood chips.

I hadn't thought about the fungi aspect of the wood chips. That does make a lot of sense.

Wood chips are really great--the only real downside I have found is having to top it up occasionally. But generally this is not a big deal.

Last year I found a bunch of morel mushrooms coming up in my wood chips. I'm hoping for some this year and I spread some winecap mushroom spawn around so I'm hoping those show up too. The fungal side is a big reason why I love wood chips.

Thanks for the comment!

Do you have any issue with slugs living in the woodchips?

I don't--it seems like the slugs don't like wood chips. But they do show up in my leaves. But in both cases I have found that the things that eat slugs or their eggs like a large type of black ground beetle do seem to like the wood chips. Whenever I mulch areas I see less slugs but more of the predators. The slugs never go away but the impact is less. Here is a video that dives into it a bit:

Hmm.. the text went away. My experience is that slugs go down in number as I mulch. The video goes into some reasons that I think apply to my garden too. Just the first part of the video is about slugs and wood chips. But basically the idea is that wood chips help the critters that eat the slugs. There might be some other reasons too that the video goes into.

That is very interesting about the predators. I am going to start looking for them to see if I notice a difference.

Just think of the woodchips as "soil in the making" plus it doesn't require the work of grass. My paths were chips and shredded leaves-not the prettiest material but easy and plentiful in my woods.

Very true! And always good to use what you have available to you! Thanks for sharing!

Another good reason for wood chips instead of grass on the paths is that the grass is always trying to invade the garden areas. The only way to stop it is to get rid of it.

Very true! That is a good reason not to have grass. Thanks for commenting!

I couldn't agree more. I know you've seen my wild garden in the making. Our food forest is woodchiped. If I had to guess I'd say around 1/2 to 3/4 of an acre is covered in woodchips right now. It's the best thing I ever did. TONS of work to get it done but in the end it saves me a tone of work and headache. It also saves resources. Mulch=very little watering. ;)

Agreed! It is a bit of work to get it setup but in the long run it saves so much time and helps everything grow. I always enjoy seeing your updates from your wild garden! :) Thanks for sharing!

Thanks wildhomesteading! Ditto to you! :)

We have an unlimited source of wood chips, so I used them in the New Herb garden, as it has beds and the walkways won't be changing. In the veg gardens, I use mulch hay as the walkways change year to year. I NEVER use straw as it becomes VERY slippery when wet and is a falling hazard.

I'd never use grass as the crabgrass here is very invasive. I use edging to try to keep the lawn out of the flowerbeds. I have to keep a 3" - 4" dead zone between the lawn and edging for it to have any effect.

Nice! I called out wood chips because I like them but my parents use hay or straw. It works great for them too! Thanks for sharing your experience!

All this is very true but wood chips are very hard to get here and quite expensive. A few years ago we calculated we will need a 6 months average salary to cover all our paths with 15 cm of mulch.

Also, grass grows very well in the mulch as well. Just needs time.

We still spent some money on some mulch and tested on 2 paths. 10 cm deep. It was gone in less than 2 years. It's an impossible investment, sadly. Also one rooted in economy of excess.

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Yeah, you got to use what is available in your area. Straw or hay can be a good option too. My parents use those in their garden.

In my area wood chips are easy to find for free. There are multiple places that give them away all the time and I can often reach out to tree service companies and get them to give me large loads of chips for no cost. Otherwise they would just take the chips to the dump.

If wood chips were not available for free in my area I would not use them. It would cost way too much to buy them.

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