Western Red Cedar Mulch smells the best and lasts the longest. This mulch is reddish-brown and great for tree and shrub beds. Its shredded fibers make it stay in place even on windy days. Cedar Bark Mulch also helps stop weeds and fungus, and you can enjoy its fresh cedar smell.

Common Myths About Wood Chips for Mulch

Wood chips for mulch are popular, but people have questions. Does it take away nutrients from the soil? Is the dye in black mulch harmful? Do wood chips bring termites or catch fire by themselves?

I’ll look into these myths in this post.

Understanding Wood Chips

Type of Mulch Description Source Characteristics
Arborist Wood Chips Cut from trees or shrubs into small pieces; may include leaves Cutting trees or shrubs Rough texture, mixed with leaves
Colored Mulch Finely chopped wood dyed red, brown, or black Arborist chips or reclaimed wood Available in various colors
Cedar Mulch Made from cedar wood Cedar wood More costly, decomposes slower, may deter termites
Ramial Wood Chips Made from small to medium branches with leaves Small to medium branches Richer in nutrients due to more cambium
Other Mulch Types Straw, hay, stones, etc. Various Mulch can be made from a variety of materials


Note: These mulches are similar, and myths about them generally apply to all

Do Wood Chips Take Nitrogen From Soil?

Wood has a lot of carbon compared to nitrogen. When it breaks down, it needs nitrogen to do so. Fungi start breaking down the wood first, and they use soil nitrogen to help.

Fungi have tiny parts called hyphae that go into the soil and get nitrogen for the wood. They take nitrogen from the top layer of soil, but this is usually above where plants’ roots reach. This can stop weed seeds from growing, which is good. That’s why wood chips aren’t great for vegetable gardens.

Bacteria are smaller and only get nitrogen from the soil surface.

In short, wood chips do take nitrogen from the soil, but it doesn’t affect the nitrogen near plant roots. As the wood breaks down more, some nitrogen goes back into the soil. In the end, there’s more nitrogen overall.

Cedar Wood Chips: Aging Is Important

Some say fresh cedar wood chips take nitrogen from soil. They recommend using aged chips instead. As chips get older, they take less nitrogen.

For nutrients, chips don’t need aging. They’re fine in garden beds as they are.

Check the disease section below for why aged wood chips might be better.

Wood Chips Can Catch Fire

Wood chips can catch on fire easily. So, it’s not safe to have wood chips close to a house in areas where fires can happen.

A study checked different types of mulch to see which ones are safer:

  • Shredded rubber, pine needles, and shredded western red cedar are the most dangerous.
  • Wood chips are less dangerous, and thin layers of them burn slower.
  • Wood chips treated with special stuff to stop fires are a little better than regular wood chips.
  • Composted wood chips are the safest.

Certain assertions suggest that Western red cedar mulch has repellent properties against termites. Research indicates that Western red cedar exhibits varying degrees of resistance to termites, ranging from minimal to substantial. According to the European standard EN 350-2 (CEN 1994), Western red cedar is categorized as susceptible to termites, whereas the Australian standard AS5604 (Standards Australia 2005) designates it as resistant.