Wood chips are usually created from chipping tree and landscape prunings and other tree debris. Wood chips create a decorative, natural appearance in a landscape.
When compared to grass clippings, leaves, composts, yard wastes and bark mulch, wood chips perform better as a mulch around plants than other materials when it comes to moisture retention in the soil, temperature control and weed growth reduction.
Wood-chip mulch is a coarse mixture of bark, wood and leaves creating a variety of materials that does not compact easily. It is sold in bags by the cubic foot or in bulk by the cubic yard. It is generally a natural color, but is sometimes sold treated to have a red or black coloring.
Wood chips contain lignin, suberin and tannin compounds that resist decomposition so they remain a part of the landscape for a long time. In warm humid areas like Hawaii, the wood chips will last between 6 to 12 months. Pine bark nuggets, because they are high in lignin will last several seasons according to Kalamazoo (Michigan) Landscape Supplies.
Not all wood chips are expensive if you look for those made of recycled materials like pallets. Wood chips from tree-trimming services are inexpensive and usually available in the local area. Additionally, if you have avoided mulching with wood chips because you fear they may attract termites or carpenter ants, this is a not the case. According to the University of Washington Extension Service's Master Gardener Online, wood chips, particularly those from cedar trees, produce a chemical that actually repels insects.
Benefits of using wood chips in landscaping include improved soil structure, water retention, soil nutrients and temperature moderation.