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I have a few trees that need to come down in my hard-to-access backyard. I know I can dispose of the rounds for firewood. But the brush is a different story: I hardly have a way of disposing of it. And there will be a ton of it.

The backyard has mature pachysandra covering. I would like to construct a 3ft-wide path through it. So perhaps there's a synergy: I could chip the wood on-site and then use the chips to make the path.

Is that a good idea or are there major issues I'm not seeing?

  • I've done exactly what you're planning and it'll last for three-five years if the path is at least six inches deep. I wouldn't bother if the path is much thinner than that - as Colin Beckingham notes in his answer, the thinner the layer of chips, the quicker they rot. You should also consider how you're going to re-do the path once the chips have turned into compost - are you going to want to use a wheelbarrow to move yards of purchased chips to your hard-to-reach path? It's not a fun job, but it IS a great workout :) – Jurp Jul 9 at 11:02
  • @Jurp can six inches be achieved by using an edging kit and without digging? – Wynne Jul 9 at 17:02
  • My paths were on the side of a hill, so I used 2-3" diameter branches at the top of the slope and 6-8" diameter branches for edging at the bottom edge (these were all pretty much from trees that didn't burn well or were already deadfall). I staked the bottom branches in place with a mix of edging stakes, 12" long (~1/2" diameter) honeysuckle cuttings, and raingutter stakes (basically, whatever I had on hand). Sounds weird now that I've typed it, but it worked well enough and really wasn't unsightly. – Jurp Jul 10 at 0:23
  • I don't see how you can get a 6" height with an edge kit/plastic edging. You would probably have better luck with 1" x 6" treated lumber or recycled plastic "wood". You could also just lay down a 6" deep and 3 foot wide path on top of the groundcover, without much edging. Tamp it/compact it after laying it down and you shouldn't lose much down the sides. No matter how you control the chips, you're always going to have to watch where you're walking or you'll fall off the edge, which could be murder on your ankles. – Jurp Jul 10 at 0:25
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It's a good idea, but the result will not be long lasting unless you live in a very dry area. Wood within a few inches of the ground will rot fairly quickly due to repeated exposure to dew and ground moisture, so the path will look good for a couple of years and then turn mouldy and be a great compost. The compost will encourage growth of various kinds, so your path will turn to a grass plot which might need mowing.

If you can get the chippings up high then the process will be slower. Say you cut the thick wood into 3 foot lengths and lay them down sideways, then put the chips on top. Reaving the rounds into half rounds and laying them down flat side up would give you an even surface to lay the chips on. Rot will still happen but be much slower.

  • WIll the rot be accelerated by the fact that initially all the leaves will be mixed in with the wood chips? – Wynne Jul 9 at 17:36
  • Yes, the smaller the objects the more surface area in a given volume for the moisture to cling to. – Colin Beckingham Jul 9 at 17:46

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