How to Compost Wood Chips Fast

If you find yourself with a lot of wood chips to get rid of, you can always compost them.

Composting wood chips allows you to turn excess wood from your property into a rich, nutritious, organic growing medium for your gardens.

Why throw all of that perfectly good money away, rather than having them hauled off or dumping them into the woods?!

If you have a high quality compost accelerator like Urea on hand (or intend to obtain some), which will help to improve the decomposition rate of your wood chips, you will work through your pile far more quickly. This is not a must-have, but it can save your back a bit of labor.

How to Compost Wood Chips Fast

In average conditions, wood chips can take several years to fully decompose.

This can greatly vary depending on how the compost pile is built and maintained, what is in the compost pile, what time of year the compost pile is started, what type of wood is used, and how large the chips are.

As you can see, there are many variables that will affect the time that it takes to decompose your wood chips.

By ensuring that you provide optimum conditions for decomposition (small chips, wood species that aren’t rot resistant, balancing nitrogen & carbon, etc), and by giving fungi a hospitable place to call home, your wood chips will compost much more quickly.

wood chips

What Size Wood Chips Decompose the Fastest?

If you want your wood chips to decompose as quick as possible, make sure that the chips are as small as you can get them.

Smaller chips from tiny branches and overgrown brush around the property will decompose much faster.

However, very large wood chips that come from your local power company could be over 8 inches in length and take far longer.

Instead of composting the largest chunks of wood, try using them for kindling your fireplace or in a bonfire.

wood chips storing

Balancing Nitrogen and Carbon (Greens and Browns) for the Fastest Wood Chip Compost

If you want to learn how to compost wood chips fast, you must learn how to balance the greens and browns in a compost pile.

The browns are carbon-rich organic materials, such as wood, brown leaves, paper, cardboard, hay, straw, and more. The greens are nitrogen-rich materials, such as green foliage, urine, grass clippings, and manure.

If your compost pile is composed of nothing but wood chips, it will break down very slowly.

To speed up the process, add lots of green material to the compost pile to “heat things up.”

The hotter a compost pile gets, the more quickly the items within will break down.

If you plan to mow your yard, or if you need to clean out the chicken coop or rabbit hutches, it would be an excellent idea to add the clippings and manure to the wood chips in a compost pile.

Make sure that everything is well mixed and evenly dispersed for the best results while composting.


When to Start a Wood Chip Compost Pile & How to Speed Up Decomposition

Conditions favorable for decomposition are always warm and wet; this includes your wood pile.

You can begin building your wood chip pile year round, but for the fastest results, arrange to have chips delivered during the late winter or early spring; this will give you 3 to 8 months of warmer weather for the chips to break down.

Build your mound of fresh chips, and keep it moistened. Do not allow it to dry out, or decomposition will slow. Water it just like you would the garden!

If you didn’t balance the pile with “greens”, it is a good idea to apply the Urea we mentioned at the beginning of this post around once per month. You may need to apply it heavily during the first month or two, perhaps a handful or two.

Apply the urea in a flat area at the top, helping to prevent it from washing down the sides of the pile when it is watered.

Turn your wood chips as often as possible (every two weeks) to help them decompose quickly and more uniformly.

7 Tips For Making And Using Compost In The Garden

Do Some Woods Take Longer to Compost Than Others?

If there are rot resistant woods in the pile of mulch, try to pick them out; they will not deteriorate quickly, and some such as Cedar may actually thwart the process by deterring beneficial insects that will compost the wood.

These woods are known to be resistant to rot, and may frequently be found in chips that come from local lumber yards or saw mills:

  • Cedar
  • Black Locust
  • Osage Orange
  • Bald Cypress
  • Redwood
  • Oak

If any of these are found in your pile of chips, then you should be aware that these woods will take longer to break down.

Be sure to place the decomposing woodpile in a section of your yard that you won’t mind setting aside for a while (via

Composting 101 – Tips & Tricks

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