Wood chip ground cover for large areas
I'm wondering about using wood chips as a ground cover in non-grass areas of my yard, such as around some pine trees and a large area with many different plants/shrubs with paving stone walkways through it.
The wood chips sink into the soil and partially decompose. Does this rob the soil of nitrogen for the spreading roots of the shrubs? Are there any reasons to rake out old wood chips every few years and replace them, rather than just topping off these areas with chips every so often?
Also, what are the alternatives to leaving these areas as dirt (mud, often), gravel or "walkable" ground covers? I walk around these areas often to water, maintain the plantings and work on the house exterior.
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