Spreading wood chips in garden concern

We had two large dead trees cut down and a lot of trees trimmed last week and then ground down into wood chips. Our intention was to gradually spread the chips around our large garden areas. The tree cutters left the huge pile of wood chips in an area at the base of three trees. Yesterday our neighbors, who are really into gardening, informed us that we had to move the chip pile away from the base of the three trees quickly, that they would die from suffocation otherwise. Is this true? If so, how long do we have to move them? Also must we be careful not to spread the chips too close to our garden plants? Thanks for any advice/suggestions.
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Yesterday our neighbors, who are really into gardening, informed

It is true that you must move the chips. Most trees can be damaged if the original soil level at the base is not maintained. It would not be necessary to remove every single chip. Just remove enough so that the original soil level at the base of the tree is exposed. A small amount, less than an inch, can remain but my no means should they be piled against the base of the tree. I do not know exactly how long it would take to damage the tree, probably some time. Why not at least move them away from the base of the tree right away? that is what I would do.
Also must we be careful

It is not a good idea to mix fresh wood chips into your garden soil. Wood chips require a nitrogen source to aid in their decomposition. In order to decompose the chips will rob the surrounding soil (and garden) of nitrogen. Chips are very nice in your garden paths where you walk and will decompose nicely there and can be gradually mixed in to your garden as they decompose. You can hasten the decomp of the chips by making a compost pile with them. Mix with grass clippings or another high nitrogen source (manure). they will turn into valuable compost in a year or two and can be added to your yard or garden at will.
Lawrence
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tenplay wrote:

A thin layer would be OK, but as they noted you don't want to have so much that the effectually change the ground level or constitute enough matter that they will reduce the available nitrogen in the soil for the tree. I suggest you may want to allow them to compost for a year or two while you mix in a lot of nitrogen rich material like fresh cut grass or some grass type high nitrogen fertilizer in. You can sheet compost if you have the area.
Good Luck.
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Joseph Meehan

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It is true that the tree root area should not be covered or buried in such a way to prevent air from getting to the surface area. It is bad to pile anything next to the trunk of a tree as this can promote disease. How long a tree can stand abuse depends on the condition of the tree, the kind of tree, the tree's age, the area of the pile, etc. A layer of mulch is beneficial to trees, although not more than a 4" layer. Keep in mind that wood chips, as they decay (compost), will quickly deplete the area of nitrogen. You can make an excellent compost pile by mixing the chips with an equal amount of grass clippings--your compost will be ready to use in 2-3 months. The decaying wood chips will use the nitrogen from the green grass clippings.
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Up to 90% of tree roots are near the surface, If you covered maybe half the trees root zone or canopy width maybe 12" thick it could kill it, but a pile of chips? If its maybe 10% of root zone that you are moving soon and not at the base don`t worry. I think compressing roots also kills them, doing it at the base could kill the area that spreads out.
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tenplay wrote:

Thanks for all the advice. So it sounds like I should move the pile of wood chips off the base of the trees. I already spread a layer of chips in some of my flower beds making sure to leave a little breathing space around each plant. Is it ok to leave it there or will the chips harm the plants (i.e. must I remove the chip layer)?
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I already spread a layer of chips

are your flowers annuals or perennials?
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Lawrence wrote:

A mixture of both annuals and perennials as well as flowers and bushes.
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tenplay wrote:

Same possible problem if a reduction in nitrogen.
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Joseph Meehan

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tenplay wrote:

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tenplay wrote:

(Oops, hit the wrong button)
A thin layer of chips are ok and will act as mulch. However, after a few months I would sprinkle them with some slow acting fertilizer to replace any loss due to decomposition.
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tenplay wrote:

I don't believe you ever mentioned what kind of wood (trees) the chips are. Some woods have substances that can inhibit the growth of other plants but that is generally not of much concern.
You should be aware that chips lying on top of the ground will have no effect on the fertility (nitrogen level) of the soil. It is only when the chips are mixed with the soil or sink into the soil over time that nitrates/nitrites will be depleted.
A thin layer (1" or so) of chips from most native North American trees will have not adverse effect on your plants. After a year or so, you should add nitrogen fertilizer to help the soil as the wood decomposes.
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