If you’re a gardener, you know that adding wood chips to your garden is a great way to improve the soil quality and add nutrients, so hauling wood chips for your garden is probably something you’ve considered.
But if you’ve never hauled wood chips before, you may not know how many trips it will take to transport the chips you need.
In this blog post, I’ll give you all the information you need to haul wood chips in your vehicle. You’ll know how many yards of wood chips can fit in different types of cars, and we’ll give you some tips on how to secure the load so that it doesn’t shift during transport.
Plus, we’ll give you a list of helpful tools and accessories that can make hauling wood chips easier and safer for you!
Wood Chips Are Gold for the Garden
Wood chips are basically shredded wood that you can buy from garden centers everywhere. They can be made of stump grindings, trees, shrubs, or other material. The chips are usually sold by the cubic yard at garden centers or landscape centers.
In my vegetable garden in western North Carolina, I use a lot of wood chips. The walkways between the beds are all wood chips, 2-3″ thick:
The benefits of wood chips in the garden are almost endless. Of course, you already know how great they are, or you wouldn’t be looking to haul them. Let’s briefly touch on some of their benefits in case you need some inspiration.
Wood chips play an important role in pathways because they are very efficient shock absorbers. When you walk on a thick layer of wood chips, your feet don’t feel the same impact as when you walk on a hard surface like concrete or asphalt. This is especially important because you spend a lot of time in your garden as a gardener, so you want the experience to be as easy on your joints as possible. If you haven’t tried walking on wood chips in your garden, give it a try.
Of course, pathways aren’t the only way that wood chips help your garden. They also help IN the garden beds themselves.
In the Garden Beds
Wood chips also have many benefits in garden beds. For one, they help as mulch to conserve water by slowing down the rate at which water evaporates from the soil. They also help suppress weeds.
Now, back to those wood chips in the walkways.
After about 2 years in your walkways, the wood chips have broken down enough to be shoveled directly into your soil to add nitrogen, microbes, and healthy organisms to your soil.
I call this “lazy composting”.
The chips break down in the pathways even though they aren’t technically in a compost pile. Why? Because they are constantly exposed to water and agitated mechanically (by your feet). The UV rays from the sun break the chips down further and the chips are processed by all the microbial activity they are in constant contact with.
Amount of Wood Chip Mulch You Can Fit in Various Trucks
Now that you know all the benefits of using wood chips in your garden, let’s take a look at how many yards of chips you can fit in different types of trucks. We’ll look at trucks that an average person might have access to, so I won’t cover dump trucks here.
I don’t cover cars here, because I don’t recommend attempting to move loose chips inside a car.
You could always have the wood chip mulch delivered, but if you choose to pick up the material yourself, read on!
Regular Pickup Truck Load Size
A regular-sized pickup truck bed will hold around 2.5 cubic yards of wood chips if it is over-filled slightly and covered with a secure tarp after loading. That load of wood chips will weigh around 1600 pounds.
Short-Bed Pickup Truck Load Size
A short-bed truck (small truck) will hold just over 2 cubic yards of wood chips if it is over-filled slightly and covered with a secure tarp after loading. That load of wood chips will weigh around 1300 pounds.
Trailer Load Size
Trailer sizes vary, so we’ll look at trailer sizes that can be pulled by a “regular” vehicle.
A flat trailer that you can pull with a regular pickup can hold around 2000 pounds of payload. Based on the density of wood chips, that trailer can safely haul around 3 cubic yards of covered wood chips.
How Many Yards of Wood Chips Do You Need?
Cubic Feet you need = square feet you want to cover * chip depth you want (in ft)
For example, if you have 15 beds in your garden that are 1.5 ft wide and 18 ft long, you have a total of 15*1.5*18= 405 square feet you want to cover.
To find out how many cubic yards of chips you’ll need for your garden bed areas, you’ll multiply the square feet of the area you want to cover by the depth of coverage you want.
In this case, we’ll cover with wood chips to a depth of 3 inches (.25 ft).
So, 405 square feet * .25 ft= 101.25 cubic feet or 3.7 cubic yards.
In this example, we’ll need 3.7 cubic yards of chips, so regardless of whether we use a regular truck, a short-bed truck, or a trailer, we’ll need 2 loads.
Because we’ll need to make 2 trips no matter which we choose, we’ll choose the truck or trailer that’s easiest for us to access.
Consider borrowing or renting a dump truck if you need more than 4 cubic yards of chips, or let the garden center deliver it. Their delivery fee may be less than the dump truck rental, with much less headache.
Tips for Hauling Wood Chips
Having a few things in place before you start your trip is crucial to your success:
Take a tarp or old bed sheet with you
Once you get to the garden center, you’ll lay this down in your truck bed wherever you plan to put the chips. This will keep your truck bed cleaner and will help you remove the last bit of the loads out of your truck.
You don’t want to waste extra time having to get wood chips out of the truck bed when you could make it easier on yourself.
Know exactly how you'll get the chips off the vehicle before you go
This is especially important if you are making more than one trip in a single day.
Make sure you have plastic down over the entire area that you’ll store the chips once they’re unloaded. Having plastic down will keep weeds from growing into your large pile of mulch. The last thing you want is to have weeds growing in the bark mulch you worked so hard to transport. At that point, the weeds will be impossible to remove, rendering your mulch almost useless.
We use this garden plastic to lay down on the ground where we want to place our piles.
You can see in the picture below that this plastic is wide enough to handle pretty much any pile you can lay down. It’s also thick enough to hold up for several seasons of use.
If you don’t have a dump trailer, you’ll need several people to help you shovel the chips off the truck so you can make another trip.
DON’T invite your buddies along to the garden center, though. The garden center will probably have a front-end loader to load your vehicle so you won’t really need those extra people. And if they ride with you, their combined weight will take away from the amount of chips you can safely haul and every pound counts.
So tell your pals to stay home, hydrate, and wait to help you shovel the chips off the truck once you get home.
Have enough tarps to fully cover the load (and don't forget to take them with you)
Covering your load of wood chip mulch is very important and is something you have to do. Having loose materials flying off the load will get you a hefty fine from local law enforcement. Not to mention the waste of product you probably had to pay for.
It’s best to have a couple of tarps around that you take with you to cover the load once it’s on the truck.
We use this 10′ x 12′ tarp because it’s big enough to cover pretty much any load we carry in a truck. If we use the flatbed trailer, we use this bigger tarp.
Have ratchet straps that are rated for the load weight you will carry
Now that you have your tarps, you need a way to secure the tarps over the load and attach it to the truck.
A set of ratchet straps is perfect for this job. Just make sure the ratchet straps you use are strong enough for the load you have.
Ratchet straps are awesome. They allow you to connect the strap to the tie-downs on the side of your truck bed and then mechanically ratchet out the slack in the strap. This holds the strap and the tarp snugly against the material load so it doesn’t shift or fall out.
We use these ratchet straps to cover and secure our mulch loads. We like using ratchet straps because we already have them for securing equipment, so we don’t have to make an extra purchase.
You could certainly use bungee cords to secure the load, but ratchet straps are so strong that I don’t have to worry about whether they will stand up to the job.
Consider buying ratchet straps like them if you don’t already have some. That way you can use them to secure heavy equipment too, not just wood chip mulch or compost.
Have 2 X 4s or other long weighted items to lay over the tarps
It’s also a good idea to have 2x4s or other wooden stakes or items that you can lay over the edges of the tarp once it’s over your pile. You may not need these if you have ratchet straps, but they can definitely help make sure there is no air between the load and the tarp. Once you are flying down the road, any space between the tarp and the load might allow your mulch to fly off the pile.
Don’t buy these items; just use whatever you have laying around to weigh it down.
Make sure your truck brakes are in good working order
Loading up a truck with 1400 pounds of material plus the vehicle weight will absolutely change the way your vehicle brakes. You’ll need to give yourself plenty of room to stop while driving with such a heavy load, so be prepared for that.
You’ll also need to make sure your brake pads have plenty of life left in them before you head out to get your mulch.
A heavy load will likely change the way your car steers as well. It can make your steering wheel pull to one side or the other, so be ready for that.
All in all, you just need to have a healthy respect for transporting heavy materials, even if you’re driving a vehicle you’re used to.
Equipment You'll Need to Haul Wood Chips
To review, we covered all the materials you’ll need to haul wood chips with as little difficulty as possible. The items you’ll need are:
- Garden plastic to lay down under the mulch once you take them off the truck.
- Tarps to cover the mulch load if using a pickup truck
- Tarps to cover the mulch load if using a larger trailer
- Ratchet straps to secure the load to the truck
- Old bed sheet or tarp to lay down under the chips on the truck bed
- 2x4s or other long weighted items to weigh down the edges of the top tarp.
Now that you know everything you need to know to haul your wood chips, you’ll be able to transport them safely. Mulch is an absolute super-star in our garden, and I hope you haul as much as you can to put in your garden. Do you use mulch in your garden? Comment below and let me know!