Updated August 22, 2018
Please watch this video, and read and understand the information below before signing up. There are a lot of 'gotchas' that you need to understand if you're going to use this service.
If you're an arborist, there's stuff in here for you, too. If you have any questions, just send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Why would I want this?
Arborist wood chips make a great mulch for your yard or garden. Mulching around garden beds and along pathways will help keep down weeds and retain moisture in your soil.
Check out this video to see what arborist wood chips are, and why they're the best choice for your yard and garden.
How big is a Chip Drop?
You'll receive an entire dump trucks worth of wood chips, which can be as much as 20 cubic yards, approximately. There is no way to request a specific amount; you won't know how much you're getting until it shows up. It could be as little as 4 yards.
That may seem like a lot, but wood chips break down quickly, and it's recommended to spread them in a thick layer to work effectively, up to 9" thick! If you end up having more than you need, give some away to your neighbors! The crews won't drop partial loads, so please be ready to accept as much as 20 yards.
Here are some pictures to show you what you're getting. Most of these pictures came from homeowners who were upset with the size of the load or the amount of leaves and pine needles in them. Please consider this before signing up.
How to prepare before a Chip Drop
The following tips can help ensure that the chips get dropped where you want them, without issue:
Your dump spot must be accessible to the crew without a phone call prior. If you require a call ahead of time, you should not sign up for this service.
Make sure the dump spot is big enough. No less than 8' wide, and 15' long, with room for the truck to maneuver. The chips will spill out on all sides, so make sure to barricade or move any delicate plants, pots, yard art, garden gnomes, etc., that might get buried.
Make sure there aren't cars parked in the dump spot during the day.
Areas along busy streets (speed limit >25mph) are not great dump spots.
Check for low overhead lines and tree branches that the drop box would hit as it's being raised. They can go up pretty high, about 20'.
Leave a marker on the place where you want the chips dropped. This can be a tarp, a cone, or a six pack of beer.
Include a secondary dump spot in your description, in case the crew is not able to drop them at your first choice. (e.g. 'If you can't drop them in the driveway, drop them on the side of the road in front of the house.')
What's allowed in a Chip Drop?
A typical load contains about 50% wood chips and 50% green, leafy material or pine needles. About 5% of the load is often unchipped brush, small sticks, and maybe a few scoops of dirt, gravel or trash.
There is always a small amount of material at the end of a job that the chipper won't accept for one reason or another. In order to make this service viable, a small amount of random debris should be expected in each load. Just chuck it in your refuse bin.
What's not allowed in a Chip Drop?
None of the following items should be included in a wood chip load:
logs (unless the gardener has specified that they accept logs)
more garbage than you could pickup with two hands
large rocks over 1"
any wood species that the gardener has specified they do not accept
un-chipped brush or woody material that is over 5% of the entire load. This includes long, shredded or stringy chips that have been processed by a poorly adjusted chipper. Check your anvil and blade gap (arborists).
dirt, grass clippings, rocks, or any landscaping or fill materials
old wood chips that have been sitting for more than 2 weeks
construction waste, including plywood, lumber, nails and screws, etc.
As an arborist, you may have bad loads from time to time that do not meet Chip Drop's requirements. Also, if your chipper blades are dull, or the blades are not adjusted correctly, you may produce a stringy, shredded material that is not appropriate for delivery at Chip Drop sites. Any time you have a 'bad load', please dump it somewhere else.
Accidents happen. In the event of an accident, the following describes who is responsible for reparations:
Arborist trucks are heavy. If your driveway is thin enough, it could crack from the weight of a large truck. Any damage to your driveway or yard as a result of an arborist's truck is the responsibility of the property owner, not the arborist or Chip Drop.
It is the responsibility of the arborist to know if they can safely maneuver and drop a load in the specified location. Any damage to property, with the exception of the driveway, as a result of an arborist's truck, or the chips or logs they drop, is the responsibility of the arborist.
Chip Drop is not liable for any damage to persons or property related to the delivery of wood chips or logs. If an incident involving personal injury or property damage occurs, Chip Drop will help to facilitate a resolution by putting each party in contact with each other. It is up to the parties involved to resolve the issue independently of Chip Drop. Chip Drop is not liable for fees, fines or penalties associated with any delivery of a load of wood chips.
When will I get mine?
As soon as you check one of the 4 boxes in your profile, you could get a delivery as early as that day. Typical delivery times are between 1 and 5 weeks. Longer wait times will occur during winter months, and to locations in less populated areas, or in any city where Chip Drop is just getting started. Offering to pay for a delivery can help increase your chances of getting a delivery sooner. If you haven't received chips after 25 days, we'll send you an email to make sure you still want to be on the list.
Will there be logs in my Chip Drop?
Arborists should not put any unchipped logs into a load unless the gardener has specified that they accept logs. If you're a gardener who is accepting logs, please know that they may be rather large. The logs won't come pre-split, and they may be longer than you need them. You cannot specify the length or diameter of the logs, but you can specify that you don't want them.
If you're requesting a load of logs, you'll want to be sure you have access to a chainsaw and splitting equipment. There's no guarantee that the logs will be cut to length before they arrive.
*Pro Tip: By accepting a few logs, you're more likely to get wood chips sooner.
Why are there sticks in my Chip Drop?
Sticks and twigs also make great bio material for your yard and soil. Most plant material, even sticks and twigs, will break down within 1 year and provide nutrients for your soil and habitat for beneficial insects. If you have a yard debris collection service in your city, you can also use this to get rid of any unwanted woody material.
Why is there garbage in my Chip Drop?
In some cases you may find small amounts of garbage or small rocks in your wood chip pile. Please understand that arborists often rake and clean areas right next to roadways, and cannot sift through all of the piles to remove all of the garbage. If you feel like you've received an excessive amount of trash in your load, please let us know. If you find a shredded glove, a soda can, and a candy wrapper, search for the arborist. They may be in there.
What's the white stuff growing in my Chip Drop?
As wood chips sit in a large pile, they will naturally heat up and start to decompose. As this happens, mushroom mycelium will start to grow on the wood chips and break them down. This may look like a white or green mold growing on the wood chips. There may also be a powdery substance that floats in the air when you disturb the pile. This is all normal wood chip behavior, and is actually very beneficial to your soil and garden. However, it can be very bad to breathe in this dust. We recommend that you wear a dust mask while spreading wood chip mulch to avoid breathing in too much of the dust.
If you have asthma, any breathing related medical issue, or any known allergies to wood or plant material, you should not spread wood chips in your yard. Please have someone spread the wood chips for you. After the chips are spread, wait about 2-ish weeks before you walk on them.
Read more about the benefits of mycelium and fungi in the garden.
Where should wood chips never be dropped?
As an arborist, please never drop wood chips in the following locations, even if specified by the owner:
blocking a neighbor's driveway
blocking a car in a driveway
blocking the pedestrian right-of-way
on a narrow or busy road such that the load spills out past where your truck would be if it were parked in that same place
around the base of a tree or on top of obvious landscape plantings
next to or on top of any piece of property or structure that could be damaged by the weight of the load
Paying for a Chip Drop - Gardeners and Homeowners
Chip Drop allows gardeners and homeowners an option to pay for a delivery. If you decide to pay for a delivery, the payment will be processed after the chips are delivered. If you never receive a delivery, your card will never be charged.
Paying for a delivery is voluntary, with a range from $20 - $80. Any payment you make helps to offset the cost to the tree company to use the service. If you're only interested in free wood chips, you can still sign up! Over half of our deliveries go to folks who don't want to pay.
Paying for a delivery does not change the quantity, quality, or type of material you will receive with your delivery. It does not change the Expectations of Service in any way, other than increasing your chances of getting a delivery sooner. It does not guarantee that you will receive a delivery.
Again, paying is not required, but it is greatly appreciated!
Fee to dump - Arborists
Chip Drop costs $20 per drop for arborists. There is no subscription or monthly fee. In some cities Chip Drop is free for arborists, but this is only temporary until we reach a critical mass of users in your city. We'll give you a heads up if we're going to start charging in your area.
Some drop sites are free to arborists, no matter what. These are sites where the homeowner / gardener has offered to pay for the delivery. Here's how it works:
any gardener who offers to pay $20 for a drop is free for the arborist to drop at. The gardener essentially pays the arborist's fee.
any gardener who offers to pay $40 - $80 for a drop is free for the arborist to drop at, plus we will apply a credit to the arborist's account for the difference, which can be used for future drops (e.g. arborist delivers to a gardener who's offering $60 for a delivery, we'll give the arborist 40 credits towards 2 future drops)
Arborists can acrue credits by dropping at sites where the gardener has offered to pay for a delivery. These credits will tally up in the arborist's account and can be used towards future drops. Credits can never be cashed in, or redeemed outside of the Chip Drop service. They can only be used towards drops which might otherwise require the arborist to pay a fee.
These Expectations of Service are supplementary and complementary to our Terms of Service. In any case where these Expectations of Service contradict our Terms of Service, the Terms of Service take precedence.
Here are answers to some common question that folks often ask:
Can I get a half load?
Nope. You have to accept the whole truck load, up to 20 yards.
Can I request 'no leaves'?
Nope. You should expect leaves and pine needles in your delivery.
I only want 'clean wood chips'.
I don't know what that means, but Chip Drop is probably not the right service for you. You should find mulch from another source.
How do I take myself off the list?
You can add or remove yourself from the list any time by checking or un-checking the boxes in your profile.
How do I make sure I only get one load?
We automatically take everyone off the list after each delivery attempt.
How do I get multiple loads?
Just add yourself back to the list. There's no limit on how many loads you can receive.
Will diseases from the wood chips spread to other plants in my yard?
Probably not. Check out this paper.
Will wood chips attract ants and termites to my yard?
Nope. Check out this paper.
Will wood chips acidify my soil?
No. Check out this paper.
Will wood chips rob my soil of nitrogen?
Most certainly not. Check out this paper.
Pine needles are definitely bad for my garden, right?
Wrong again. Here's This Old House to tell you why.
Is Chip Drop really free?
Chip Drop is free for gardeners (anyone who wants wood chips). Chip Drop costs $20 per drop for arborists.
How do I mulch around a tree?
This Old House will teach you.
How do I mulch in a garden?
This guy will explain it to you.
How do I kill weeds and grass with mulch?
All will be revealed in this captivating video.
How do I make sure I don't get a delivery while I'm on vacation?
Just take yourself off the list temporarily, and add yourself back whenever you're ready to receive a delivery again.
But I don't want to get bumped to the back of the list!
There's no order or priority to the list. Arborists don't deliver to sites based on how long they have been waiting. Arborists choose sites based on who is closest to them, whether or not they're willing to accept logs, and whether or not they're willing to pay for the delivery. They may also look at previous delivery attempts you've had, and comments that previous arborists have made about your site.
How do I speed up my delivery?
By accepting a few logs, not being too picky or specific in your description, and making sure your site is set up properly . Offering $20 for a delivery also helps when demand is high, like in the spring and summer months, but it's not required. We don't want folks to feel like they have to pay in order to get a delivery.
I signed up last month, but now I'm not on the list any more. What happened?
We take each site off the list every 25 days as a security precaution. You'll get an email from us each time with an easy 'Keep Me On The List' button. I know it's annoying, but it's necessary.
A car was blocking the driveway and the arborist couldn't drop the chips. Am I blacklisted now?
You're not blacklisted, but the arborist probably left a comment that other arborists can see. If you have too many unsuccessful drops, future arborists probably won't want to drop at your site. To avoid this, make sure your site is set up properly.
I don't want any Palm, Tree of Heaven, Black Walnut, or Oleander in my delivery.
These actually make fine mulches, and aren't harmful to your garden as some may have you believe. But if there are any species that you don't want, there is a section in your profile where you can list them. The arborists should honor these requests.
I don't want any mulch that is poisonous to my dogs or horses.
It's up to you to know which species of wood chips are toxic to your animals. Most animals who are fed a proper diet will not consume plants or wood chips that are toxic. Well, Labs probably will. But other than Labs, most animals are smart enough not to eat poisonous wood chips. Please consults your veterinarian, and list any species that you don't want in your profile.
I heard that it's bad to mulch thicker than 2".
This is probably true with decorative or store-bought mulches. This isn't a problem with arborist wood chips. They won't compact and create a water barrier like some mulches do, and you don't need to till or cultivate arborist wood chip mulch like you need to with some decorative mulches. #lowmaintenance
Will there be thorns in my wood chips?
There could be. In most cases the thorns will break down and dissolve after laying on the ground for a few months. In general, you shouldn't plan on walking around your yard bare foot after you've laid down mulch. If there aren't thorns, the wood will still be splintery. If you're using the wood chips for a playground, specify this in your description and list 'no thorns'. Hopefully the arborists will honor this request, but no guarantees. It's a 'use at your own risk' sort of deal when it comes to thorns and spikey tree bits. Nature is a nasty thing :)
My wood chip pile is hot. Will it catch on fire?
No, but if you're worried about it, just spread it out and spray it down with a hose. The heat will dissipate quickly once it's not piled up in a mound.
Will invasive species spread from the wood chips I get?
They could. There's seeds and rhizomes of all kinds floating around all over the place, expecially in cities, and they will likely be in your new pile of arborist wood chips. The key is to keep an eye on the pile after you spread out the wood chips, and pull any volunteers that sprout up out of the loose mulch. You can also let your pile 'cook' for a couple of weeks before you spread it out in your yard. This will help kill any viable plant material in the load.
How do I know if Chip Drop is active in my area?
After you sign up, check the map in your profile. Recent Chip Drops in your city will show up as brown triangles on the map. If you only see your house and no brown triangles, it probably means we don't have an active service in your area yet. If you can wait on the list for a while, it helps to encourage arborists in your area to start using the service. Otherwise, check back in the next time you need some mulch, and maybe we'll have better service in your area by then.