I probably get asked a hundred times a year how we deal with muddy paths and weeds. A long time ago I had the good fortune of finding a local company that produces a premium recycled mulch: Vision Recycling. I love the fact that they take wood, brush, and organic lumber scraps and make something wonderful out of it. At Love Apple Farm, we have been mulching our paths with Vision Recycling mulch now for about 10 years. We absolutely love it. I like the uniformity of it, the versatility of it, and I have always appreciated their pricing. It's beautiful stuff, take a look:
Vision Recycling works with Bay Area dumps to take wood waste and do something positive with it. I've been to their site and watched their gigantic grinder working on old fence boards, pallets, and lumber bits. From trash to treasure...truly.
They're really good about removing any rocks, nails, hardware, and never use painted or pressure-treated lumber.
I use their wood chips on all of our farm and garden paths. The wonder of it (to me) is that it levels out uneven surfaces, supresses weeds, adds an organic, homey feel to the garden, is less "hot" in the summer than gravel, and I don't have to worry about my gravel getting messed up by leaf drop or wind-borne schmutz. The mulch perfectly blends with anything dropped on it. I've used it to hide old cracked, uneven sidewalks by just mulching over them.
We don't tend to use wood chip mulch like this in our garden beds, but I have used it with great success in ornamental landscaping. It hides drip irrigation lines really well and gives a crisp, professional look to perennial plantings. They have a few different colors and sizes as well. I always get the premium wood chips.
You can go to Vision Recycling and pick up as little or as much mulch as your vehicle can carry, or they'll deliver to you as well. You'll need to figure out the quantity you need in square yards. A "yard" is a unit of measure that is three feet by three feet square. If you want to install a two-inch covering over a garden path that is four feet wide and 50 feet long, you'll need about about one and a quarter yards of mulch. Here is a great landscape calculator to use to estimate your needs. If you click on that calculator to double-check my math, you'll notice that 1.23 cubic yards of mulch equals almost 17 big store-bought bags of mulch. Buying mulch in bags is a bad deal. At about $3 per bag, a 2 cubic foot bag of wood chip mulch would cost you about $51 plus tax. But the same amount at Vision Recycling would be half that.
These types of tips and more are discussed in detail during Love Apple Farm's "Designing the Perfect Vegetable Garden" workshop. I've got a great aerial shot of my original farm on that class page. Just check out all of those paths. Each one covered with mulch. No mud, virtually no weeds, gorgeous! Love Apple Farm's new location will continue the theme of beds and mulched paths, thanks to Vision Recycling.