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Wood Chip Gardening

Dusko Bojic


Joined: Mar 02, 2013
Posts: 11
Location: Sweden
I saw a documentary called Back to Eden where the gardener uses wood chip to cover the soil instead of plowing. I like to try this method but before I do it I would love to hear if any of you did this and what are the results.

It seems to keep great balance in the soil food web, and it keeps the moisture in the soil. It aslo seems to keep weeds at bay and it breaks down with time. I was thinking to place a layer of hey first and then the wood chip.

My wood chip is grinded with a composter and wood is small Ash cuttings, Apple tree branches, Aspen, and Hazzel branches.

Thanks
Mark Livett


Joined: Nov 21, 2012
Posts: 57
I have a decorative front garden (at least there is no lawn) which is mostly bromeliads mulched in 30cm deep cedar wood chips.

We chose cedar because it is apparently termite proof and we didn't want to encourage them too close to the house.

It has been raining for the last three weeks in Queensland and on the weekend I went out to clear some dead plants. The whole bed is full of fungus of some sort, actually there was some white strandy fungus and some yellow clumpy fungus. The mulch has been down less than a year and it is already starting to break down nicely. Not that I want it to break down at all.

For the fruit trees in the mulch I have put some collars around the trunks to keep the mulch away and for the smaller tea bushes I have used empty water bottles with the tops and bottoms cut off to try and stop the wet mulch from affecting the plants.

No weeds at all but I also put some weed matting down and planted through it.
Chris Kott


Joined: Jan 25, 2012
Posts: 796
Location: Toronto, Ontario
    
    9
Wood chips are carbon. If they stay on the surface and don't break down, you're fine. If, on the other hand, you see it breaking down in a hurry, expect to have a nitrogen deficiency where you have all the rotting wood. As I understand it, you can't have all that rapid decomposition of carbon without losing nitrogen. That is why hugelkultur uses whole logs, and lots of large pieces, to make sure the wood doesn't rot too fast and expend all the nitrogen. My knowledge of the specifics is a little vague, but I seem to remember Paul discussing it at length in one of his very first podcasts.

-CK
Joseph Fields


Joined: Feb 23, 2011
Posts: 157
Location: Berea, Kentucky
    
    1
I did a back to eden garden last year and the results were awesome. I have a lower back injury, so being able to weed easily with a rake is prefect for me. I did not put one drop of water on my garden last year and my corn was bright green while everyone in my areas was dying from drought.
chrissy bauman


Joined: Sep 11, 2012
Posts: 123
Location: Sunset Zone 27, Florida
i use wood chips for all my plantings, and it is awesome. there is a trick to the depth of the woodchips, you don't want to smother roots but you want to have enough to adequately cover soil, hold moisture in, and promote fungal breakdown of the woodchips.
here in florida that means putting down a thin layer several times a year.
i run all fruit tree branches through the rabbits first (except prunus species). They are really good at breaking down the wood and leaves into plant food.
the carbon/nitrogen sequestration is vastly overstated, and seems to have little impact on growies as long as your mulch isn't too deep. also pH problems in soil are vastly overstated, same reason. that's my opinion. please do not argue.


Http://oldescrubland.blogspot.com
Chris Kott


Joined: Jan 25, 2012
Posts: 796
Location: Toronto, Ontario
    
    9
Defensive much? An opinion should always be defensible against argument, or you should at least be willing to try, or else why bother? All I'm saying is that if you have problems with nitrogen deficiency, or your stuff seems to yellow with no hints of a cause, but your wood chips seem to turn into soil real quick, don't look too far for an answer as to why. And if you want to test it, just pee on some of the suffering plants.

Established trees and shrubs might not suffer, though, if the wood chips are separate from the root zone (sitting on top). It is always useful to try to identify what's going on, and why your observation might differ from that of what people are telling you.

-CK
Jeff Steigerwald


Joined: Jul 08, 2010
Posts: 12
We are doing a back to eden garden @ Rejuvenation Farm in N. Georgia. Our fall/winter crops did well and we are looking for good results from our spring plantings. We plant all of our seeds/seedlings in the soil and use the wood chips as mulch. We also added Alfalfa Pellets (horse feed) and composted cow poo to the chips to help offset ant nutrient deficiencies. As the chips, manure, and alfalfa break down - nutritious new top soils will form. The key is to always plant in the soil and do not mix the wood chips into the soil - just use it as cover.
Ken Miller


Joined: Oct 12, 2011
Posts: 26
Location: Vashon, WA
Last fall I laid down wood chips on several beds. Where I planted garlic, it's coming up strong and looking better than in past seasons. There is good research conducted at Laval University in Canada on this subject. There are folks here on Permies who have been using chips for several years with good results and have not had the problems with nitrogen depletion. The information I have read, and more interesting, is my visit to Paul's place who was in the video. He has never had any nitrogen problem. Google his name and look at the videos, he explains so much about what he is doing. Makes sense, follow nature.

Here is a link that may be of help.

http://www.dirtdoctor.com/view_org_research.php?id=69
alex Keenan


Joined: Nov 08, 2012
Posts: 235
    
    7
In theory you may wish for a C to N ratio of 25-30:1

In a forest litter you may see:
Wood chips 400:1
Leaves 60:1
Ashes, wood 25:1
Pine needles 80:1
Sawdust 325:1

In grassy area you may see:
Grass clippings 20:1
Weeds 30:1
Clover 23:1
Vegetable scraps 25:1

Now woody areas depend alot on fungus in the leaflitter.
Grassy areas can have a mulch layer but also have alot of cycled roots. They tend to depend alot more on bateria.

What is interesting is the range of C to N that different life forms can use.
The optimal C : N ratio for cultivating button mushrooms is 17 : 1. On the other hand, oyster mushrooms and shiitake grow from wood with a relatively low nitrogen source,
of which the C : N ratio is 350 to 500 : 1. The optimal C : N ratio differs according to mushroom species.

I can see the point about balancing nutrients. How many times have you seen carbon depletions due to excess use of Nitrogen in the soil?
Joseph Fields


Joined: Feb 23, 2011
Posts: 157
Location: Berea, Kentucky
    
    1
You can quickly boost N with blood meal. This is mentioned in the back to eden film. To me it's just a whole lot less work. No bone jarring tilling, no need to water, but I realise we don't all live in the same area with the same issues. Today I planted onion sets in the rain. In a till garden, I would never be able to plant onions this early, due to not being able to plow until the ground dries up. That's generally late March for me.
Chris Kott


Joined: Jan 25, 2012
Posts: 796
Location: Toronto, Ontario
    
    9
Joseph, I'm in Toronto. I will be lucky to get anything planted before the end of the month, and then I will probably mulch heavily and use cold frames. The ground is still solid here. I agree about the no-till, though. I'm glad someone is gardening already.

Perhaps I was unclear earlier, but I will try again. I have been on the nitrogen-deficient side of wood chip mulch, and if the ratios are off, it can kill off whatever you are trying to nurture. Two years ago I used wood chip mulch on top of my hugelbeet. I suppose that the squirrels did some digging and mixed some down into the soil too much, because the next thing I knew, it rained once, all the wood chips were rotted, there was an interesting amorphous yellow fungus spreading across the ground, and my potatoes died. I followed what I knew about nutrient deficiency ( I think it might have been before Paul mentioned this in his podcasts) and so saved my tomato plants by careful application of liquid gold fertilizer (I peed on them). They went from yellowed and dying to thriving inside a week.

I've noticed that decomposition accelerates in areas of high traffic where wood chips are used to cover a pathway (we've used them in our back yard). I think, therefore, that wood chips might be problematic where they would tend to get trampled into the ground or buried sub-surface. It is for this reason I don't use chips in my hugelbeet. By this reasoning, I would be careful in their use in situations where I expect to add little amendment, but under the right circumstances, I can see them making either a dense, long-lived mulch, or alternately soil with really good structure and moisture retention capabilities.

There is no tool in the permaculture toolbox that can be used for everything, or in every situation, except perhaps for the human mind.

-CK
Heidi Hoff


Joined: Jan 31, 2013
Posts: 102
    
    6
I'm wondering about using different wood species for different applications. We are lucky enough to have found an arborist who tells us what kind of tree any particular load of chips comes from. So far we have a mixed caragana and maple pile and another mixed alder and maple pile. These should all be good soil builders.

The research from Laval mentions that conifers are not useful soil builders, so I am thinking of emphasizing cedar and spruce chips for paths. I really want to avoid having anything grassy anywhere near my garden beds, as quack grass has been a major problem in previous gardening attempts. Plus, I don't like the idea of having to mow the paths.

Does anyone have personal experience with or observations concerning the use of different species of wood chips for different purposes?

Chris Kott, do you know what species of wood you had in your paths that was trampled and broke down too fast? If not wood chips, what do you use in your paths now? Around here (open countryside), there are lots of weed seeds blown all over the place and gravel areas fill up with weeds in a couple of years.

Thanks for any input!

Zone 3b, Lower St. Lawrence, Quebec
Chris Kott


Joined: Jan 25, 2012
Posts: 796
Location: Toronto, Ontario
    
    9
It's funny that you mention conifers, Heidi Hoff. I salvage people's christmas trees and chop them up for paths. They smell great, and as far as I can tell, break down a lot slower than the Manitoba Maple I had down earlier (the one that broke down too fast). The only other place I use chopped-up conifer is as mulch on my blueberries.

The ones that should break down the slowest should be either cedar or black locust, or any one that has oils that resist rot. These are followed in preference (as far as I can make out) by other hardwoods, and then softwoods, which will break down fastest.

I don't know if whoever you spoke to was meaning living or dead conifers when it was said that they are bad soil-builders, but in terms of their effect on the soil, I believe that alive they only benefit certain acid-loving species like blueberry and potato. I have read that most of the acidity is in the bark and needles, though, so I'd love to get an answer on that from someone who knows. I'll just chop needles and branches off christmas trees to put on my blueberries, potatoes, and paths, and I'll stick the trunks in my hugelbeets.

-CK
Chris Kott


Joined: Jan 25, 2012
Posts: 796
Location: Toronto, Ontario
    
    9
I just read something of which I wasn't aware. Apparently, ramial wood chips (chips made from branches of less than 3" diameter) contain much less tightly-packed lignin, and require less to break down into soil and useable components for plant growth. I found some links to info on this on the thread called "Dig in 50% wood chips?" in this forum. I can't speak to its veracity, but it does seem to make sense, and accords with some of my observation of woodchips doing what I've been told woodchips shouldn't do. Hope this is useful.

-CK
alex Keenan


Joined: Nov 08, 2012
Posts: 235
    
    7
Chris

Here is some data from purdue that should backup your observations.

"The inner bark, in contrast, has living cells with nutrient laden cell sap, organelles, and stored starch. Most importantly, the phloem cells with their sugary contents are located here. The inner bark is the chief target for animals that feed on bark. Young twigs and branches are preferred because they have a higher proportion of inner to outer bark and lower concentrations of anti-digestion compounds such as lignin and phenols."

Why Do Animals Eat the Bark and Wood of Trees and Shrubs?
http://www.extension.purdue.edu/extmedia/FNR/FNR_203.pdf
Heidi Hoff


Joined: Jan 31, 2013
Posts: 102
    
    6
Chris, I meant wood chips made from conifers, not living conifers. So your experience with the paths confirms what I was thinking. Great!!

The research from Univ. Laval was on BRF (bois raméal fragmenté), or ramial wood chips. Basically shredded branches.

According to a French video I saw on Youtube (from France and in French), woody plants store lots of nutrients and energy in their smaller branches in the fall to fuel the next year's growth in the spring. So the time to be harvesting BRF is from leaf-fall to bud-break.

As I don't want to turn the soil, all my wood chip applications will be on the surface.

Thanks for all the info you all share!

Heidi
Ken Miller


Joined: Oct 12, 2011
Posts: 26
Location: Vashon, WA
Here is another informative article on wood chips, which to use and other info.
As I said before, I have been to Paul Gautschi's place and spoken with him. He is very open and knowledgeable about what he does. You can even call him, his number is listed on the film and also on the web site.

http://www.scribd.com/doc/97216016/Chipped-Wood
Chris Kott


Joined: Jan 25, 2012
Posts: 796
Location: Toronto, Ontario
    
    9
Thanks Ken. There is obviously a lot of useful information there. I am not surprised, considering the source. I hope I don't inadvertently offend anyone when I try to explain my view, but when I look at the self-imposed restrictions veganic gardeners put on some of their systems, or lets say the restrictions imposed by the most extreme interpretations of the philosophy, they are playing the same game that other way-better-than-organic food producers play, but without any of the cards belonging to the "domesticated animal" suit (I'm not going to get into what I perceive to be philosophical inconsistencies in a system that cannot help but make use of groups of animals ranging in size from microscopic up to the size of worms and beetles to do what they won't let larger domestic animals do for them, I'm just going to chalk it up to personal preference; I want raw milk, bacon, beef, salmon, so I've already decided what mine is). The type of strict refusal to compromise on those principals in which this type of stance results tends, in my opinion, to produce the type of focus and attention to detail that is absolutely essential for understanding environmental systems as a whole. This is just an excellent example of the way it can benefit backyard gardeners and homesteaders to support the grassroots permaculture movement.

-CK
alex Keenan


Joined: Nov 08, 2012
Posts: 235
    
    7
Chris,

There is a view in science that meat and cooked foods are what allowed humans to develop the brains that make us humans.
http://www.livescience.com/24875-meat-human-brain.html

Being omnivores we are designed to take advantage of multiple food sources. For most of human history higher life forms harvested plants and humans harvested higher life forms.
Many early farming societies practiced hunting to supplement their food supplies.
I can appreciate Vegans but I can also see how living creatures including the higher ones need to play a role in nutrient recycling.
On some issues there are many views and we just need to respect the rights of each person to have an opinion.

I personally tend to focus on the treatment of higher animals within a designed ecosystem.
Chris Kott


Joined: Jan 25, 2012
Posts: 796
Location: Toronto, Ontario
    
    9
Alex, I happen to agree with that, for the most part. All I am saying is that by completely using the tools in the veganic gardening arsenal, ones honed out of the influence of animals, we can bolster the plant-end of things and enrich our animal-oriented systems in so doing; the knowledge derived from veganic gardening can benefit us omnivores as well.

It's my belief that, except for taking measures of self-restriction that often don't accomplish the goals they engender, veganic gardening makes use of the same sort of animal processes that animal-based farming uses, except they limit the size of those animals to the range of the microscopic up to worm-size. I don't see anything wrong with that, but I don't see anything more laudable about it than an animal-oriented operation that focuses on the quality of life of the individual up until the moment it is killed for its meat.

The tone of your post, Alex, suggests that you think I am saying something I am not. Perhaps I was unclear?

-CK
alex Keenan


Joined: Nov 08, 2012
Posts: 235
    
    7
No problem with what you are saying Chris. More me just having a VERY bland writing style
Clifford Reinke


Joined: Nov 26, 2010
Posts: 124
Location: Puget Sound
    
    4
alex Keenan wrote:Chris

Here is some data from purdue that should backup your observations.

"The inner bark, in contrast, has living cells with nutrient laden cell sap, organelles, and stored starch. Most importantly, the phloem cells with their sugary contents are located here. The inner bark is the chief target for animals that feed on bark. Young twigs and branches are preferred because they have a higher proportion of inner to outer bark and lower concentrations of anti-digestion compounds such as lignin and phenols."

Why Do Animals Eat the Bark and Wood of Trees and Shrubs?
http://www.extension.purdue.edu/extmedia/FNR/FNR_203.pdf


Maybe this explains why my bees love our wood chips.


Cliff (Start a rEVOLution, grow a garden)
Gord Day


Joined: Feb 22, 2013
Posts: 17
I have a cpl truckloads of coniferous wood chips and needles.. my assumtion is they are very acidic.. even tho they are 2-3 yrs old.. I also have a huge truckload of deciduous wood chips that are only 1 yr old. I,m figgering that being 1 yr old, thier thirst for nitrogen has all but been abated? I will make raised beds with the deciduous chips (combined with manure) and use the coniferous for the walkways.
I would appreciate input on this as it will be my first attempt.. I will also use forest humus, but dont whether to use it as the top "soil" or incorporate/mix it into the deciduous chips.. most of my crops will be shrubs and small trees but i will plant a few veggies. being raised beds I can manipulate each bed and compare findings.

cheers from, northern ont
John Alabarr


Joined: Sep 25, 2012
Posts: 58


The reason wasps love the wood chips is because they use the cellulose from wood to make their paper nests.

I started a Back to Eden garden a year ago and last summer was the best garden I've ever had in my life.
Chris Kott


Joined: Jan 25, 2012
Posts: 796
Location: Toronto, Ontario
    
    9
John, if you could please elaborate, I am unfamiliar with the term "Back to Eden Garden."

-CK
John Alabarr


Joined: Sep 25, 2012
Posts: 58
Chris Kott wrote:John, if you could please elaborate, I am unfamiliar with the term "Back to Eden Garden."

-CK



Chris, Back to Eden is the documentary mentioned in the OP. If you go to the website www.backtoedenfilm.com you can watch the movie for free. The movie is awesome and life changing. John
Leroy Harder


Joined: May 29, 2013
Posts: 2
I'm a part time arborist in the past and gardener and have used wood chips a fair amount as I have had plenty of supply. I have cold winters, dry hot summers.

In my experience the timing of wood chip application is important. I believe it has to do with soil temperature. When applied in the summer (3-6 inches) at the height of the growing season, there is no real difference in growth rates, but soil moisture is very even and the garden does well. Applied in the fall results in insulating the soil, delaying the rise in soil temperature in spring and initial fertility problems. My tomatoes planted in this environment turned yellow requiring some supplemental fertilization (more than the truckloads of manure I brought in) early on especially when the spring turned cool. However, once the system warmed up, the garden literally took off. I ended up with huge beets and potatoes. It also protects the soil from compacting. Beautiful loose soil underneath. I believe it may also be useful in controlling foliar disease.

2 years after I applied this layer, the soil is beautiful, especially compared to new areas where I haven't added wood chips yet, retains moisture well. Will apply another thick layer soon.
Jen Shrock
pollinator

Joined: Jan 25, 2013
Posts: 356
Location: NW Pennsylvania Zone 5B bordering on Zone 6
    
    8
I scored this for free today when they were trimming a tree down the street. I am so excited!



[Thumbnail for FreeMulch.JPG]



"Turn your face to the sun and the shadows fall behind you." ~Maori Proverb

www.permi-eden.com
Heidi Hoff


Joined: Jan 31, 2013
Posts: 102
    
    6
Jen, that's quite a goldmine you've got there! Enjoy!

Leroy, we are using wood chips as a permanent mulch on all the new beds we're installing this spring. Thanks for the heads up about greedy plants needing extra help to get established under woodchips. I'm using chips that are half maple, half caragana (Siberian pea shrub), so I'm hoping that the caragana's nitrogen contribution avoids the initial nutrient depletion. Tomatoes and peppers are going in next week, with protection, so we'll see what happens!

Leroy Harder


Joined: May 29, 2013
Posts: 2
Tree companies may be a good source for chips, especially if they can avoid some extra travel. Good luck with tomatoes and peppers. I hold mine as long as possible in the cold frame, potting up to 1 to 2 gallon pots. About this time of year I will look for a good stretch of weather and start putting them out. The tomatoes are out first then the peppers and eggplant. The tomatoes are 2 ft tall, stout and robust and flowering.
Tom Harner


Joined: Dec 11, 2012
Posts: 43
Location: St. Louis, MO
    
    3
chrissy bauman wrote:
i run all fruit tree branches through the rabbits first (except prunus species). They are really good at breaking down the wood and leaves into plant food.
the carbon/nitrogen sequestration is vastly overstated, and seems to have little impact on growies as long as your mulch isn't too deep. also pH problems in soil are vastly overstated, same reason. that's my opinion. please do not argue.


I LOVE the idea of feeding fruit branches to rabbits. I don't have any yet (fruit prunings or rabbits), but I just planted fruit trees and plan to get rabbits. I will have to keep it in mind.


As for not arguing with your opinion... So you would rather be wrong than consider the possibility that you are fallible? This attitude bothers me.
Ray South


Joined: Jul 11, 2011
Posts: 46
Location: Northern Tablelands, NSW, Australia
Been using woodchip on the garden for about a year now. I love it. The soil underneath is beautiful now. Needs much less water than before. I'm a convert!
Jared Stanley


Joined: Jun 16, 2013
Posts: 57
Location: Toomsuba, MS, 7b/8, 54" annual rainfall
    
    5
We have been using the Back to Eden method and have a whole series of videos on how it is going. I would recommend you start with this one:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lfPlLKVyLFA&list=PLj2RMfvPdG7tSMrFUuXICgLDJQHI2bG2-&index=3


Jared Stanley
http://www.jandjacres.net - http://www.youtube.com/jandjacres
Michael Cox


Joined: Jun 09, 2013
Posts: 977
Location: Kent, UK - Zone 8
    
  25
We have been trying a "Back to Eden" approach in parts of our gardens this year. We have a fairly steady supply of chips from some local tree surgeons and spread the first lot last year (before I saw the back to eden video).

After watching the back to eden video I went out to the garden and compared adacent patches that had wood chip, vrs those that did not have woodchip. Even with what I would now consider to be an inadequate depth of chips there were really marked differences is the beds:

  • Soil moisture was MUCH better under the chips
  • Even after just one year the soil/wood chip boundary was becoming indistict - chips breaking down and earthworms doing their job.
  • Weeding was far far easier - we have issues with horrible bindweed. It seems to pull out more easily from a nice deep mulch
  • Perennial buttercups pull really easily - previously they would snap and leave enough root system to regrow. I've now totally cleared them from that bed.


  • This is in a formal herb garden - not a permaculture type area, so being able to clear the weeds is a big plus for us. We are now into the growing season properly and this area is now looking fabulous - lush growth from everything, clearly the herbs (especially the mint and the thyme) are benefiting from the improved moisture retention.

    As an added bonus it has been much easier to manage the eascaping runners from the mint - they seem to be running in the now soft and friable woodchip/soil boundary and are dead easy to pull by hand. No more digging them to control the spread.

    This year:
  • we have spread a greater depth of chips over that particular area (already seeing benefits)
  • I have spread them thickly under the raspberry canes - this area is hell for bindweed so is part of a concerted effort to eradicate it
  • I have been spreading chips through our orchard area (with carboard sheet mulch beneath) to kill the grass. I'll be establishing some simple guilds around these trees as well.
  • I have mulched the paths around our rasied beds, and around some of the perenial vegs


  • Looing forward to seeing how everything does over the next 2 years or so.

    Currently no signs that wood chip has depleted the areas of nitrogen.

    Mike
    E. Exner


    Joined: Jul 22, 2013
    Posts: 1
    Gord Day wrote:I have a cpl truckloads of coniferous wood chips and needles.. my assumtion is they are very acidic.. even tho they are 2-3 yrs old.. I also have a huge truckload of deciduous wood chips that are only 1 yr old. I,m figgering that being 1 yr old, thier thirst for nitrogen has all but been abated? I will make raised beds with the deciduous chips (combined with manure) and use the coniferous for the walkways.
    I would appreciate input on this as it will be my first attempt.. I will also use forest humus, but dont whether to use it as the top "soil" or incorporate/mix it into the deciduous chips.. most of my crops will be shrubs and small trees but i will plant a few veggies. being raised beds I can manipulate each bed and compare findings.

    cheers from, northern ont


    I'm new to permies and to hugelculture. I have talked with several people and they all say sounds like a good thing but all they have is pine, so this has been a burning question. I was hoping someone could elaborate more on the above question. It didn't seem to be answered and I'm very curious, especially since I used mostly an evergreen bush in my first hugelculture bed. All seems well but I also put cardboard between the soil and the wood. Don't ask why...it seemed like a good idea at the time. All that digging and moving of wood made me really tired so I don't think I was thinking.

    Thanks
    Michael Cox


    Joined: Jun 09, 2013
    Posts: 977
    Location: Kent, UK - Zone 8
        
      25
    Sorry, i can't help with your question about pine as we haven't yet used any. I'll be spreading some in the autumn though as we have a pile rotting down. I guess my main suggestion would be to leave it in a heap for a year or so to get the decomposition started, or use it on non critical areas first, like paths

  • i have noticed some yellowing - minor and only on a few plants.
  • I put this down to roots coming into contact with a small area depleted of nitrogen, for example where digging weeds mixed chips into the soil layer. This has been cured by direct application of urine onto the wood chips in the affected region. Plants recovered within two weeks and are growing vigorously again.

  • deep mulch around vegetable beds is controlling weeds nicely
  • - the area where i spread it over grass, with cardboard down first, has worked really well. I planted through it for the first time today so could see that the old grass thatch has died off totally and nearly broken down fully. The added advantage is that bindweed roots that run through this area now lift easily where previously they were tangled through and beneath the thatch- just move the chips aside by hand and follow the root down.

  • more recent areas i've spread a layer of compost first, then wood chips on top
  • - in part, I've got a large compost bin to empty rapidly so that it can be used again, but also i want to avoid the nitrogen leeching i saw with the first approach.

    Mike
    Gary badgley


    Joined: Jul 27, 2013
    Posts: 1
    Howdy,

    After watching the film I started the garden this spring with 3 yards of Douglas fir woodchips spread over fairly depleted clay. After spreading out I ended up with about 2 inches of woodchips. I then planted beets, kale, onions, cabbage, beans, leeks, and corn. I started some by seed, others were by transplanting seedlings. In all cases, I spread the chips off the row, turned the soil by fork, and then put potting soil into a narrow row to receive the seeds and seedlings. After the plants were well established I then moved the chips around the base of the plant. For the most part considering the poor quality soil the plants have done reasonably well.

    Recently, I decided I needed more woodchips because the layer had dried out and the soil was showing through in patches. I was able to find some and proceeded to add a yard of so just around the corn and one other row. Now the thickness is about 2 inches. Almost immediately the corn which is about 4 feet high has started to turn yellow. I quickly added some fish emulsion, but the leaves are continuing to turn yellow at an alarming rate.

    Now the woodchips I used were I believe some species of cedar. I think they were chipped western red cedar shrubs, but I'm not sure. They certainly had that pungent aroma that you smell from shrubs.

    So, in order to rescue the corn I have removed the woodchips from around the base of each plant, and am now awaiting the results.

    But this experience is making me wonder about those chips!!! I don't no what to do with them now. Anyone have any thoughts on how to proceed. I sure liked the whole wood chip film with all the benefits, but I'm starting to get a little gun shy using them.

    As a rooky gardner maybe I was just watering the corn too much?

    David Goodman
    volunteer

    Joined: Dec 14, 2011
    Posts: 345
    Location: Zone 9a/8b
        
      14
    Cedar is vicious stuff, Gary. That's probably your problem right there. It's known to be alleopathic, plus it contains volatile oils. There's a reason people make chests out of cedar: nothing wants to have anything to do with it!

    If I were going to wood chip garden, I'd go with a range of species, but stay away from varieties that don't decay well, like cedar and black locust. Here I use some pine and a lot of oak shreds around my long-term perennials and they do great. The soil has improved significantly too.


    Permaculture, bio-accumulators, rare plants, tool reviews and lots and lots of gardening inspiration - a new post every day: http://www.floridasurvivalgardening.com
    Chris Kott


    Joined: Jan 25, 2012
    Posts: 796
    Location: Toronto, Ontario
        
        9
    I would qualify the last post by suggesting that you keep in mind what you want the chips to do. If you want them to turn into soil, not only should you avoid cedar and other fragrant wood, you should probably consider ramial wood chips, which are mostly inner bark and contain plant food in ready form. If you are using them on pathways, you probably want the ones that won't decompose and won't let anything grow, so you don't have to weed your pathways. Chips from wood larger than 3" in diameter contains disproportionate amounts of lignin, which is thought to be the source of nitrogen draw-down.

    -CK
     
     
    subject: Wood Chip Gardening
     
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