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All the Great Things about Wood Chips

 
gardener
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Thank you so much, You have relieved most of my worry.  Food forest here I come.
 
                        
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The question that I have is, I am trying to rehab about 4 acres that I am using for fenced sheep pasture for rotational grazing. Currently there is no soil, only dirt. I produces very rough weeds from the end of November up to typically the beginning - mid May. At that point everything dries up. I will put in solar water pumping system and flood pastures as needed.  I will have access to a lot of wood chips, on the order of a few hundred yards as well as many yards of barn area scraping. My question is do I:
1. just spread the chips on the surface and let nature take it course
2. single bar rip the ground down 16" to break the compaction and then spread chips
3. rip the ground, spread the chips, re-rip down 12" to deliver some chips deeper
4. various combinations of spread, rip, disc, spread, ...

Any ideas will be entertained.

Thank you

Jen
 
gardener
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The wood chips work best when simply spread on the surface and inoculated with fungi. I would rip the compacted soil then spread the chips as thick as 12 inches and use mushroom slurries. In one season you will be well on the way to good soil.
 
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Jennifer Who wrote:
1. just spread the chips on the surface and let nature take it course

Jen



I spread a 6" layer on top of hard pack clay and am already seeing a thin organic layer forming on the clay surface. If you have any kind of contour, ripping per a keyline plan might be beneficial for water penetration.
 
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If the wood chips of trees that are listed as allelopathic are actually OK, how about using those logs for hugelkultur?
I have lots of elm logs that I was thinking that I should not use for hugelkultur.
 
Nina Wright
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In my second year of gardening in this old lawn site, I used logs as the side for raised beds and topped the beds with some manure compost then a few inches of wood chips. This year, the pill bugs and earwigs decimate all seedlings. That wasn't a problem last year, before the wood chips.
I had to replant everything, starting it all indoors. I have a friend who drinks a lot of soda, so I use the 2-liter bottles as tubes to keep the pill bugs out and slow down the earwigs from discovering the plants until they get bigger.

Any suggestions?
 
pollinator
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Nina Wright wrote:In my second year of gardening in this old lawn site, I used logs as the side for raised beds and topped the beds with some manure compost then a few inches of wood chips. This year, the pill bugs and earwigs decimate all seedlings. That wasn't a problem last year, before the wood chips.
I had to replant everything, starting it all indoors. I have a friend who drinks a lot of soda, so I use the 2-liter bottles as tubes to keep the pill bugs out and slow down the earwigs from discovering the plants until they get bigger.

Any suggestions?



Patience, there is often an influx of pesty critters when heavy mulching is first implemented but as the system reregulates they find a balance. I have tons of pill bugs in the garden, a good bit of earwigs too, and they don't bother any seedlings. I'm not sure if its just that they eat more broken down mulch so they are kept fed on that or what but I've definitely been hit with the infestation when first mulching a new to me garden (it was slugs and snails at our old place) but then always seen it settle out once the biology starts to move the mulch into the cycle
 
pollinator
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Raised beds are a natural for wood chips and good soil building: I get wood chips delivered every once in a while. I place them thick [4-5"] in the alleys, where they suffocate weeds. After a year or two, I can see some weeds poking through. That is my signal that the mulch is no longer so effective at suppressing weeds. So I add the alley material -now well rotted- to the bed. I then use a crowbar to lift the bed [made of 2"X 10"lumber] push some material under the edges of the bed with my feet and start again. Mulch the alleys, let it rot, put the rot in the bed, lift the bed. Repeat.
Depending on the quality of the chips, I can do it about every other year. If perchance something was ever sprayed on the trees that might make the mulch toxic, the 2 years that they sit also allows that stuff to leach out. Win-Win!
 
Bryant RedHawk
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Nina Wright wrote:If the wood chips of trees that are listed as allelopathic are actually OK, how about using those logs for hugelkultur?
I have lots of elm logs that I was thinking that I should not use for hugelkultur.



This is very dependent on the strength of the allopathic compound. Trees that do not contain powerful allopathic compounds can generally be used for this once the wood has dried for a year. Jugalans containing trees can be used after at least 1.5 years of drying. Do keep in mind that chipping speeds up the drying process, enough that chipped black walnut can be used after 8 months of drying. The use of mushhroom sluries can help as well.

Redhawk
 
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I’m glad this post was revived. It reminds me to lay on more chips.  Sheesh! 4 inches. I was content with 2” but I’ll bump it up. I have the chips to do it but I have to hand carry them in 5-gallon buckets.  

I have a fairly young garden and am in a Mediterranean type of climate. I don’t notice much composting at the soil surface.  I suppose over time it will become more apparent?  But I AM sure the chips are helping hold in moisture, else half my plants would suffer badly from the combined heat and dryness (101 degrees F. and 3 percent humidity yesterday).
 
Bryant RedHawk
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hau Jane, the reason for thick layers of woodchips is the microbiome thrives best when they can have moisture and darkness. Chips can provide those conditions when they are at least 4" thick, optimum seems to be in the. 6 to 8 inch range.
To increase soil fertility adding rotted manure or finished compost as a mid-way layer at least 1" deep will increase the microbiome numbers quite nicely.

Redhawk
 
pollinator
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Jane Reed wrote:I’m glad this post was revived. It reminds me to lay on more chips.  Sheesh! 4 inches. I was content with 2” but I’ll bump it up. I have the chips to do it but I have to hand carry them in 5-gallon buckets.  

I have a fairly young garden and am in a Mediterranean type of climate. I don’t notice much composting at the soil surface.  I suppose over time it will become more apparent?  But I AM sure the chips are helping hold in moisture, else half my plants would suffer badly from the combined heat and dryness (101 degrees F. and 3 percent humidity yesterday).



It happens over time, and it happens more quickly the deeper the chips are.  If you have a thin layer, they help keep the soil damp, but get pretty dry themselves.  If they are thicker, the chips themselves stay damp and then they break down more quickly.  In really dry areas, the wetter winters help too.
 
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There are easier, better mulch than wood clips, less work & easier to find & use.
I had no reason to use wood clips, until I find out I could raise Mushrooms with them.
 
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Just wanted to thank you for all the info on benefits of wood chips
 
pollinator
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Method of moving chips has changed for me.  I found after a couple of years of chipping the soil, my soil has gone from a hard surface where it was no problem to rent a tractor with front end loader to move chips to the areas I needed them.  Now the tractor will sink up to the axle after a couple of passes.  I found an Overland electric wheelbarrow that is much lighter and can carry two front end loader buckets worth in one load.  I found it used on craigslist after a guy used it to complete his backyard projects.
 
pollinator
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Dennis, I had never heard of an electric wheelbarrow!  Sounds intriguing. I expect that a used one would be the way to go, if the price of other machinery is any guide.

Thanks!  I’ll look into it!
 
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I got a wood chipper not long ago (half price from local discount place). I've been chipping all the branches that accumulated from falling off the trees around the yard and throwing them into my little garden areas.
 
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Ann,

Awesome that you have the chipper!  Personally I have gone through phases where I wanted a chipper very badly back to only really wanting to rent a chipper occasionally, something like once or maybe twice per year.

At the present I am only chipping once per year, but I will cut and trim back brush and pile it up all year long and at the end I rent a big, 12" chipper and chip up the whole pile.  The last time I chipped, I got perhaps 2 years worth of chips, about half of which went into prompt use.  The rest are sitting, aging, slowly composting and waiting to be used.

I am curious, how big is your chipper?  I use the 12" chipper as in my experience, the chipper needs to be about twice the diameter of the material being chipped.  I used to use a smaller, 7" chipper, but it started having trouble with 4" material and would only chip a 6-7" branch with great difficulty.  Eventually the chipper would break.  The 12" chippers roars through large piles of brush and will on occasion take a 10-12" log, but I would not want to chip that sized log for very long.  

Have you experienced anything similar?

Eric
 
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"Under no circumstances should wood mulch be used as backfill." Is hugelkultur a contradiction to this warning?
 
Bryant RedHawk
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Hugelculture is whole, decaying logs or pieces of logs buried. The decaying wood soaks up and holds water for plants to use when needed. Wood chips will not perform this function unless they are already innvaded by fungi. Chips that aren't decaying will simply be preserved, leaching of nutrients will not happen, this is why we find preserved wood during arceological digs, the lack of O2 and fungi equals mumification.

Buried non decaying wood will resullt in non-stable soil, which might result in collapse of the soil not unlike a sink hole.

Redhawk
 
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I think wood chips are just great.  It didn't cost me a dime for all of mine (although I did voluntarily give out 12 packs of Budweiser....which is probably why I have a never ending supply from four of the local wood chipper guys in the area).

This thread needs more pictures on the topic.  I like pictures, and I really like pictures of wood chips.  lol

Here ya go.
IMG_20200218_133700125_HDR.jpg
backfilling raised beds with wood chips on top of pallets.
backfilling raised beds with wood chips on top of pallets.
IMG_20200218_133344308_HDR.jpg
closer view of the raised beds with wood chip/pallets.
closer view of the raised beds with wood chip/pallets.
IMG_20200213_081518546.jpg
a corner of the yard, covered in at least 12" of wood chips.
a corner of the yard, covered in at least 12" of wood chips.
IMG_20200126_111325897_HDR.jpg
another corner of the yard covered in wood chips.
another corner of the yard covered in wood chips.
IMG_20200727_080124312.jpg
where every delivery of wood chips comes in, a long walk from where most of them go, all by a wheel barrow.
where every delivery of wood chips comes in, a long walk from where most of them go, all by a wheel barrow.
IMG_20200831_094133240_HDR.jpg
wood chips/deep litter in a swimming pool, probably 25ish yards in there now, over six feet deep at the high point.
wood chips/deep litter in a swimming pool, probably 25ish yards in there now, over six feet deep at the high point.
IMG_20200831_094900855_HDR.jpg
wood chips over concrete. I like the natural look, plus I don't have to sweep the concrete now.
wood chips over concrete. I like the natural look, plus I don't have to sweep the concrete now.
IMG_20200831_094930595_HDR.jpg
wood chips over concrete again, it's so natural looking compared to the concrete (plus it keeps heat from radiating?)
wood chips over concrete again, it's so natural looking compared to the concrete (plus it keeps heat from radiating?)
IMG_20200831_095025480.jpg
why not put a thin layer of wood chips over granite rock? (I was lazy and just spread them out after a delivery)
why not put a thin layer of wood chips over granite rock? (I was lazy and just spread them out after a delivery)
IMG_20200821_130458980_HDR.jpg
front lawn, nope, covered it in wood chips.
front lawn, nope, covered it in wood chips.
IMG_20200821_130559677_HDR.jpg
back lawn, nope, covered it in wood chips.
back lawn, nope, covered it in wood chips.
IMG_20200811_081135471.jpg
fungus breaking down the wood chips in the pool, turning it into fungal dominated compost (I think)
fungus breaking down the wood chips in the pool, turning it into fungal dominated compost (I think)
 
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Trace Oswald wrote:

Marco Banks wrote:

The only caution I would add is that when they sit in a pile for any length of time, fresh chips with lots of leaves and moisture in them tend to get moldy.  I've grown pretty sensitive to breathing those mold spores the more I've been exposed to them.


Thank you.




This is no small thing, and thank you for pointing it out to people that may not know. I'm a huge advocate of using wood chips, but i made myself very sick a couple times before i realized it was the mold in the wood chips that caused it.  Both times I got a very high fever and was miserable for a couple days. After that, I became extremely sensitive to the mold in chips. At this point, if I load wood chips that aren't freshly chipped, i wear a respirator.  Please everyone, heed Marco's excellent advice and take proper precautions if you move chips that have been sitting, especially if they are actively steaming.



I totally agree. We had a load of chips dumped last fall and the majority of them sat throughout the winter without moving. The pile was steaming even in the middle of winter. In spring, when i dug in with my garden fork, i was delighted to see mycelium growing throughout the pile. But every once in a while i would get into a big green moldy section that would send a cloud of spores everywhere. I had no breathing protection and am very surprised I didn’t get any not reactions, especially since i was down wind of the pile while shoveling. Mold spores can cause a lot of problems though, so be careful!
 
Trace Oswald
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Joe Grand wrote:There are easier, better mulch than wood clips, less work & easier to find & use.
I had no reason to use wood clips, until I find out I could raise Mushrooms with them.



What materials would those be?  Wood chips are the one single thing I would point to as the biggest improvement I have made to the way I do things in 10 years.
 
Brody Ekberg
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Mike Haasl wrote:Thanks for the info Bryant!  Based on the square footage of the sheep sorrel invasion, there's no way I could put them all into containers.  Imagine about a swimming pool sized area that's fully populated with it.

I'll take some pictures and run them past you (and the rest of the site) to verify it is what I think it is and to see how the roots look.

For now the missus will just leave them in the hopes that we won't need em :)



I feel you Mike! I discovered quickly that a freshly worked garden bed mulched with woodchips seems to be sheep sorrel paradise. Those roots travel far and fast under the woodchips. Pulling them is easy when they grow through, but I can’t keep up. I eat the best of them, but a lot dont look great as far as the greens go. Good to know they can have medicinal used as well!
 
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Is there any type of wood chip that I should avoid if I am using them to create a filler for 2 foot tall raised beds? Living in Maine we get a lot of mixed coniferous and deciduous chips. Love the discussion, thank you
 
Trace Oswald
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Juan Rivera wrote:Is there any type of wood chip that I should avoid if I am using them to create a filler for 2 foot tall raised beds? Living in Maine we get a lot of mixed coniferous and deciduous chips. Love the discussion, thank you



I use everything and I don't have problems.  Recently I got a load that still had a bunch of walnuts in it, and the walnut chips don't seem to be having any ill effect where I used them.
 
Cécile Stelzer Johnson
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"Also interesting is the fact that walnut trees contain almost no juglone". (emphasis mine). We do not have many [English] walnut trees here- too cold-, just some black walnuts and butternuts, and underneath, there is little vegetation. Juglone is often pointed out to be the culprit, but there may be other reasons, like lack of sunlight or not enough nutrients to help other plants, or a combination.
This article tells us that hydrojuglone is what the walnut plant exudes/ produces, and it combines with air to produce juglone. It goes on to detail that the fruit and the leaf contain the most. There is also a variation over the course of a season. So I would not worry too much about the amount of juglone in the chips.
The soil around the walnut tree can hold on to the juglone, more so than what gets exposed to air, as air seems to nullify the effect. Also, clay soil hold on to the juglone whereas sandy soils, don't [containing more air? drain/leaches faster?] Also, a soil that is rich in microbes that feed on the juglone helps to dispatch it, so a good mulch full of life will remove the juglone.
https://www.gardenmyths.com/walnuts-juglone-allelopathy/#:~:text=Also%20interesting%20is%20the%20fact,hydrojuglone%20and%20stores%20it%20instead.

 
Seriously? That's what you're going with? I prefer this tiny ad:
BWB second printing, pre-order dealio (poor man's poll)
https://permies.com/t/147624/BWB-printing-pre-order-dealio
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