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All the Great Things about Wood Chips

 
gardener
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NOTE: Worms being present means the biolife we want in soil is mostly there, it does not mean there is a lack of contaminants!

Many, many species can survive and even thrive in environments that humans would not. One of the things that bikini atoll has taught us is that most of the life forms that have repopulated there are abble to cope with radiation levels that kill humans.

Chemistry testing is the primary way to know the safety of any soil or ammendment.

Redhawk
 
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Dr. Redhawk,  Short of having the money for chemical analysis, does the bean sprout test provide any convincing evidence?
 
Bryant RedHawk
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hau kola, yes the bean sprout test shows that herbicide residues are low enough for success in growing foods that are safe for consumption.

Redhawk
 
Dennis Bangham
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I did this bean test last year. Compared the big box store (Lowes) top soil and the top soil and manure combination and planted 6 beans in each.  Nothing grew out the top soil but the top soil manure combination did great.
 
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If the mushroom slurry turns into identifiable edible mushrooms, they shouldn't be eaten correct?  By remediating the chemicals they are sucking them up and if you eat them, you're eating the chemicals?
 
Bryant RedHawk
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The way the gov. set their requirements means that what is labeled top soil is actually dirt because of sterlization. Now,  if they want to sell a soil & amendment then they can sell biologicaly active dirt, which we all know is soil. Go figure.

Redhawk
 
Bryant RedHawk
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Mike Haasl wrote:If the mushroom slurry turns into identifiable edible mushrooms, they shouldn't be eaten correct?  By remediating the chemicals they are sucking them up and if you eat them, you're eating the chemicals?



Correct, any organism used for remediation should be treated as inedible, we are using them for one specific purpose, collection of toxins.

Redhawk
 
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Wow! It’s amazing. My husband is a sprayer/truck driver for CHS, and it turns out that he did spray an herbicide called “Grazonnext” on the pasture where our horses graze in the Summer, and there’s a chance the hay my dad feeds in the Winter could also have been sprayed. It’s the one aspect of this mess I was totally sure wasn’t an issue. I did incorporate a pickup load of said manure (not the chunks, but some of the broken down stuff) from the barn into my garden. Looking back, I also realize that using manure (no matter how well aged in the barn) probably shouldn’t have been used without good composting anyway?
 
Bryant RedHawk
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As you deduced, cow, or any ruminant produced manure is best after being composted at least 3 months. If you have well rotted manure you could just add some fungi, give it two to four weeks before using.

Redhawk
 
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James Freyr wrote:I'd like to chime in with my thoughts about the cause of the plant symptoms and death. After looking at the pictures I'm more inclined to believe the compost is the source of the effects, not the fresh wood chips or active drift from a neighbor.

Leah Holder wrote:... a little horse manure.



Mike Haasl wrote:Some of the new wonder herbicides can make it through an animal, get fully composted and then still kill your garden for a few years.



I live in farm country, and I have a neighbor who has some sprawling hayfields. He sprays an aminopyralid on his hay fields, square bales all of it and sells it to "horse people" as he refers to them. It's these aminopyralids that are very long lasting even through composting. According to him, a lot of folks who raise horses are very particular about the type of hay they feed their horses, and certain plants can potentially cause illness and other grasses can cause what is referred to as hay blister in horses. It allows him to offer hay of a single known grass type with nothing else in it for the horse market. I'm inclined to believe that the horse manure, unfortunately, contained residuals of these types of poisons. I'd also like to second Bryant Redhawks suggestion to apply mushroom slurries to the area and it will break down any chemical residuals. Mushroom slurries are easy to make. Take mushrooms, wild or store bought, whir them up in a blender with some non chlorinated water, and pour this on the area. A blender full can be thinned in a 5 gallon bucket to make it go farther as opposed to whirring up 5 gallons two quarts at a time.




It’s probably wise not to eat any of the mushrooms that fruit from the slurries correct? At least not for a few years until hopefully most of the chemicals are broken down?
 
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Bryant RedHawk wrote:NOTE: Worms being present means the biolife we want in soil is mostly there, it does not mean there is a lack of contaminants!
Many, many species can survive and even thrive in environments that humans would not. One of the things that bikini atoll has taught us is that most of the life forms that have repopulated there are abble to cope with radiation levels that kill humans.
Chemistry testing is the primary way to know the safety of any soil or ammendment.
Redhawk



Thank you: I had not thought about that, but it is true that some organisms can survive under conditions that would kill all of us. The Bikini Atoll is an excellent example. Some organisms can eat stuff that would kill us. I was pretty proud of finally having earthworms after a few years of improving my sandbox soil with leaves and other amendments, but you are correct. The improvement may still not yield perfect soil.
Do you think that maybe the fact that some organisms can deal with what would be very adverse conditions for us is actually a strength in the constantly evolving diversity on our planet? There is a niche for all organisms, and some can actually clean up what we mess up... Hmmm more food for thought.
 
Bryant RedHawk
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Hau, I am very happy that you are seeing your soil supporting organisms, progress!

The organism we live on is so complex that the more we understand, the more awe is experienced. I never get tired of discovering the interconnections or how deep they run. For me, there are so many reactions from one small change that it seems remarkable that to heal the earth mother can be as simple as leaving a destroyed space alone. Your worms showing up show how well you are doing at bringing back what was lost. Kudos my new friend.

Redhawk
 
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Brody Ekberg wrote:
It’s probably wise not to eat any of the mushrooms that fruit from the slurries correct? At least not for a few years until hopefully most of the chemicals are broken down?



Correct, it's best to not consume mushrooms that fruit from areas being treated for remediation. For your second question, I am unsure of a timeline to give a definitive answer. There could be a lot of variables such as amount of contaminant, soil temperatures based on geographical location, how wet or dry a soil is, etc.

 
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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,



Not true?  We get moisture here year around they seem to break down quick.  Maybe I'll try mulching outside the garden on the pathways like I have been doing.  Saw mushrooms growing on these chips, and weed wild onion is starting to come up here.  A few in pathway.  Time to get another free delivery of chips.
 
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Is a field covered in wood chips compatible with growing a hay crop like a mix of clover and some other perennial grass? Is there a way to broadcast seed through the wood chips, or should the hay be growing already? Or should i wait for the wood chips to break down on the surface and then plant a grass crop like normal?

Thanks
 
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This is what I am tring in 2021:




 
Michael Moreken
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https://permies.com/t/153314/flooding-TN-inches-rain-Dec

First picture is the one I setup sloppy, Did not keep wood chips from falling out of my method, others use material garden cloth to keep it all in.  Just threw in a bit of cardboard.  I will not cover since we get moisture year around and I see what it does over time.  It sunk a little, so added my last? input.

Using wood chips to build up the level of lawn and leveling the lawn especially in back and everywhere, had a line truck pulled across yard after getting stuck in my clay :)  so have to fill those tracks too.   I dumped wood chips in my drainage ditches to stop any top soil loss, plus to build compost over time.

I covered a pooling water area in back yard with wood chips so now can walk on it.  Starting to loose track how many free delivers of wood chips I got.  I have to be careful not to alter landscape drainage back towards house.  I pretty safe, but it will be interesting in summer with mowing.  I am tempted to go in with push mover in winter to wack barnyard grass.

The wood chip companies I contact through the electric company.  Now have a page you sign.  Maybe next one take a picture of the legalese.  These companies mentioned they are running out of one area they were going to.  So happy to help out.  I wonder how stupid I am filling low areas of yard with respect to riding mower.  I can maneuver better with the push mower.  Went through a pile in last week.  Pondering more deliveries after holiday.  Maybe will fill the 'pool' in back.  Maybe just pile up wood chips in back of house, not attracting termites.  The back of the house has been a marshy area from the start.  So stop mowing and load up the wood chips for this whole area.  
20201225_pond-out-back.jpg
[Thumbnail for 20201225_pond-out-back.jpg]
 
Michael Moreken
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Here is one try at producing soil in a year?  We get moisture year around so no need to water.  

Funny mushroom inoculating, I saw only mushrooms on pathways of my wood chips, though did load up beds with some wood chips and will be interesting if mushrooms grow on my no walk on beds.

I have loaded 3 loads over time on wood chips on paths between beds.
20201231_wood-chip-pile.jpg
[Thumbnail for 20201231_wood-chip-pile.jpg]
 
Bryant RedHawk
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Kyle Anders wrote:Is a field covered in wood chips compatible with growing a hay crop like a mix of clover and some other perennial grass? Is there a way to broadcast seed through the wood chips, or should the hay be growing already? Or should i wait for the wood chips to break down on the surface and then plant a grass crop like normal?

Thanks



If you use a seed drill planting through chips works pretty well. WC are mulch when on the soil surface the interface area retains moisture making that area more friable as well as more fungal/bacterial.
 
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Michael Moreken wrote:will be interesting if mushrooms grow on my no walk on beds.



Everywhere I have ever put wood chips, mushrooms grew.  Without fail.  Long before I ever consciously put "mushroom slurry" on anything, I still grew mushrooms.
 
Cécile Stelzer Johnson
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Thanks, Joe:
3 most interesting videos on building  and feeding a Johnson-Su bioreactor. Lots of analogies make it really easy to understand. Since our human guts are suffering a lot of maladies due to our immune suppressed systems, it has a lot of *human* biology lessons as well.
I've been just asking for free chips and got a nice pile. Unfortunately, snows came and winter set in before I could build a bioreactor. Project for next year, then! Now I will know what to do with them!
 
Michael Moreken
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Any idea on depth of wood chips for an asparagus bed?   I put maybe 2 inches on and saw and attacked a few weeds.
 
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I have a question for all the wood chip experts:

We love our wood chips, but we live in the Southeast USA. That brings termites, fire ants, and (gasp!) Asian roaches.

I've tried keeping the wood chips away from any of our structures. I try to stir up the wood chips (without tilling the soil). Any other ideas for keeping the pests away?

Cost wise, DE isn't really a viable option. We've got too much area to cover, and the heavy rains would wash it away.
 
Dennis Bangham
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I live in North Alabama, so very similar environment (probably).  I treat those problems like They are part of the natural environment and I try to attract their predators.  Termites are controlled by regular ants, roaches are lizard and bird food.  Fire ants are terrible in my area but for some reason not in my yard. It maybe because my soil is very friable now that I have had chips down for 5+ years.
Since I get a lot of rain (70+ inches in 2020) my wood chips break down pretty fast and I can find fungi stands (orange and white) that have populated the wood chips.  I can not do a shovel full of soil with out one or more worms.
I did do a 6 inch barrier of gravel between the house and the chips.  Not sure if that has done anything though. We do find ants inside once in a while and I mix borax and sugar and also a cookie or snack as a control.  My wife goes after them with 10% ammonia.
 
Cécile Stelzer Johnson
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Michael Moreken wrote:Any idea on depth of wood chips for an asparagus bed?   I put maybe 2 inches on and saw and attacked a few weeds.



That might depend on the soil you have. In my raised sandbox, I add 4-5" of woodchips, along with some of the manure my chickens created. I have few weeds and I think the depth of the mulch helps. These are strong "Millennial" asparagus. At my previous abode, which was lowland and quite clayey, I had a dickens of a time fighting weeds, with or without mulch. The trick is to stay on top of it, but in the summer, there are so many things that require our attention! There is also a product that prevents germination. It probably is not OMRI certified though, and you will still have to deal with weeds that 'travel' like quack grass. For that, a good hook is worth its weight in gold!
 
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Question on type of chips? I have access to a huge pile of chips at a local golf course close to my home. They have been taking out a large number of pine trees, long needles. The chip pile is 18' high and 30' long with a huge amount of green needles mixed in. Walking past it yesterday I noticed it was smoking in the cool air. Do you see any problems adding this type of chip mix to garden and flower beds come spring?
 
Cécile Stelzer Johnson
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Ron Haberman wrote:Question on type of chips? I have access to a huge pile of chips at a local golf course close to my home. They have been taking out a large number of pine trees, long needles. The chip pile is 18' high and 30' long with a huge amount of green needles mixed in. Walking past it yesterday I noticed it was smoking in the cool air. Do you see any problems adding this type of chip mix to garden and flower beds come spring?



Sounds like the pile is starting to heat up and decompose. That is good. Golf courses, however are notorious for adding and spraying all sorts of things so the lawn stays green, the grass grows and never gets too high. I'd be more worried about the chemicals they may have spread. But if it is decomposing, it sounds like the material is full of life, which is good.
Are you worried it might catch on fire? I would not know about that but I have not heard of decomposing stuff catching on fire.
The long [soft?] needles may be white pine, pinus strobus https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pinus_strobus.
They would be great to grow potatoes that like it a little more acid but I would not be too worried about acidifying the soil if that is what you are wondering. If you are, use it for blueberries or rhododendrons perhaps? Once it is decomposed, it will make wonderful mulch, seed-free, my favorite kind!
 
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Does anyone have experience with using Scots pine and/or Norway spruce chips? We're in the process of buying a property where these are the dominant tree species, and would love to use some for woodchips, but I'm concerned that the resins might cause trouble. On the other hand, I suppose there will be fungi specialised on decomposing conifer wood in the area... Any input would be welcome.
 
Dennis Bangham
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I remember Dr. Redhawk mentioning that pine chips are okay within a couple of months.  
 
Bryant RedHawk
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Correct Dennis, conifer chips need a drying period before use as mulch, especially in veg plots.

Redhawk
 
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Out of curiosity, what does the drying off do that is so beneficial?

Eric
 
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My understanding is the sap, it the reason small pine trees rot away in 5 years, but large pine stumps can last 60 years. We have one on the farm, that my father said was there when he moved in & that was 62 years ago.
I think that is why wine cap mushrooms like hard wood more than conifers.
 
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Eric Hanson wrote:Out of curiosity, what does the drying off do that is so beneficial?

Eric



Drying conifer chips reduces the viability of the alopathic compounds (each family has different types, some more potent than others). By reducing these the compound(s) are less likely to cause unwanted effects. The resins tend to inhibit both fungal and bacterial activity.

Redhawk
 
Eric Hanson
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Redhawk, everyone,

So would I be correct to assume that with a little "conditioning"--that is drying out time--even pine trees and chips from pine trees would be good for my Wine Caps?  I am asking this mostly out of curiosity, not because I have great plans to use pines or even a good source of pines.  

Just curious,

Eric
 
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older chips (months+) tend to accumulate many types of fungi through the air.  Fungi tends to compete with other fungi.  For example to grow edible mushrooms on logs you need to heavily inoculate fresh logs before other unwanted fungi take hold.  
 
Eric Hanson
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Denis,

Totally fair point about mushroom "viability."  However, there are two mushroom species that are so aggressive that they will simply arm-wrestle just about any other competitor to death--These are Wine Caps and Blue Oysters (just don't try to grow them together or they will arm wrestle each other to death).  I am wondering if, in the case that hardwood species are not available, that conifers could used as a substrate for Wine Caps or Blue Oysters if the chips were conditioned those months.  True, the preferred fungi would have to get their start against established undesired fungi, but perhaps these two species would be up to the task.  I don't know, I am mostly hypothesizing.  One application might be using old Christmas trees that have been chipped and shredded up.  Might that supply of chips in a few months make a good substrate for either of these mushrooms?

Again, I am mostly asking this out of curiosity, but I am perpetually amazed with the speed by which Wine Caps (and I would like to give Blue Oysters a try as well) can turn freshly chipped hardwood (I use the term hardwood extremely loosely here, it basically means any conifer wood) into extremely fertile garden compost.  I would love to find a way to do the same for areas that have no good supply of deciduous trees but do have conifers.

Thanks for entertaining my obsession.

Eric
 
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I had a space I didn't use for anything.  A couple of years ago I covered it with wood chips.  Wow what a difference it made.  Instead of a weedy ugly fire hazard it looked pretty good.  Last spring I went a little over board when starting seeds, I ended up with more then would fit in my garden, and even after I shared with friends and family I still had stuff left.  I decided why not throw it in my empty space.  I pulled the wood back where I wanted to plant loosened the soil that looked like every gardeners dream, filled the hole I had created by moving the wood chips with compost and planted away.  Hands down the best garden I have ever had.  I never had luck with watermelon, but last year we had huge super sweet watermelon.  
Though I have my reasons I will spare you my excuses and say I did no end of summer fall clean up.  I keep avoiding that space because now it is a blanked of weeds.  I figured days and days of back braking work, sad face.  The wood chips come through again.  Probably 75% of the weeds are gone with less than an hour of raking.  A lot of the weeds took root and crawled along the top of the wood.  I figure an hour or two and I should be able to get most of the weeds.  Even the ones I have to pull seem to come right up.  I have a few piles if wood chips and I will add a layer of newish chips to get even more weed control.  I have never been sorry I have used wood chips.  Even though you have to add to it every year or so it is still worth it.  I have discovered at least in my area I have to have at least 12" of wood chips for weed control.  Better yet cardboard and 12" of wood chips on that.  I read 6" to 8" will do it, but for my area and the weeds we have that just doesn't do the trick.  
I love wood chips, they look great, improve your soil and its free.  I can't think of one down side.  I just make sure if I'm putting them around something woody like a tree or rose I don't touch the tree with the wood chips, and I don't put them up next to any building.  My husband was worried about termites.  I read it isn't a problem, but it's better to be safe then sorry.  As far as other bugs I don't see more of anything in the wood then anywhere else.  I'm a total wood chip fan!  Happy gardening People.
 
Bryant RedHawk
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Eric Hanson wrote:Redhawk, everyone,

So would I be correct to assume that with a little "conditioning"--that is drying out time--even pine trees and chips from pine trees would be good for my Wine Caps?  I am asking this mostly out of curiosity, not because I have great plans to use pines or even a good source of pines.  

Just curious,

Eric



hau kola Eric, conifers are,(according to paul stamets), not proper in nutrients for many of our favorite fungi. I have chicken of the woods growing on some conifer wood but none of my oyster strains did anything. This is probably a prime function of the resins, I am doing some investigation on why my favorite to eat fungi do not seem to even get a start.



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Eric Hanson
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RedHawk, everyone,

So if conifers are deficient in nutrients needed for more desirable mushroom production, I wonder what would happen if some degree of manure were added.  I am thinking especially in wood chip form as opposed to whole log.

Might make an interesting experiment.

Eric
 
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