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Covered my yard with chips. What now?

 
pollinator
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I am almost finished with completely covering my backyard with wood chips to about 8 to 10 inches thick.  

I live in a suburb and do not want to invade my neighbors with anything that will deflect from there nice lawns.  

I have a gravelly clay mix 6 inches under the soil that I want to increase the ability to hold water.

Are there any recommendations for cover crops that I can use to help break these down?  Or should I leave it like this?  Would gypsum help on this large an area?

I have White (Dutch) clover seeds but only have a driveway and Elaeagnus hedge to protect the neighbors lawns.  Would this be enough?

I also have some year old horse feed (Rye, Millet, Oats) that I need to use somewhere.  

I also have some left over supplies that I was using to grow mushrooms in my humidity chamber. (Wheat Bran, wood pellets, oak shavings)  Can any of this be used around the fruit trees?  They are over a year old and I do not know if they are good for anything else.  I am the only person the in family that likes mushrooms, so now I only grow on logs.
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Backyard Orchard (Kiwi Pergola, Asian Pear, Asian Persimmon, Fig, Pomegranates, Yezberries, Pluots and Plums)
 
pollinator
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Mushroom slurries!

You don't necessarily have to do it a lot, but with all those wood chips, I would inoculate the whole area with an oxygenated compost extract, to kickstart bacterial decomposition, and then fungal slurry. The bacteria will make available that which the fungi need that isn't provided by the wood chips, and the fungi will colonise the woodchips, accelerating breakdown.

I think that people using compost extracts and fungal slurries to establish new healthy soil tend to apply twice a season.

I think what's most crucial is to keep the moisture level adequate to allow for bacterial and fungal colonisation. I would consider dropping a drip line or slow-drip soaker hose under the top layer of mulch. That by itself will speed decomposition, as the mulch will be colonised by whatever thinks it's food, whatever you want, and the constant moisture levels will enable it to continue throughout adverse weather conditions, within reason.

-CK
 
Dennis Bangham
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Thanks,  

This spring was so wet that fungi is growing naturally in the chips.  I have seen white and orange strands and was seeing cup mushrooms as well as some little brown mushrooms that are common in wood chip piles around here.  
I also scrapped up some of the subsoil where I have had a chip pile for 6 or 7 years.  Good black soil that will go on the next raised bed.

I have a couple of tripod sprinklers and a valve/timer system. Maybe some over night watering for a while.  I also have a vortex brewer and can make 25 gallons of ACT at a time.  I just need to find a better way to disperse the ACT since my backpack sprayer no longer pumps.
 
Chris Kott
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Sweet. It sounds like you've got it surrounded, then.

Gypsum is typically used where you need a shot of calcium without affecting the pH. If you have a heavy clay soil with permeability issues due to a calcium insufficiency, gypsum grit can usually make heavy clays crumble by giving the clay particles something other than themselves to stick to.

You should be able to use the old mushroom supplies like the woodchips. I would be careful to spread anything more edible out past the drip line of any trees, and if you're not okay with birds picking through it for a bit in exchange for their poop, I would mix it in with less-animal-edible substrate.

But good job. Please keep us posted, and good luck.

-CK
 
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Honestly I would just plant into it. I usually grow potatoes in chips. I don’t get commercial level harvest per plant, but I don’t do that much work either.
 
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I think exactly like Shawn.  I wouldn't do anything.  If you want to plant something, open a hole in the wood chips, plant in the ground, pull the wood chips back in around the plant.  Repeat as necessary.  Every year the soil will get better, things will keep growing better, and you don't really have to do anything.  The best areas I have, where the plants grow the best, is a spot I stored a huge pile of wood chips for a couple years before I did anything with them.  When I finally used the chips, I left 8 inches or so, and planted trees and things there.  I planted a Linden tree that grew bigger around than my wrist in two years.  In other places, Lindens that I planted at the same time, from the same order, are less than half that size.
 
Dennis Bangham
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Since I have heavy clay under the first 6 inches should I throw the rye around and see if it grows?  I want to bust up the clay and get something that goes down deep.  
As for critters it is limited to rabbits and chip monks.  

I will look into building the compost tea injector that Dr. Redhawk described a while back.  Don't know how to solder copper but time to learn.
 
Trace Oswald
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My soil is heavy clay too.  I planted tillage radish to break it up and get more organic matter in it.  If you want to plant a cover crop for that reason, or whatever else, you can just open a row in the chips down to the soil and plant in it.

You can also spread compost or coffee grounds on the top and let the rain carry it in.  Worms will doing the tilling for you if you give it time.  Like I said, I didn't do anything and the soil is incredible now.  The chips kept enough moisture in for millions of worms to move in.  Between worm poop and them tilling and eating and moving things around, the clay is completely transformed.  Compost tea, mushroom slurries, coffee grounds, all that stuff works, but in my experience, it just speeds up the process.  If you aren't in a hurry, it will take care of itself.  If you are in a hurry, those things can be very helpful.
 
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I affirm what's been said above: no need to do anything special at this point.  Just keep the chips adequately wet (maybe water 2x a week?), and then pull the chips back to plant into the native soil when you're ready to put some stuff in the ground.  

Tomatoes, peppers, vining crops (cucumbers, watermelon, etc.) . . . those are all easy to plant in wood chip mulch.  Rake the mulch back and expose the soil below, dig your hole and plant.  As the plant grows, you can push the mulch back around the base of the plant.
 
Chris Kott
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I agree, though I would amend heavy-feeding plantings with compost in the hole, and topdressed for the watering-in, and I would also be ready with a source of liquid fertilizer (the natural, golden kind, for my money) should leaves show signs of nitrogen depletion.

-CK
 
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Dennis,

Great project, look forward to following and seeing what you evolve it into.

I think you will have volunteer natives in short order. One opportunity you have is to decide which ones get to stay.

Do you have any favorite wild edibles? Wild carrot, wild lettuce, curly dock, and wood sorrel will probably show up in year one among your chips given your area. You may also have some pernicious invasive vines show up.

Researching what shows up and deciding what to do with each can be fun and exciting. Who is coming for dinner this week?


 
Dennis Bangham
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I do have a lot of home made compost.  
I have already noticed that an area that i have been chipping for several years has gone from growing weeds and my plants to growing grasses and my plants.  I remember grasses are the next step up in soil remediation.
I am learning about weeds and what is good.  I have a huge Burdock that I got from an Organic Farmer where I bought my SEA-90.  I have been munching on Purslane as I find it.
 
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