• Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic
permaculture forums growies critters building homesteading energy monies kitchen purity ungarbage community wilderness fiber arts art permaculture artisans regional education experiences global resources the cider press projects digital market permies.com private forums all forums
this forum made possible by our volunteer staff, including ...
master stewards:
  • r ranson
  • Nicole Alderman
  • Anne Miller
stewards:
  • Mike Jay
  • paul wheaton
  • Joseph Lofthouse
garden masters:
  • Joylynn Hardesty
  • Steve Thorn
  • James Freyr
  • Greg Martin
  • Dave Burton
gardeners:
  • Carla Burke
  • Pearl Sutton
  • Dan Boone

Planting in woodchips—what do you do for fertility?

 
pollinator
Posts: 670
Location: Southern Illinois
124
transportation cat dog fungi trees building writing rocket stoves woodworking
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Hi everyone,

So I am thoroughly into my springtime planting season in my woodchips and plants are coming up.  I have some potatoes I planted right on top of the soil surface (older, amended garden bed) and covered with chips that had been sitting on the surface for the last year so they are aged.

The potatoes are growing up, but the foliage is not a dark green, being more a yellow-green.  The weather recently has alternated between high heat and drenching rain.  I am assuming that the color indicates a nitrogen deficiency and the heat is not helping.

I was wondering what everyone thinks about how to help them out.  I do have plenty of comfrey I could use, but I am wondering what is the best way to utilize the plant.  I likely don’t have time to make comfrey tea, though this would be good if I had it.  Instead I was thinking of chopping the comfrey and really shredding it, then pull back some chips, apply the shredded comfrey and re-covering with woodchips.  I was also thinking of mowing my lawn and raking the clippings for a top covering for the woodchips.

So what do you all think?  I want to try using only fertility from my own land, hence the comfrey.  I don’t really have a problem using dilute urine on crops like tomatoes and squash, but I question using urine on root crops (I do use urine on comfrey).  I thought the ground beneath was pretty fertile before planting.  Finally, I have a bunch of very old worm castings laying around.  I don’t know if age has affected them, nor do I know exactly what to do with them now that the plants are growing.

Thanks in advance and I look forward to your suggestions.

Eric
 
pollinator
Posts: 919
Location: Virginia USDA 7a/b
172
hugelkultur forest garden hunting chicken food preservation bee
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Eric,

I have the opposite problem, mine are dark green in foliage but already setting flowers! Fresh woodchips on a bed of clover grown over the winter, with rock dust last fall in the clover patch. So I would assume you are low in nitrogen. I use fish emulsion mixed in compost tea for spot application when things look yellow. It's happening in my attempt at a three sisters garden in fresh chips, but ironically the corn is the only one showing deficiency. I planted some in sorghum and its green. some plants are really heavy feeders. Once the squash gets down it seems to do fine.  
 
pollinator
Posts: 468
Location: West Yorkshire, UK
73
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Pee on it?

I don't grow in wood chips, but the "wee bucket" makes a regular rotation around my garden.
 
Posts: 47
Location: 8B ("cheats" to 9A), Western WA
16
homeschooling chicken food preservation cooking bee homestead
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
The way I did my potatoes this year, was to bring in several tractor bucketloads of aged horse manure from my neighbor's, and tilled it all into the soil as I shredded up the 60+ year old untouched sod (eventually we can do no-till, but right now, it's all just so hard to break through that the first season is always tilled, and then I try to landscape it into shallow terraces...), swaled it up along the contour of the slope, and spread what feels like a metric ton or few of aged wood chips that the chickens have had access to all over it, making sure to get 8-12 inches in the swales for water retention. Then topped off with regular woodchips from the top of the pile to "mulch". I side dress with the composted chips and more aged manure if the plants look peaked. They've been in the ground for less than a month, and some plants already reach my knees.

Sometimes it's not nitrogen, it's other deficiencies in the soil. You could try Epsom salts dissolved into water when irrigating for magnesium and sulfur. That works a lot of the time on other nightshade family plants. It depends so much on your local soil. I'm usually adding phosphate, lime, and trace amounts of other minerals. I'm not as shy about using manure on crops like potatoes, because they need to be cooked before eating. I might be a bit more wary with carrots and beets etc, so I save the "good" compost from the compost frames for them.
Aged-Woodchips.jpeg
[Thumbnail for Aged-Woodchips.jpeg]
Well composted woodchips that have become rich black compost.
Woodchips.jpeg
[Thumbnail for Woodchips.jpeg]
Woodchips that have not broken down yet.
 
pioneer
Posts: 1040
Location: 4b
181
dog forest garden trees bee building
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
As mentioned,  fish emulsion, or  urine both work well.  Personally,  on my newer areas that show nitrogen deficiencies, I just sprinkle blood meal on top of the chips around the plants.  That solves it pretty quickly.
 
pollinator
Posts: 244
Location: Basque Country, Spain-42N lat-Köppen Cfb-Zone8b-1035mm/41" rain: 118mm/5" Dec., 48mm/2" July
73
purity personal care books cooking food preservation writing
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
A big pile of fresh grass clippings is loaded with nitrogen and will turn into a hot pile of slimy sludge in no time flat. Maybe let it start to decompose a bit, but not completely, and then put some around each plant?

And I don't think maybe 10:1 dilute urine will hurt at all actually. It's sterile when it comes out, and nature has a long time to transform it into a lot of different things before you harvest -- that's a long time off!

Just the thoughts off the top of my head.
 
Eric Hanson
pollinator
Posts: 670
Location: Southern Illinois
124
transportation cat dog fungi trees building writing rocket stoves woodworking
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Thanks for your help everyone!

So the consensus is Nitrogen, with perhaps some trace minerals missing.  I have used urine on other plants, especially comfrey.  My ideal technique is to pee in a cat litter jug for a couple of days.  The container has a wide mouth and a screw on cap and holds 2.5 gallons.

I have been a little hesitant to use urine on root crops, as I am still getting over the eww factor.  I may give in and sprinkle some bone and blood meal around the surface and water it in.  I believe I still have some of both laying around.  While I am at it, I may as while through in the worm castings.  I just might add some shredded up comfrey while I am at it.

Thanks for the input.

Eric
 
Posts: 36
4
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

Dave de Basque wrote:A big pile of fresh grass clippings is loaded with nitrogen and will turn into a hot pile of slimy sludge in no time flat. Maybe let it start to decompose a bit, but not completely, and then put some around each plant?

And I don't think maybe 10:1 dilute urine will hurt at all actually. It's sterile when it comes out, and nature has a long time to transform it into a lot of different things before you harvest -- that's a long time off!

Just the thoughts off the top of my head.



ive tried to work with several bags of grass clippings at once before.
i used a hard-rake to try and turn them
not fun. almost impossible, and lots of work.
if not turned often and thin, they can go anaerobic... bad microbes rain will filter down into your plants
or whatever you put them on.

best to lay them out thin, a couple inches at most. (depending on heat and moisture)
and/or mix them with ANYTHING else. the difference in size will let air in.
sand, wood-chips, gravel, hay etc...

i get 70 to 100lb of coffee grounds at a time
i throw 2 bags of slightly brown grass with a bag (80lb or so) of coffee
mix well, add 20lb of sugar sand and wet with a mix of %20 urine and a little fish.
turn daily for 2 weeks.
use as top-dress compost.

 
Dave de Basque
pollinator
Posts: 244
Location: Basque Country, Spain-42N lat-Köppen Cfb-Zone8b-1035mm/41" rain: 118mm/5" Dec., 48mm/2" July
73
purity personal care books cooking food preservation writing
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

Brad Mayeux wrote:

ive tried to work with several bags of grass clippings at once before.
i used a hard-rake to try and turn them
not fun. almost impossible, and lots of work.
if not turned often and thin, they can go anaerobic... bad microbes rain will filter down into your plants
or whatever you put them on.

best to lay them out thin, a couple inches at most. (depending on heat and moisture)
and/or mix them with ANYTHING else. the difference in size will let air in.
sand, wood-chips, gravel, hay etc...

i get 70 to 100lb of coffee grounds at a time
i throw 2 bags of slightly brown grass with a bag (80lb or so) of coffee
mix well, add 20lb of sugar sand and wet with a mix of %20 urine and a little fish.
turn daily for 2 weeks.
use as top-dress compost.



Wow, what a recipe, Brad! That stuff must be dynamite! I am not set up too well to try that out now but I definitely plan to later. With the added advantage that coffee grounds keep snails and slugs at bay. And something better to do with grass clippings, keeping it from going anaerobic easily. Genius.

Sugar sand -- that is a derivative of the maple sugaring process? Any substitutes possible for the unfortunate sods that don't live in Vermont or Quebec?
 
Brad Mayeux
Posts: 36
4
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

Dave de Basque wrote:
Wow, what a recipe, Brad! That stuff must be dynamite! I am not set up too well to try that out now but I definitely plan to later. With the added advantage that coffee grounds keep snails and slugs at bay. And something better to do with grass clippings, keeping it from going anaerobic easily. Genius.

Sugar sand -- that is a derivative of the maple sugaring process? Any substitutes possible for the unfortunate sods that don't live in Vermont or Quebec?



sorry, here , we refer to "sugar sand" as just a rough sand (large particles - like most beach sand)
because most of the sand we get is river sand, which is small particles, closer to clay.

the key is to mix in something, anything, to let air in.
you could run hay through a chipper, or sticks and stems, or even use finely ground wood chips.

the BEST compost i ever made was 1 bag of grass clippings, 1 bag of coffee grounds, 2 bags of wood-shavings.

i got the shavings from a cabinet maker.
the bags were 5ft tall 3ft wide, and finely shaved wood.
the grass, coffee, urine, fish all turned into a beautiful compost.

 
garden master
Posts: 2345
Location: West Tennessee
646
cat purity trees books chicken food preservation cooking building homestead
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I've been experimenting with this, because I recently moved and don't have a real garden. I had 25 yards of oak wood chips delivered. I broadcast some kelp and fish bone meal and sprayed a biodynamic preparation then I spread the mulch out where I want my garden to be. I wrote about that in more detail here https://permies.com/t/67972/personal-quest-super-soil#933940

With a dismal start, I did get things to grow well after using liquid fish hydrolysate, some liquid kelp, and some effective microorganisms (EM). I sowed some winter squash, and one is doing particularly well. It's Red Kuri winter squash, and I just placed the seeds right into the undecayed wood chips, covered them lightly, and a few germinated. As soon as they sprouted, I watered them with the fish, kelp and EM. One didn't make it, and one survived, even after one of my chickens completely uprooted it as a seedling while scratching around, and I caught it in time before it began to wilt and did my best to replant it. The seed was sown on July 13th, and yesterday August 23rd, I took a picture of it. It's had the fish, kelp and EM once a week since it germinated, and I'll continue to do so to this squash (and everything else out there now) in hopes to have something to eat this fall/winter. I hope that next year, a sufficient amount of the wood chips will have decayed that I can lay off this crutch of weekly fertility and things will grow on their own, but only time will tell. I will say though, that fish hydrolysate and liquid kelp and microbes have worked very well for me.
IMG_20190823_093303302_HDR.jpg
[Thumbnail for IMG_20190823_093303302_HDR.jpg]
Red Kuri (cucurbita maxima)
 
Does this tiny ad smell okay to you?
permaculture bootcamp - learn permaculture through a little hard work
https://permies.com/wiki/bootcamp
  • Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic
Boost this thread!