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!!! All the Great Things about Wood Chips

 
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Whenever I chip wood, I also make sure to collect decaying branches from around my farm or my forest floor to add to the branch pile, then when I'm chipping away I make sure to put these decaying branches through the chipper with fresh ones here and there.

I have been doing this since October, and now I'm distributing the chips around the farm and almost all of the woodchip interior is matted with mycelium, it smells fantastic, it's actually slightly more work to spread it out haha.

Nonetheless I think this a great way to innoculate your woodchip (if your chipping yourself) as you go, little tip from Norway
 
pollinator
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Ooh, good tip! Thanks Shaun. I suppose it works better if the rotting branches are from the same tree species that you chip? So you get the right species of fungi, I mean...
 
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What are yall's thoughts on applying grass clipping on top of wood chip beds? I would like to start applying on the edges to smother the grass that inevitably creeps in.

But I'm worried that adding a lot of grass clippings will start composting the wood chips from the top down instead of the bottom up. And that would end up giving grass and weeds more purchase instead of less in the long run. Grass all summer and more wood chips layered on top in the spring?
 
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Matt Todd wrote:What are yall's thoughts on applying grass clipping on top of wood chip beds? I would like to start applying on the edges to smother the grass that inevitably creeps in.

But I'm worried that adding a lot of grass clippings will start composting the wood chips from the top down instead of the bottom up. And that would end up giving grass and weeds more purchase instead of less in the long run. Grass all summer and more wood chips layered on top in the spring?



I guess it depends on the quality of the grass clippings. If they are full of weeds, maybe not. I would not be too worried about composting from the top: composting is composting and it is a plus. I got a lot of bags of grass clippings last year. These lawns were under maples. I now have quite a few maples growing in my garden. [I'm putting them to good use, transplanting them in my forest]
"Grass all summer and more wood chips layered on top in the spring?". Did you mean in the Fall? [In the spring, the grass may grow through the chips? whereas in the Fall, they would compost under the chips maybe?
 
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I have been recently planting new spring items in my garden, raised beds and flower beds. Most I have been covering with wood chips for 2 years. Today I see some great changes in the soil.
I have earth worms in just about every shovel of dirt below the chips. That can only be good. I even dug a small hole in my heavily walked path covered with apple chips, lots of very small earth worms.

For me wood chips appear to be making for better soil.
 
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Matt Todd wrote:What are yall's thoughts on applying grass clipping on top of wood chip beds? I would like to start applying on the edges to smother the grass that inevitably creeps in.

But I'm worried that adding a lot of grass clippings will start composting the wood chips from the top down instead of the bottom up. And that would end up giving grass and weeds more purchase instead of less in the long run. Grass all summer and more wood chips layered on top in the spring?




The key is depth of the chip bed, grass clippings should not be a problem but seed content might be an issue. Drying the clippings would help reduce any issues. Keep as constant a depth of wood chips as you can (6 inches is the minimum for weed and grass supression).

Redhawk
 
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Consider doing heavy chip moving on rainy days to
minimize airborne spores/dust. I know they wet asbestos
during remediation to minimize dry particles going airborne.
I’ll be getting a large amount of rotted log mulch and I never put any thought into mold inhalation. Great forum guys!
 
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  ~I have a mesquite forest filled with old, dead wood, and theres also a lot of old dry mustard plant~Is it possible that the mustard would create an alkaline soil when used as mulch, that would balance out the acidic effect of the wood chips, if used together for vegetable gardens?~
 
Bryant RedHawk
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hau Kathy, dead, dried wood chiped most likely would not have any effect on soil ph. Generally it is fresh wood that might cause a slight ph change, even that would be short term.

Redhawk
 
Kathy Woods
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  Thank you!~By chance, do you have any suggestions as to how i could go about getting all of this wood to be used?~Ive seen that a lot of folks try to get chips from tree trimmers, etc., Id love to have a way to get my woods cleared of a lot of it?~I have 45 acres of it~
 
Ron Haberman
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Kathy Woods wrote:   Thank you!~By chance, do you have any suggestions as to how i could go about getting all of this wood to be used?~Ive seen that a lot of folks try to get chips from tree trimmers, etc., Id love to have a way to get my woods cleared of a lot of it?~I have 45 acres of it~



And where would this be?
 
Bryant RedHawk
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Around my area the tree service companies will do the job and leave you the chips, ask if they reduce their charge if they don't have to remove the chipped up wood.

Redhawk
 
Kathy Woods
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  ~Southern Arizona, where there is a lot of desert~
 
Cécile Stelzer Johnson
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Kathy Woods wrote:   ~Southern Arizona, where there is a lot of desert~



And so your woodchips should be really precious. If you really have too many, I'm sure some folks would love to buy them from you and pay good money to boot!
Here, I get my woodchips from the county: When we get weather events, they will chip the trees that are on County land [That is not often]. More often, when folks get rid of a tree, if they choose to keep the wood and get it chipped, that is a *service*, so they pay for it. If they want to get rid of it, the arborists may take it to the County dump, where it gets chipped.
So either way, the County folks are the ones to talk to. I have my name on their list as someone who will take chips, so once in a while, they will contact me to check that I want them and where to pile them. It is free because by taking them from the dump, I free room at the dump. But now, I'm getting competition as I'm not the only one or even the first on the list.

The quality of the chips vary: sometimes, they are chipped rather coarsely, sometimes they are finer. I'll take them all: trash trees, hardwoods. If  I want them chipped finer, I have a little electric chipper that can do the job. My main concern would be if some trees are sick. I have them piled at least a year before I put them in the garden, but yeah, it is a concern. I trust that the County will not give me diseased trees.
 
Kathy Woods
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 ~Thanks, yes, it seems wood chips are mainly gotten from tree trimmers, by being on their list, etc.~Ive read about a recent discovery that the fungal element in wood chips is what allows the minerals & nutrients to be better absorbed in the veggies, when used in a veggie garden~Id love to help that happen for folks!~
 
Kathy Woods
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  ~I just heard that mesquite wood has a chemical in it that prevents things from growing?!?~Is that true???~There have only been a few different plants that have grown under them, mainly Greythorn & Mustard?~
 
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Bryant, this paragraph in the original makes more sense to me if I change the order of the sentences. Also fixed some typos:
There are, for the public, a number of concerns surrounding the use of arborist wood chips as a landscape mulch, due to a lot of either uninformed opinions or misinformation being circulated on the internet as well as pseudo-scientists putting out non-trialed theories.

Thanks for the thorough summary of wood chip info! I love them and transformed our entire front yard with 8-10" of wood chips.
 
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I had a similar mold problem with a load of woodchips we got. We had to move the pile of chips to distribute it around the property and we noticed a lot of dust coming off the pile. The next day my husband and I both had sore throats! We used masks from then forward while moving that pile and our throats got better. I'm not sure what could have been in that pile to affect us so much; I assumed it was mold, but that's just a hunch.

The chips are on paths and around trees now. Everything seems to be doing fine. It was just moving the pile initially that caused the health problem.
 
Kathy Woods
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  ~Ive heard others say this same thing, and it is thought to be spores of some kind, i think?~It makes me wonder if that would mean it already has the fungal element, that a mushroom slurry treatment would do?~
 
Bryant RedHawk
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Molds are not fungi, fungi generally do not effect the throat and a fungi would take days to become problematic if inhaled. Molds are more likely to cause respiration problems since their spores reproduce quickly. Dust from some wood species are known to cause respritory issues, the woods usually are either resinous or oily. It is proper caution to wear a mask when handling unknown woods like you can encounter in arborists chips, the N-95 type would be the prefered type of mask.

Redbawk
 
Kathy Woods
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~☆~Thank you for clarifying that!!!~☆~There is so much to learn about this!!!~☆~
 
Bryant RedHawk
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The mesquite roots put out two potent allopaths while the tree is alive, once dead these compounds are no longer being made, but they are persistant on the soil for around a year. The wood can't make these exudates, only live roots.

Redhawk
 
Kathy Woods
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~Im glad to know that, thanks!!!~I guess it wont interfere with the wood for chips, then~
 
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A quick update. Being a lazy sort I spread out the sweet gum chips, and took my chances.  I'm happy to report the smell didn't last long, and not one sweet gum tree popped up.  I was surprised by this because we have walnut trees popping up everywhere, every year. I think this is mostly the work of squirrels.  So if you get sweet gum, no worries, at least in N. California zone 9 b.
 
Kathy Woods
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  ~I had no idea a good wood chipper was so expensive!~I figured i could get a decent one for $1K, but they are more like $20K or more~Im thinking putting logs & branches in between the rows of veggies in my garden to see if that has any benefits~
 
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Kathy Woods wrote:   ~I had no idea a good wood chipper was so expensive!~I figured i could get a decent one for $1K, but they are more like $20K or more~Im thinking putting logs & branches in between the rows of veggies in my garden to see if that has any benefits~



$20K is a really good commercial unit.  I just bought a really great PTO chipper for $3500 that is hydraulic feed and will chip 8" trees.  I have no doubt it will last several lifetimes.
 
Cécile Stelzer Johnson
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Kathy Woods wrote:   ~I had no idea a good wood chipper was so expensive!~I figured i could get a decent one for $1K, but they are more like $20K or more~Im thinking putting logs & branches in between the rows of veggies in my garden to see if that has any benefits~



Alternately, you might be able to use the County crew either to import chips that are not on your property, or an arborist who will trim/ fell trees. They will give you the option of keeping the chips or getting them hauled away at no charge.
If you *buy* a chipper, you will be responsible for the upkeep,[and there is upkeep to keep the cutting sharp] fixing the darn thing, [and relative to how much you use them they are expensive to fix, maintaining it, and of course storing it! etc. Also, if you ask someone to use it for your benefit and that person gets hurt, it is on you [even if they are negligent].
Depending on how many trees you have to fell, getting an arborist to drop and chunk the debris might be a better option. They don't come cheap either. I also asked mine which trees he thought I could/ should plant,  if this kind would or would not do well in my sand. In other words, just by chit-chatting friendly like before he did the job, I also got his expert advice for free. [Yeah: I'm cheap [but efficient!]]
Depending on the size of the debris, keeping them between the rows in your garden would be a super idea as well.
Finally, if, after you fell the trees you can't get rid of them, You could always pile them up for the benefit of wild life. Here is a small video on making a wild life pile in your forest: [As long as you have to move the wood a few feet from where you dropped it anyway...]
https://www.friendsofballardwatermeadow.co.uk/nature-loves-a-wood-pile/
 
Kathy Woods
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  ~Cecile, thank you for the article on making a wood pile for wildlife~Where i live, tho, itd attract rattlesnakes, scorpions, giant centipedes, etc., plus create a fire hazzard~I have so much aged, fallen wood in my forest, ive really been hoping to find a way to get it to others for their garden needs, but the wood chippers are much too costly to ever even pay for itself~I cant really see a difference in the $2000. ones & the $200, 000. ones?!?~I was trying to initiate a barter with an organic farm on my road that does permaculture, and hes the one that told me how much one for my needs would cost~Id love to provide wood for a business that could chip it & create different types of compost for different needs~It seems there a huge need for that right now~Most people are seriously deficient in minerals, plus there are serious droughts everywhere, and excessive weeding is exhausting & unnecessary~I want to figure out something.....
 
Kathy Woods
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  ~Trace, would something like yours chip small logs, like a 45 acre forest of them?~I cant believe the price range differences, and the descriptions dont seem very different?~
 
Cécile Stelzer Johnson
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Kathy Woods wrote:   I have so much aged, fallen wood in my forest, ive really been hoping to find a way to get it to others for their garden needs, but the wood chippers are much too costly to ever even pay for itself~I cant really see a difference in the $2000. ones & the $200, 000. ones?!?~I was trying to initiate a barter with an organic farm on my road that does permaculture, I want to figure out something.....



Oops. didn't realize your critters are so nefarious where you live.
Trust me, there will be a difference between the quality/ longevity of chippers when there is such a wide gap in prices.
I think you are on to something in trying to initiate a barter. It would be nice if it could be with an organic outfit, but considering the fire hazard you may be short on time. Perhaps if you could find out/ make a list of who is in the chipping business near you, you could strike a deal?  [free wood in exchange for some chips?] You might then install sprinklers on the chips. I would totally stop the possibility of fires, and in a year or two, you could really improve the soil, although I suppose on 45 acres of wood, that is a lot of sprinklers and a lot of piles. Here, our first water is at 10 ft, so watering chips is no problem but you may have a different situation.
Alternately, you might still want to make piles of wood, unchipped and install a sprinkler to deter the nasty critters but rot the wood faster?
Considering the size of your endeavor, you might try different solutions at the same time, some piling, some bartering for chips, some watering piles. I feel for you: that is still an awful amount of work! Courage! Getting some professional help is the way I would go: You need to think about keeping your health as well.
 
Kathy Woods
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~Cecile, thanks for all the good ideas!!!~As kind of a fantasy, itd be cool to get a grant to provide killer compost for free to any & all farms that want to use it in my area~As an environmental project, the significant reduced watering, replenishing our depleted minerals that are common to so many current diseases, and it helps toward the climate somehow, too?~
 
Bryant RedHawk
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The differences are horsepower and durability al I ng with size of material they will handle, along with speed of reduction and chip size.

Redbawk
 
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Hi Kathy, I have my own thoughts on wood chippers.  Maybe they will help, maybe more problematic.

I have a couple of fence rows that need trimming every 2-5 years and when I do it I always rent a chipper as opposed to buying one.  This is far more economical for me as I now spend $250 once every 2-5 years as opposed to paying at least 3k right up front.  That’s a lot of rentals and one less piece of equipment I need to maintain.

Also, I found through trial and error (more error) that a chipper is really best for wood about 1/2 the rated diameter.  What I mean is that when I rented an old 15hp gas 7” chipper, that chipper was really best up to about 3-4 inches.  I could get 6-7” stock through it but it was a lot of work and it took a surprisingly long time.  

That first chipper I rented for $150/day for 2 days and it was a lot of work to chip up my branches and there was still stock left over that simply would not fit.  I eventually switched to an 80hp diesel 12” chipper for $250/day and what a difference!  I could easily chip up a 7” log with no problem and could even grind through a 12” log with just a bit of effort.  Actually I got at least four times the chipping done in one day with the 12” chipper than I could do in two days with a 7” chipper.  If I laid out the brush in advance, I probably upped this figure to 10x more productive and maybe even higher.

But if I were regularly grinding up 12” logs, then I would definitely want a larger chipper still.  My point is to get an idea of the average size of chipping you think you will be doing and then find a chipper double that (assuming one is available).

I know this is all a complicated mess, but maybe it is best to trim-and-stack and rent a large chipper to chip up a big pile all at once.  Maybe someday in the future you could afford or find a great deal on a really good chipper that would really suit your needs.

At any rate, these have been my experiences and if they help, great!  If this is totally inappropriate for you, just ignore it.

Eric
 
Kathy Woods
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  ~Eric, yes, thank you, you make a great point about renting a chipper, instead!!!~And getting a heavier duty one would certainly make it easier, too!!!~Or maybe just work with someone with a good chipper?~I just watched the Back To Eden Garden Documentary & another tour video of his & i am just blown away at how much good wood chips can do!!!~☆~
 
Eric Hanson
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Kathy,

You are absolutely correct, the best deal of all is to work with someone who already has a good chipper.  Maybe trade some chips for chipper time?

Eric
 
Trace Oswald
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Kathy Woods wrote:   ~Trace, would something like yours chip small logs, like a 45 acre forest of them?~I cant believe the price range differences, and the descriptions dont seem very different?~



Mine is a PTO chipper, so the size of the tractor running it determines the speed you can chip trees at. But yes, it can chip anything that will fit in the chute, so anything up to 8" trees. I don't chip anything bigger than about 4" simply because anything that big is firewood for my wood stoves.

My chipper is a woodmaxx wm-8h if you want to look at one.
 
Kathy Woods
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 ~Thanks Trace, that explains some of the price differences, if a tractor is involved~I use to have a backhoe~I wish i still had it~I watched a tour of Paul Gautschi explaining a lot about wood chips, and at one point he said the wood being chipped has to be green & alive?~My wood has been dead for many years~Its already on the ground~Does that mean itd be useless for wood chips in a garden, do you know?~
 
Trace Oswald
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Kathy Woods wrote:  ~Thanks Trace, that explains some of the price differences, if a tractor is involved~I use to have a backhoe~I wish i still had it~I watched a tour of Paul Gautschi explaining a lot about wood chips, and at one point he said the wood being chipped has to be green & alive?~My wood has been dead for many years~Its already on the ground~Does that mean itd be useless for wood chips in a garden, do you know?~



Wood chipped with some green just breaks down faster. I use dead wood as well part of the time and it still has the minerals you need from the chips. If you want to, you can just add some green material, grass clippings or the like, and your dead chips will break down into great soil faster.  Since I have both dead and green wood, I normally use the green chips in the garden and the dead ones around trees, but in the past, all my gardens were created using dead wood chips from the county.
 
Kathy Woods
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 ~Ok, thanks!!!~Thats what i was hoping was the case!!!~Watching Paul G. explain how little work a gorgeous garden can be with wood chips is so inspiring!!!~I think maybe ill rent a chipper to get started, then hopefully find a way to get something going on a bigger scale for getting wood chips to others, and maybe compost, too!!!~My garden is such a big mess of weeds from tilling it last year, im ready to just cover the whole thing in wood chips right now!!!~☆~
 
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"
Molds are not fungi, fungi generally do not effect the throat and a fungi would take days to become problematic if inhaled. Molds are more likely to cause respiration problems since their spores reproduce quickly. Dust from some wood species are known to cause respritory issues, the woods usually are either resinous or oily. It is proper caution to wear a mask when handling unknown woods like you can encounter in arborists chips, the N-95 type would be the prefered type of mask.

Redbawk"

What people call.molds are absolutely fungi. Certain so called molds, like slime molds are actually bacterias, but in general what we call mold as in , moldy bread, moldy orange, leaf mold etc are all fungi and live in soils some of which will breakdown wood chips.

These molds consists of filamentous cellular structures known as hyphae. When masses of hyphae exist together forming a visible network such as the mold you see on bread or an orange this is called mycelium. Mold mycelium is not usually what people associate with mushrooms but much more often produces spores without a mushroom. The bluish color that penicillin mold turns to from white are the spores.

Mold is just a common name (but wide spread and accepted even among scientist) for this type of mycelium. Certain types of mycelium produce a ropey, or root like growth called rhizomorphic. Rhizomorphic myceliums al are nut usually refered to as molds.

If your woodchips are in clumps with a powdery permeation that gives off a cloud of dust this is likely a mold/fungus and the cloud are likely it's spores

 
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