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Now making a HUGE pile of mulch of clay soil. Any advice?

 
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An arborist dumped an entire truck of mulch onto my courtyard, enough to fill a garage. I have way, way too much mulch now. I have piles of mulch on my fruit trees and the mulch pile doesn’t seem to have even decreased.

My vegetable garden’s output is a bit disappointing. I’m going to move the mulch onto it (will probably take me about 10 hours to bag and move it all). This is my one and only time to make an enormous pile on it and let it decompose. Hopefully something good comes of it!
 
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ooh how wonderful!!
I am still in the process of improving my clay with lots of mulch (not as much as you've got) and it's been pretty great. I try to keep every surface covered and only make little holes in it to plant into the dirt. So far, so good!
 
pollinator
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Its impossible to have too much mulch! Even if your garden level ends up slightly higher than it was before....
 
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Tim,

Well congratulations on the woodchips!  

The short version for advice is simply to get the chips on the garden beds ASAP, especially before winter weather freezes the ground.  The chips will do wonders for soil biota just by sitting there by themselves.

Now if you really want to go crazy, add in some fungi.  Personally I use wine cap mushrooms.  These guys will really break down the wood chips into something akin to soil in 12-18 months time and your land will be much the better for all the biology in the soil.

Congratulations,

Eric
 
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What is your climate like? If it's a climate with some moisture, those wood chips will rot down in time. If your climate is very dry you might need to water and/or cover or shade them to help them along. My climate is super dry, and there's no such thing as wood chip waste, so I'm envious.
 
Eric Hanson
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Holy cow, I cannot believe I forgot to mention this as well, but Rebecca is absolutely correct.  Those chips need to stay moist and preferably dark.

Eric
 
Tim Kivi
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My wife and neighbours (HOA) are fuming that I have this enormous eyesore next to the footpath/sidewalk that can attract insects. I was freaking out that much of it was ON the sidewalk at first and feared i’d get a fine. I just listened to Tennessee Williams’ 16 Tonnes over and over in my head as I bagged and dumped mounds everywhere. I’ve run out of space

I feel a bit better after reading your posts above though.

I’ve read that mulch that’s too thick isn’t good for tree roots, and mine’s about 2’ high at the moment, though they’re dumped like cones.

Here’s a photo of the ‘eyesore’ I created (it extends even into the garage).
915600C4-C45B-4115-B4D2-A684E75F50A2.jpeg
[Thumbnail for 915600C4-C45B-4115-B4D2-A684E75F50A2.jpeg]
 
Eric Hanson
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Tim,

Sorry to hear that your mulch is not going over so well with the wife & neighbors.  I don’t know about the tree roots, but those 2’ of chips will settle down a bit, especially if you get plenty of water on them.

I would especially advise getting some type of fungi growing in them.  I personally favor wine cap mushrooms, but many others can be used also.

Best of luck,

Eric
 
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A couple of thoughts:

1.  Move them quickly.  The longer they sit there, the more likely that you'll have to deal with mold as the warm, moist chips become a perfect medium for mold growth.  As someone who has breathed far too much of that moldy steam, take it from me, the sooner you get those chips on the ground, the better.  If it's actively steaming, wear a respirator (not just a simple paper mask).

2.  While it may seem too deep, putting them down at least a foot deep or even 18 inches deep is not too much.  They will compact and decompose quickly.

3.  As others have said above, keeping them moist is critical for fungal growth.  Moisture will also encourage them to compact a bit so they don't seem so thick.

4.  Yes, you can make a fungal slurry using mushrooms that you find popping up around you, or you can be patient and know that there are millions of fungal spores floating through the air and colonizing those wood chips even as we speak.  Either way, fungus happens.  There were already fungal spores on the wood before it was chipped.  There are zillions more on the surface of your soil, so as you dump wood chips on the ground, those spores will immediately come into contact with the food source (the chips) and get working.

5.  They'll decompose in the winter.  The weather is never consistently below freezing, but spikes up and down.  Even if the chips freeze, that freeze-thaw cycle will cause the cell walls in the wood chips to burst and make it easier for the microbes to decompose the lignin and other tough wood fibers.  

6.  Pee on them.  Everyone's got to pee, right?  Even if it's that last pee before you call it a night and go to bed, go out there and take a wizz on your wood chips.  All that carbon will grab hold of the nitrogen and will release it in the years to come when the wood is more fully decomposed.  If you peed on those chips 2 times a day (morning and night), that would be about half a liter (give or take).  365 days later, that's over 150 liters of nitrogen-rich goodness that's captured by the chips and fed into the soil food web.  Yeah, urine.


Best of luck.
 
Tim Kivi
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Thanks,

It’ll rain in two days fortunately, and we have very rainy winters but we’re entering dry summer weather here now.

What summer crops can I grow in huge mulch piles? I know potatoes work in cold weather.
 
Marco Banks
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You can't really grow anything IN the mulch piles, as chips are not a viable growing medium.  But by simply pulling the chips back to expose the soil beneath, you can easily plant in the soil and then push the chips back up close to the plant once it gets big enough.  In this way, anything that sends out vines is great—watermelon, pumpkins, cantaloupe, cucumbers, etc.  Let the vines run wild over the top of the wood chips, but the plants themselves need to have their roots in the soil, not in chips.

Tomatoes are also a great plant to grow.  Again, pull back the chips and make sure you've got good soil to plant them in.  And then let them go crazy.  I tend to over fertilize my tomatoes with chicken poop as well as by peeing around them.  They regularly get 8 feet tall or better.  When they get that large, it's nice to have those wood chips to keep the soil moist and if branches fall to the ground, the fruit doesn't rot quickly.

Sweet potatoes are another great crop that does well climbing over the top of wood chips.
 
Tim Kivi
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I’ve never managed to grow a single tomato plant, cucumber or melon in the soil of my current place. I’m going to see how it goes with all these woodchips in now. I used to do very high density planting, but now that it’s all mulched I’m doing the opposite by focusing on a few plants but giving them extra attention and root space.

I can’t wait for the rain in two days to see how moist all this fresh mulch will stay for.
 
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