Win a copy of The Ethical Meat Handbook this week in the Food Choices forum!
  • 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 skip 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
  • Pearl Sutton
  • James Freyr
  • Jocelyn Campbell
stewards:
  • Joylynn Hardesty
  • paul wheaton
  • Burra Maluca
garden masters:
  • Steve Thorn
  • Greg Martin
gardeners:
  • Jay Angler
  • Carla Burke
  • thomas rubino

Favorite gear for working with wood chips.

 
pollinator
Posts: 120
Location: South Carolina 8a
50
hugelkultur dog foraging cooking rocket stoves woodworking
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
What are everyone's favorite go-to tools to use with wood chips?

This past growing season was my first time working with wood chips in my vegetable garden. Wood chips are a whole different beast to manipulate when compared to the straw, grass, and dirt I am used to working with! To begin with I used a garden fork and spade to move wood chips around, but as the season progressed, I was finding it easier to use a bucket and my bare hands.

That being said, my favorite tool, when working with wood chips, has been gloves and big 10 gallon bucket.


I look forward to hearing what everyone has to say, and hope to discover some great time-saving devices!
 
Posts: 13
2
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I use almost the same gear for spreading lime: I wheel the lime around in a no-longer-working-well lime spreader and every 15-20 feet I dig into the spreader with a 1-gallon plastic plant pot with drainage holes, and then shake it as I walk along, thus sprinkling out the lime, and then, when the pot is empty, I dig in for more. If I want lots of lime, I walk slower, if I want less lime, I walk faster.  IT is easy enough that I don;t think I will bother repairing of replacing the spreader. (I live in New England, where the soiols is quite acid.)
 
Posts: 11
Location: Eugene, OR
3
  • Likes 8
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
As a landscaper, I use a single-wheel wheelbarrow and a mutli-tine fork. A regular pitchfork won't hold chips/compost, and a shovel moves remarkably little for how light mulch weighs. Ensillage forks work well, but are pricey. A 10-tine is what I use.

I use the single-wheel wheelbarrow for its maneuverability, and the narrow pour mouth is useful in tighter areas.

Pro tips:

-When filling from an open pile, set the wheelbarrow on its side and scrape in mulch. It goes so much faster than shovelling/forking, and is great if you can right the barrow without injuring yourself.

-When dumping a full wheelbarrow, do not shake from side to side. Instead. Tip the wheelbarrow vertical, grab the feet, and pull sharply backward and upwards. All of the mulch will come out in one go, guaranteed.

-Load your barrow evenly! Left/right balance is crucial, and if you are carrying heavier objects, distribute a little more weight forward of the wheel. It will take advantage of the fulcrum of the axle, and make your load lighter and easier to dump. Don't overdo it, though! Spilling a load can be frustrating, especially if you have to do it and start again on a slope.

-Make lots of little piles while dumping, start from the farthest point, and work in sections. The little piles make spreading/estimating depth easier, and working in sections from the farthest point helps to prevent walking back over your work while reducing compaction.

- Lay down plywood paths for heavy loads to reduce compaction. For a large open area, make a branching structure like a leaf if you are able to!

I wouldn't be caught dead without a barrow on a job site, and I never use buckets unless there is no way to get a wheelbarrow in, or to replace or repair it. They are an indispensable tool for both my business and my farm.
 
Hamilton Betchman
pollinator
Posts: 120
Location: South Carolina 8a
50
hugelkultur dog foraging cooking rocket stoves woodworking
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
This is great advice!
Looks like I need a 10 tine bedding fork!

Thanks,

Mike Peters wrote:As a landscaper, I use a single-wheel wheelbarrow and a mutli-tine fork. A regular pitchfork won't hold chips/compost, and a shovel moves remarkably little for how light mulch weighs. Ensillage forks work well, but are pricey. A 10-tine is what I use.

I use the single-wheel wheelbarrow for its maneuverability, and the narrow pour mouth is useful in tighter areas.

Pro tips:

-When filling from an open pile, set the wheelbarrow on its side and scrape in mulch. It goes so much faster than shovelling/forking, and is great if you can right the barrow without injuring yourself.

-When dumping a full wheelbarrow, do not shake from side to side. Instead. Tip the wheelbarrow vertical, grab the feet, and pull sharply backward and upwards. All of the mulch will come out in one go, guaranteed.

-Load your barrow evenly! Left/right balance is crucial, and if you are carrying heavier objects, distribute a little more weight forward of the wheel. It will take advantage of the fulcrum of the axle, and make your load lighter and easier to dump. Don't overdo it, though! Spilling a load can be frustrating, especially if you have to do it and start again on a slope.

-Make lots of little piles while dumping, start from the farthest point, and work in sections. The little piles make spreading/estimating depth easier, and working in sections from the farthest point helps to prevent walking back over your work while reducing compaction.

- Lay down plywood paths for heavy loads to reduce compaction. For a large open area, make a branching structure like a leaf if you are able to!

I wouldn't be caught dead without a barrow on a job site, and I never use buckets unless there is no way to get a wheelbarrow in, or to replace or repair it. They are an indispensable tool for both my business and my farm.

 
pollinator
Posts: 184
32
dog trees books bee medical herbs
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
As was mentioned, an ensilage type fork and a wheelbarrow made the job of placing wood chips wonderfully easy!
 
Hamilton Betchman
pollinator
Posts: 120
Location: South Carolina 8a
50
hugelkultur dog foraging cooking rocket stoves woodworking
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Does anyone know of a way to make planting in wood chip mulch easier?

I have been thinking of a modified post hole digger design. Basically 2 shovels that you would stab into the mulch to the right depth, slide a plant into, then remove the diggers to allow the dirt and mulch to fill back in. Does a commercial product like this currently exist?

I wouldn't think a paper pot planter would work with wood chip mulch, but I could be wrong.
 
Posts: 9
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Multi tine fork, wheelbarrow, and a stiff rake for spreading. Sometimes I'll forego the tools altogether and just use a good pair of boots to spread out the piles that I've placed evenly throughout the yard. Good exercise for the adductors and hip flexors!
 
Posts: 66
25
  • Likes 3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
We pretty much load and dump our wood chips the way Mike Peters said above, and it goes pretty fast. We haven't used the 10-tine fork but now we know what to get ourselves for Christmas (thanks Mike!). A shovel was ok for loading when the pile got low but it was a lot of scoops.
 
Posts: 5
Location: Casper, WY zone: 4a
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I like to use 5 gallon buckets, 3 boys, and a wife. We can usually get all the woods chips out of long bed truck (2.5 cubic yards) and spread throughout our yard in about an hour. I will be looking for a 10 tine fork.  We have chickens and they sometimes move more than a cubic yard of chips in places we don't want (the last little patch of grass we have left).
 
pollinator
Posts: 1176
Location: Virginia USDA 7a/b
267
hugelkultur forest garden hunting chicken food preservation bee
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Wood chip poly fork



From the Awesome Sean at Edible Acres -salut!


I use a big poly cart which sits much lower than a wheelbarrow on 2 front wheels. I move an awful lot of chips though, for the lower-volume consumer I agree you need a lot of tines. Shovels are very frustrating, but a big manure shovel can be used if and only if there is a good firm soil level you can ride along under the chip pile.
 
pollinator
Posts: 232
Location: Monticello Florida
58
homeschooling forest garden foraging chicken wofati food preservation wood heat homestead
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
A shovel was terrible for shredded mulch, but a pitchfork and lawnmower trailer works great. I don't think it would work the same for chips.
 
gardener
Posts: 2239
Location: Southern Illinois
380
transportation cat dog fungi trees building writing rocket stoves woodworking
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Sign me up for the multi-tine fork!  

I used a garden fork but it does not pick up enough chips.

A flat blades shovel does not really penetrate the chips easily.

A pitch fork easily penetrates the pile and picks up a lot of chips in the process.

Eric
 
pollinator
Posts: 606
Location: Redwood Country, Zone 9-10, 60" rain/yr,
107
hugelkultur dog duck
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I have spread hundreds of yards of wood chips in the past couple years at home and for work on food forests, and I use:

- A 8cu ft two wheeled barrow, ideally with solid tires (one I have at home has them). I have tried to design so all pathways are wide enough that a single wheel would be unnecessary, as I hate those wobbly bastards. I can take a much large load and move a double wheel with one hand if necessary, and I don’t have to work to balance it. I would bet it reduces the effort by up to half
- A cast iron bedding fork (an awesome old tool given to me by a neighbor) with a 16”wide x 12” deep head. This is perfect for wood chips, probably 3x as fast as other forks I’ve used
- a McCloud for raking in chips into wheel barrow on its side
- my small pickup for longer runs and where I can pull it right up between hugel beds to unload directly. I will be getting an automated unloading device when possible. I can hold about 2.5yds when it’s piled high as is safe
 
Posts: 23
5
forest garden fungi trees
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I like hauling wood chips or mulch in large, blue, Frakta IKEA shopping bags.

They can hold ~25kg or 11 gallons in volume.  They can be carried over your shoulder unlike the 5gal buckets, and fit better into vehicle nooks and crannies.  They are inexpensive.  Plus they fold flat when done.

Only big problem is that when heavily weighted down, the bag straps can really dig into your shoulders or possibly rip the bag if overloaded.

But to asymmetrically answer your question, my "favorite gear for working with wood chips" is my Biolite CampStove2.  It takes woodchips provided from the local busy beavers and helps me make sweet, tasty coffee with hot chocolate while also charging my cellphone.  Mmm.
 
Posts: 22
Location: USDA Zone 7a
books food preservation wood heat
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Mike Peters, that was a very helpful load of information you posted!  Thank you.  I'm going to look for a 10 tine fork. I have a wide wheelbarrow which is much better with balance as the narrow contractor style one tips over so easily.  Perhaps, tho it is easier to pour chips out of? Any suggestions for keeping the wheelbarrow steady while on its side and scooping chips into it?  I'll be working by myself and so it's hard to lift it back up and keep from spilling the load. Any suggestions on doing that?  I've also got to move the chips quite a distance, so have loaded them by shoveling into the back of my pickup, driving to the unloading spot and scooping/shoveling chips out into the wheelbarrow sitting just under the open tailgate.  Then I can wheelbarrow into the narrow spaces.  It's quite an ordeal tho.  With a second person it goes easier working in tandem with 2 wheelbarrows - one person stays on the truck standing on the chips to scoop into the first wheelbarrow and the other person does relay runs with the filled wheelbarrow, then returns and leaves the empty one. Hope that makes sense.  As for spreading out the chips or raking them - there is a nice rake that a landscaper told me about, called The Grounds KeeperII.  It's got a long metal tine head (replaceable tines if they ever break) which are flexible and work nicely for chips.  Runs about $30 and see if your local hardware store will carry them, otherwise available direct from company on internet plus shipping.  It also works good for general purpose raking.
 
gardener
Posts: 2004
Location: Pacific Wet Coast
705
duck books chicken cooking food preservation ungarbage
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
If you're small and wimpy like I am, the fastest way I've found to move a lot of chips is with a rubber garbage can. I put it on its side and use a light weight 4 tine fork to "push" the chips from the pile into it, tipping it up periodically to get the chips to the bottom. Think the action of a dog digging a hole. I only have to do lifting when I'm near the top and if the pile of chips is tall enough, even then I'm not lifting too far. Then my narrower, 10 tine fork might be helpful, but it's a recent addition to the farm and tends to live by the duck shelter, rather than the mulch pile I was moving most recently.

Once filled I have two options: 1 - if I'm only moving a garbage can or two I use an adapted dolly - see the one on the right in the first picture in this post: https://permies.com/t/102220/Wheelbarrow-wheeled-cart#866990  
2. If I'm planning to move a lot, 5 garbage cans fit in the trailer we can pull with our lawn tractor. I have more difficulty getting the garbage cans up into the trailer, so I sometimes under-fill them and add more after they're in the trailer.

The thing I like about the garbage can system is that they're really easy to dump when I get where I'm going. We've got soggy areas that need mulch to make them manageable in winter, but it wouldn't be a spot we could have chips dumped. I can tip the bins while the weight is supported by the trailer, and only lift them down once they're 1/2 empty or less.
 
pollinator
Posts: 261
Location: Vermont, annual average precipitation is 39.87 Inches
42
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I love some of these ideas!  So far I have been using a garden fork to fill 5 gallon buckets that I transport by hand.  Or three buckets will fit in the Radio Flyer wagon I picked up at a garage sale to be pulled where ever needed.
 
Posts: 7
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I fill my pickup with the big rectangular shipping crates that convenience stores use. Just put the bin on its side and shovel the chips with my hands. Works about ten times faster than any shovel or fork I've tried
 
pollinator
Posts: 164
Location: Zone 6a
23
homeschooling hugelkultur kids personal care trees books food preservation cooking medical herbs bee homestead
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
When we first started using wood chips, about 10 years ago, we had to pick them up from local dumps.  We would take shovels and buckets (about 30-40) and fill each bucket.  It was pretty tedious compared to what we have going now.  We get free drops directly to the farm now.  To move the woodchips we favor using wheelbarrows and pitch forks.  A couple of weeks ago we needed to move A LOT of wood chips so we rented a skidloader to get the job done.  We mulched 4 areas, the larger area is pictured.  
wood-chip-mulching-large-area.jpg
wood chip mulching large area
wood chip mulching large area
 
gardener & author
Posts: 1866
Location: Ladakh, Indian Himalayas at 10,500 feet, zone 5
338
trees food preservation solar greening the desert
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

Hamilton Betchman wrote:Does anyone know of a way to make planting in wood chip mulch easier?

I have been thinking of a modified post hole digger design. Basically 2 shovels that you would stab into the mulch to the right depth, slide a plant into, then remove the diggers to allow the dirt and mulch to fill back in. Does a commercial product like this currently exist?



Are there bulb planting tools that are like a smaller post hole digger type of thing like you describe? I've never used or even seen one but I think they exist.
 
pollinator
Posts: 135
Location: Zone 7a, 42", Fairfax VA Piedmont (clay, acidic, shady)
28
forest garden fungi urban chicken woodworking homestead
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Mine composted naturally a bit after sitting for a year and growing mycellium from random spores; they had crumbled too much for a pitchfork so I used a shovel.  Two-wheel plastic bed wheelbarrow is pretty sturdy and hauls a lot; I just dump in place.  Pretty amazing how quickly they collapse into the soil - as others here have said.  I'm also piling up leaves from the neighbors.
 
Posts: 136
26
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I’ve used a 6 tine fork to good effect. Depending on how well they are chipped bending a tine can be an issue - our free ones have long stringy bits that get tangled up. I don’t know if a 10 tine would be more prone to bending.
 
T.J. Stewart
pollinator
Posts: 164
Location: Zone 6a
23
homeschooling hugelkultur kids personal care trees books food preservation cooking medical herbs bee homestead
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

Hamilton Betchman wrote:Does anyone know of a way to make planting in wood chip mulch easier?

I have been thinking of a modified post hole digger design. Basically 2 shovels that you would stab into the mulch to the right depth, slide a plant into, then remove the diggers to allow the dirt and mulch to fill back in. Does a commercial product like this currently exist?

I wouldn't think a paper pot planter would work with wood chip mulch, but I could be wrong.



I use a hori hori knife.  
 
Ben Zumeta
pollinator
Posts: 606
Location: Redwood Country, Zone 9-10, 60" rain/yr,
107
hugelkultur dog duck
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Denise,

Regarding your question about bringing the wheelbarrow upright, I put my foot at the downhill foot of the wheelbarrow and pull it up. If its too heavy, figure out how much you can lift and fill accordingly. It is also vastly easier to move a naturally stable full 2-wheel barrow than a single wheel which requires balancing the load. Its also better to move a half load all the way to its destination than a full load half way.
 
pollinator
Posts: 309
Location: Central Texas
104
hugelkultur forest garden trees rabbit greening the desert homestead
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I tend to be simple, and use a 5 gallon bucket with a good pair of gloves. I've learned from experience that gloves are necessary unless I want my hands to be dry, cracked, & full of splinters. I sometimes use a wheelbarrow, but I'm so clumsy and uncoordinated that I have spilled more than a few loads in transport. Also, I don't have a fork (yet) like many of you mentioned, so it's difficult to fill the barrow using the shovel; so will add that to my neverending wish list 🙂

Oftentimes I find the 5 gallon bucket method to be kind of therapeutic when my brain is feeling overwhelmed & needs to sort things out. It's like I can put my body on autopilot with carrying the bucket back and forth between the chip pile and garden beds, while leaving my brain free think about other things. There's been a few nights this fall where I spent hours carrying hundreds of buckets of chips across the yard to fill in the expanded section of the forest garden area using the light of the full moon. Before I knew it, it was already 11:00 at night, but it gave me the chance to get my brain organized while keeping my body busy, and I went to bed with a tired body & calmer mind which allowed me to sleep better than usual.
 
On my planet I'm considered quite beautiful. Thanks to the poetry in this tiny ad:
All about the Daily-ish Email!
https://permies.com/wiki/135969/Daily-ish-Email
  • Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic
Boost this thread!