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Wood chip mulch -- does it promote insect "pest" breeding?  RSS feed

 
Casey Halone
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I had mentioned the concept of mulching with wood chips to a group of folks planing on this years community garden, and the point was brought up that wood chips would be a potental egg laying area and place for problem bugs to hide and plastic sheet mulch was a better alternative.

I do not like the idea of plastics in my garden anywhere aside from hoses.

Could you help me come up with the pros and cons of each as well as any experience you might have with either method?
 
Tyler Ludens
pollinator
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Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
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I don't personally believe in "pests" and have never had problems except when plants were stressed by poor growing conditions. Mulch helps moderate soil temperature and moisture, so should help prevent stress to plants. I have tons of critters in my garden, but no "pests."
 
Casey Halone
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Tyler Ludens wrote:I don't personally believe in "pests" and have never had problems except when plants were stressed by poor growing conditions. Mulch helps moderate soil temperature and moisture, so should help prevent stress to plants. I have tons of critters in my garden, but no "pests."


LOL, Let me rephrase that, "Do certain mulches encourage to many of certain little hungry friends to hang out?"
I agree, on not having pests... we are looking at the logistics of getting some chickens for the Community Garden, it is next to a hiway, with out a fence, and no one living on site.
 
Eric Thompson
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Location: Bothell, WA - USA
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I use a lot of wood chips and haven't noticed any particular pests in them - maybe some hunting beetles but I'm not sure if those are hiding or foraging in there.. . I have sow bugs many other places: rotten logs, under boards, or holed up inside old root veggies or mango pits... I get voles hanging out under any sheet of plastic or sheeting on the ground... And a few hay bales on a pallet seems a sure fire way to attract rats or mice! But wood chips out in the open (here in rainy Western Washington anyways..) seem to stay pest free..
 
John Polk
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Try arguing the point that plastic mulch does not breath. The soil microbes will die without enough oxygen.
You will then have an imbalance in your soil, which leads to sickly plants. Sickly plants attract disease/pests.

Mother Nature provides us with wood chips/bark, but NOT plastic mulch...
there must be a reason.

 
Jonathan Hontz
Posts: 36
Location: Denver, CO
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I did a pair of blog posts about a sheet mulching project that I undertook. To save you the reading, I pulled out the weed barrier layer because it was crap. I used fabric instead of plastic, but the plastic will do the same thing, only worse. It prevents the integration of organic matter through the action of earthworms and all the other decomposers.

The woodchips will not only break down and provide food for the critters, but it will invite all types of fungi to the party, which is usually a great thing for the health of your soil and plants. A load of mulch, provided it hasn't been treated with fungicide, will very quickly turn into a mycelium city.

That said, any site could potentially harbor vegetable-eating insects. However, the woodchips would be free if you obtained them from a local tree service, and I just can't make a better argument for their use than that.
 
Dale Hodgins
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Wood chips will only attract critters interested in wood. The garden produce isn't wood, so I can't see the chips being a problem.

I had a tree service company deliver about 20 cubic yards of chips to a 400 sq. ft. garden. That's a lot of chips. It averaged about 6 inches deep, although most of it was worked into the soil. About the first foot of soil was mixed with chips. It held water quite well and pests weren't a problem. Fresh chicken manure added nitrogen. Potatoes were really knobby and some had hollow cores but the other plants thrived. Three years later most evidence of wood was gone but the naturally hard soil became workable.
 
Leila Rich
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Location: Wellington, New Zealand. Temperate, coastal, sandy, windy,
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I use shredded tree mulch on my perennial gardens and paths, but not vege gardens (see below..) It's great stuff
Do you have problems with a particular 'pest'? In NZ we don't have the really full-on things like squash vine borer etc.
My wood mostly attracts rove beetles, worms, springtails and slaters which I think you call rolly-polly's (the harmless wood-munchers don't roll though)
I've done a ridiculous amount of research on high-carbon mulches affect on nitrogen availability in soil, after having gazillions of people tell me a version of "wood chips draw nitrogen out of the soil". As far as I know, as long as wood mulch isn't dug into the soil, it's totally fine, but I'd be very careful about using it on an area where there'll be digging.
 
Ardilla Esch
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Location: Northern New Mexico, Zone 5b
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Wood chip mulch provides habitat for many critters to live and overwinter. Most of them are neutral or beneficial - some are "pests". i.e. you will get a lot more spiders with wood chip mulch than without. Spiders are generally beneficial since they help keep other critters in check.

I think the benefits of the wood mulch far out weigh the negatives.
 
Jordan Lowery
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we use wood chips for mulch, and some straw. at first there was a bloom of pillbugs. they mostly were under the mulch decomposing, every now and then they would nibble some plant. come today there are still pillbugs, but there are a lot of wolfspiders, which love to eat baby pillbugs. keeping the population in check.
 
David Good
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I used lots and lots of woodchips/rough mulch/leaves in my garden in TN. Everything grew wonderfully; however, we did end up with a slug infestation one spring. After a week or two of beer traps and evening slug-picking, it was controlled. One can for me, one for the slugs... one for me... one for the slugs.
 
noneya bidnet
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If you can stomach a bit of religious propaganda go check out http://backtoedenfilm.com/ for a fairly glowing testimonial on behalf of woodchip mulch use.
 
Andrew Parker
pollinator
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I suspect that wood mulch brought in by a neighbor also brought with it an infestation of pine needle scale, not endemic to this area, with devastating results. Given that trees are often pruned or cut down because of disease, and Christmas trees are shipped in from great distances, it would be prudent to keep wood chips of unknown origin off your property, and if possible, your neighbors' as well.
 
Jeffrey Hodgins
Posts: 166
Location: Yucatan Puebla Ontario BC
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Ive never had a problem with wood mulch but I also use plywood scraps to keep weeds down and they make a perfect home for mice and the like. Card board can be a good home too if not covered well.
 
Richard Nurac
Posts: 52
Location: north Georgia
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I use wood chips extensively. Typically provided free by the utility company when they cut down trees encroaching on their right of way. These are usually healthy vigorous trees and so I am not concerned about them harboring disease or pests. I use the wood chips as a weed barrier but first place cardboard or newspapers down to block the sunlight and, incidentally, to prevent the woodchips mixing with the soil and draining nitrogen. With time, the chips are incorporated into and enrich the soil. If you are concerned with bugs in the house, I would not place wood chips up against the exterior of the house. I also add decomposed wood chips to my compost piles. I do not mix chips directly with the soil where I am growing plants for the nitrogen reason mentioned above. I am using hardwood wood chips for a mushroom bed and am hoping, in a month or so, to see results.
 
Svavar Skúli
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I live in iceland I was wondering if anyone had some verbascum thapsus seeds we dont have them but i think they will love it in sunny iceland :D

I will trade on request

Thank you. Svavar Skúli
 
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