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How should I use a large quantity of wood chips?  RSS feed

 
Zack Joseph
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hey everybody...
beginner humbly looking for some permaculture advice regarding making compost.
any ideas, guidance, or resources on larger-scale composting?
we've been having a lot of clearing done around here and as a result there are tons of woodchips (perhaps 10 pickup truck-loads at least).
i imagine i could just sit around and watch them decay over the years, use them for mulch, or put them to good use as soon as possible.
i'm experimenting with no-till and i'm working with a 70' greenhouse that I want to keep mulched and fertilized with grass-fed cow manure, weeds, compost, and compost teas; but i'm also interested in making my own potting mixes.
also exploring options for shredding stuff for mulching and composting. i'd prefer to do things without electricity or gasoline...any hand crank or animal-powered shredder/chippers out there? i saw geoff lawton using one in Permaculture Soils and that looked ideal!
i'm open to any and all criticism and guidance, your input will not only be helpful for my own learning experience, but for the benefit of others as well.
thanks a lot!
peace
 
Tyler Ludens
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No such thing as too many woodchips! Using them as mulch is very much putting them to good use.

This guy uses a LOT of woodchips: http://backtoedenfilm.com/
 
tel jetson
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I coiled a plastic pipe through a big pile of woodchips (maybe 30 yards) to heat bath water. not the best use of the heat, since it's only used intermittently, but it was an great proof of concept. it would probably be better for heating a space using radiators.
 
john giroux
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Any one have any idea if wood chips can carry pesticides/herbicide residue and if so, how long would it last. I'm talking normal lawn care type stuff. I have read about getting sick tree chips. I feel that the good the chips do in mulching and fungus etc. Would out weigh the bad effect of chemical residue. But I have heard the other side of the argument. Anyone test the chips?
 
Tyler Ludens
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I am only using chips from my own property. I would hesitate to import chips from distant areas because of unknown contaminants and diseases.

 
R Scott
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john giroux wrote:Any one have any idea if wood chips can carry pesticides/herbicide residue and if so, how long would it last. I'm talking normal lawn care type stuff. I have read about getting sick tree chips. I feel that the good the chips do in mulching and fungus etc. Would out weigh the bad effect of chemical residue. But I have heard the other side of the argument. Anyone test the chips?


They can and the residue can last a long time--but in small quantities. I am more worried about the disease--as some of those can spread like wildfire and destroy an entire species on your property.

You need to trust the source, or verify the source yourself.
 
M.K. Dorje
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If you like to eat mushrooms, you might try growing king stropharia mushrooms on your woodchips. These mushrooms are tasty and their mycelium converts wood chips into rich soil that plants love. They often naturalize and love orchards, berry patches, vegetable gardens and food forests. They are also aggressive and are easy to grow for beginners. I have them growing all over my farm now. By the way, I would like to see more information about wood chippers that do not use gasoline- what a great idea!!
 
Edward Jacobs
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Heating water with a pile of wood chips is on the top of my wish-list of projects I want to do this year, if only I had access to a sufficient amount of chips. Putting the hot water wood-chip pile inside a greenhouse would serve double duty - free heat source for the greenhouse. Why not run hot water pipes around the planting beds in the greenhouse too, and keep the soil warm this winter with all that free hot water? When the wood chips stop making heat, you have wonderful compost.
 
Brenda Groth
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i would use them for mulch, they are great for that..on the garden or paths or even for trails on the property, our neighbors had a lot and they paved all their trails with wood chips and it is really nice
 
Tyler Ludens
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M.K. Dorje wrote:If you like to eat mushrooms, you might try growing king stropharia mushrooms on your woodchips. These mushrooms are tasty and their mycelium converts wood chips into rich soil that plants love. They often naturalize and love orchards, berry patches, vegetable gardens and food forests. They are also aggressive and are easy to grow for beginners. I have them growing all over my farm now. By the way, I would like to see more information about wood chippers that do not use gasoline- what a great idea!!


Can you briefly describe how you grow them in woodchips? Do they need a special type of woodchip or will they grow in any kind?

 
tel jetson
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Tyler Ludens wrote:
M.K. Dorje wrote:If you like to eat mushrooms, you might try growing king stropharia mushrooms on your woodchips. These mushrooms are tasty and their mycelium converts wood chips into rich soil that plants love. They often naturalize and love orchards, berry patches, vegetable gardens and food forests. They are also aggressive and are easy to grow for beginners. I have them growing all over my farm now. By the way, I would like to see more information about wood chippers that do not use gasoline- what a great idea!!


Can you briefly describe how you grow them in woodchips? Do they need a special type of woodchip or will they grow in any kind?


they do best on angiosperms. that is, not conifers. aromatic angiosperms (e.g. eucalyptus) probably wouldn't work, either.
 
Tyler Ludens
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Rats! All my chips contain juniper.

 
Cee Ray
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phoenix oyster and chicken of the woods (Laetiporus conifericola) grow on conifer wood
 
tel jetson
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Cee Ray wrote:phoenix oyster and chicken of the woods (Laetiporus conifericola) grow on conifer wood


they do, and they're delicious. probably wouldn't handle juniper very well, though. they do well on doug-fir.
 
M.K. Dorje
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I've had great success with growing king stropharia (winecap) on Douglas-fir chips, as well as poplar/cottonwood, oak, alder and maple. I use the strain from Field and Forest Products in Wisconsin. I ordered some spawn from them and started my project by chipping up a bunch of poplar and Doug-fir branches. I put the fresh, moist chips in a raised bed under an apple tree, as mulch around a row of raspberries, in swale ditches or in circular mounds around fruit trees and blueberry bushes. Then I just add the spawn and keep it moist by watering during the summer. Sometimes I add more mulch, such as straw or grass clippings. Sometimes I also put tarps over some of the beds to prevent them from drying out. Adding more chips keeps the beds going as a perennial crop. Berry plants really seem to like this kind of mulch. Chunks of mycelium can be transferred to new spots around your property or to the compost pile. Phoenix oysters also will grow on some conifer chips, especially Doug-fir. However, I doubt that a beginner could grow sulfur shelf on chips- I've had zero success with growing them on logs or stumps- they are not an easy species to cultivate. However, in Oregon wild sulfur shelf on oak trees does respond well to late summer watering or misting- resulting in more dependable crops in the early fall.
 
Susan Quinlan
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I have had two deliveries of wood mulch delivered in the last yea (8 ton dump truck).  It broke down so much faster than I thought.  I have used it on garden beds, around trees, and areas where I haven't gotten around to developing yet. Breaking down over the soil gives new life and continues to improve it over time. Yes, shoveling this stuff has given me a thinner waist line but I just keep observing how it effects different areas on my property and couldn't be more pleased. Eventually I will have more perennial ground cover but till then I will just watch it rot and feed my soil.
 
Michelle Bisson
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@Susan,
You will find tons of uses for large quantities of mulch.



We love using wood chips in our Go Permaculture Food Forest 

Here is our most recent use of wood chips..

We are using the wood chips as a top layer in our hugel culture terrace. It is about 4 to 6 inches directly on the pathway.  There is also a thinner layer following our berms where our Sea Buckthorn (Seaberry) plants have been recently planted.  Along the berms, we added herbaceous chop & drop as the top layer to provide more nutrients and protection from the drying sun & wind.  Some of our plants that we planted a week ago are having transplant shock, but I am expecting a full recovery.

We have raised the land with this hugel culture terrace almost 2 feet at the bottom of the slope.  In a couple of years, the wood chips will be mostly composted and if we need compost elsewhere we can find it here and plan to add new wood chips as needed.

 
Michelle Bisson
Posts: 209
Location: Quebec, Canada
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forest garden hugelkultur trees urban
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"How should I use a large quantity of wood chips?"
 

In a way that harvests 100% of rainwater.

Laying the wood chips on contour even if the ground is not quite on contour, you can adjust your level of wood chips so that there is no run off.  There are many ways you can accomplish this.  You can lay wood chips over a wide area, pathway or it could be as a berm or even to fill up a sale.

----
This is one way we accomplished this and why....




One big advantage of having our mulched hugel culture terraces/pathways on contour is that 100% of the rain that falls will now sink into the ground. 

Before on our sloped land, almost all of the rain water ran off of our property in the west corner of our property right into the road ditch and it was eroding the dirt and the dirt around the clover roots washed away making it difficult for clover, grass & weeds to grow. 

Now all that is past since instead of losing topsoil/dirt from erosion, we are now starting to build top soil from the wood chips.  We are really working hard at keeping all the rainfall on our property. 

We have not totally solved this issue elsewhere on the property, but one permaculture project at at time...


 
Michelle Bisson
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Location: Quebec, Canada
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Another use for large quantities of wood chips...

Michelle Bisson wrote:


Here we used wood chips to level the pathway to our apple and cherry food forest.  At the same time, we had 2 "swale" type channels (that were once an old logging trail) that we filled with branches on the pathway like a bridge and covered it with wood chips.

We are not needing our "swales" to be continuous as it is more important to have a stable pathway so the "swales" are devided by our filled in pathway.

We had already used wood chips to create our pathway 2 years ago, but this spring/summer I needed some naturally inoculated fungal compost for planting our sea buckthorn (seaberry) plants so I dug it up and last weekend relayed more wood chips to replace the composted wood chips.

This serves 2 functions: a nice level pathway and also as an easy way to make compost.


Go Permaculture Food Forest - our suburban permaculture journey
 
steve bossie
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i use hardwood chips from a firewood business. i have king stropharia and elm oysters coming up all over the property under my berry bushes and fruit trees. I'm spreading them to new spots all the time. i add some worms castings around all my bushes and trees every spring and top dress them all with 3in. of fresh chips. the soil around them is deep and black! chock full of worms!  i get so much mushrooms i can't pick them all! the more wood mulch you put down the better! only my back and arms curb the amount i put down.
 
Viola Schultz
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Hi, how do I inoculate a truck load of wood chips? I'd like to go the way shown in the Supersize your veggies video where the nice lady used Azomite and inoculated the wood chips with mycelium. The video does not give many particulars, just shows the giant plants and John sounds like a cute but repetitive commercial for wood chips. Well, I'm already a believer, I use the leaf mulch and shredded leaves religiously but that keeps disappearing way too fast on my clay slopes. I knew I needed wood chips and my free load of it came a few days ago. It is probably 50% conifer (green pine needles), saw some oak and other hardwood leaves, it does smell good. And fresh. And I need to speed up things for many reasons.

It's winter now so I have time til spring to figure out the logistics - I mean, how do I physically do it -- I'm not a young chick, can't use any machinery, not even a wheel barrel, my garden is a 3 three flights of stairs (literally) up so I decided to leave the pile sitting at the bottom of the north slope (an eyesore to the village, wonder when I start getting comments on it). At least, it will catch all the rainfall water. Hope that the pile won't throw off balance the rest of the slope. So far, I have moved some 200 gallons of chips in two 5 gallon buckets all the way to my garden to cover lightly the leaf mulch on my perennials, trees and bushes. But I know I will be either very fit comes summer or pretty dead should I move the whole pile. I believe I should compost the pile where it is now to avoid doubling the work. So, if anyone kindly could tip me on how to approach that challenge I would be eternally grateful. Oh boy, what have I done, I should stop reading the forums :0)
 
Michelle Bisson
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I use the leaf mulch and shredded leaves religiously but that keeps disappearing way too fast on my clay slopes.


Leaf mulch is great. It is being used by the plants.  Each year, as much leaves you can gather is only a good thing. Your plants are benefiting from it even as it turns into compost quickly.


It's winter now so I have time till spring to figure out the logistics - I mean, how do I physically do it -- I'm not a young chick, can't use any machinery, not even a wheel barrel, my garden is a 3 three flights of stairs (literally) up so I decided to leave the pile sitting at the bottom of the north slope (an eyesore to the village, wonder when I start getting comments on it). At least, it will catch all the rainfall water. Hope that the pile won't throw off balance the rest of the slope.... I believe I should compost the pile where it is now to avoid doubling the work. So, if anyone kindly could tip me on how to approach that challenge I would be eternally grateful.


What about trying to level your pile even if it is a very thick layer into something presentable?  As it starts decomposing on the spot, you can slowly move it as you need it. It will soon take a lot less space, so in the future you'll have a lot less 5 gallon pails to carry.


Oh boy, what have I done, I should stop reading the forums :0)"


We totally know how you feel. 

We took on a very large project this summer planting our sea buckthorn (seaberry) orchard/hedgerows.   Bringing in al very large quantity of woodchips that was all hand shoveled and then distributing was a very important part of this project and if that was not enough (it wasn't) this fall, we brought in 200 bags of leaves to spread around. 

See our story: Go Permaculture Food Forest - our suburban permaculture journey
 
steve bossie
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like michelle said. id spread that pile out to  no more than a ft. thick. this way its more in contact with soil and breaks down faster. order some king stropharia or elm oyster mushroom mycelium from everything mushrooms and mix at soil/ chip contact area and by next spring your chips will be white with mycelium. just spread it under plants and trees. by fall you'll have mushrooms growing under everything. even if you don't care for them you can barter with friends for things or dry them and sell them. 1 20lb. bag of mycelium will cover about 10 sq. ft. but will spread outward into other parts of the pile. i got probably 50lbs. of king stropharia come up all over my property last summer! good luck!

.
 
Viola Schultz
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Michelle & Steve, thank you for taking your time. Some things are beginning to clarify for me after your answers and it looks like a lot of carrying has to be done. See, the chips were dumped on the mid-level parking spot that is covered with gravel (the weeds grew thru it this summer but doubt mycelium makes it there). That parking spot meets the second half of a really steep slope (33 to 45 degree) on which our castle is perched. I should provide pictures but I ain't there right now, I had been banging my head against the wall and am licking my wounds now ...  In any case, I've got no spreading area to speak of in our front yard +I have gravel. I already threw a several feet thick chip cover on a part of slope (it is full of man-made little caves and crevices and covered with vicious vines in this part so I dumped the wood chips on the vines, hope they go away).

But I now know I must schlep the rest/most of the truckload up to the garden where the terrain sort of levels and looks more like Michelle's. Which most likely will take me this winter. Oh,well... What do I loose/not gain if I do the shroom thing in the Spring only?

Also, I have 10 pounds of urea (my beagle already peeing on the pile gave me this idea to use the urea) -- any ideas if an application of urea would speed up wood chip decomposition? I am pretty sure that my pile won't turn into the usable hummus for the next 3-5 years -- I saw other people's wood chip piles, they turned grey even white after two years but they are wood chips all right, not humus. Eg., my oak leaf mulch (mostly shredded) took two years to make a beautiful humus so wood chips will probably double this if not more. I just want to use them safely first as mulch in my little food garden -- I already started adding the on the slopes, the trees and bushes should be helped even with an inch covering of fresh chips, yes?
 
steve bossie
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anywhere you put those chips will improve even gravel over a few years. as it breaks down it makes the most fluffy dark brown soil. I've turned a gravel slope in to a healthy raspberry patch. i put down 12in'' of chips on the slope and a few 2ft berms about 1/4 and the bottom of slope.  last spring i put the raspberries in there with no supplements. they grew to 6ft tall and produced a great 1st fall crop! dig thru to where the soil hits the gravel and there was over 2in. of the chips that had already turned to soil . if you add mycelium it breaks the chips down 2-3 times faster. if you inoc the chips with mycelium in spring you should see mushrooms in that area come fall. anywhere where the chips have turned white you can use it to start a new patch elsewhere. just mix with more fresh chips. good luck!
 
Viola Schultz
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thanks, I really really appreciate this!
 
steve bossie
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you're very welcome! wish i was a little closer to you so i could help you with the moving part! maybe get some college students to help with your organic garden? good luck!
 
Susanna Pitussi
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Thanks for asking this question, Zack! And thanks to all for the mushroom info! Most of my chips are a mix of lots of spruce, with some alder and birch. And I had despaired of finding any mushroom that would handle the softwood. I may give the wine caps a try.
 
steve bossie
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winecaps will eat some spruce as long as you got some hardwood mixed in it should work. phoenix oysters will grow on pure spruce  but not cedar. make sure your mycelium is in contact with bare soil then add moist chips with mycelium added on top the 1st layer.  beds are best not more than 4-6in. deep. i like the wine caps better myself. also a lot prettier . some of the caps get over a ft. wide! they make a cool conversation piece also!
 
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