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building soil with wood chips

 
Posts: 37
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I live in a mobile home park. Ugg. At the time the trailers were put in, they put down a heavy later of gravel. So compacted, not even weeds will grow well.

So I want to grow herbs and veggies around my place. I have access to a large amount of wood chips dumped last year. Some of it is heavy with cedar.

Is there any way I could layer this with something and have plantable soil by next spring?

What I have done so far is put in layers of newspaper with layers of bought soil with grass cuttings, leaves and compost. But the bought soil will be to expensive on the large scale. I have a compost pile but not enough to give what I need. So I was figuring to compost in place.

What can I add to combat the cedar and to make a good soil mix? The chips are 1/2 way decomposed already-which is good.
 
master pollinator
Posts: 11359
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
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Personally I wouldn't worry too much about the cedar, I'm using chipper mulch with lots of cedar and it seems to be doing nothing but good. If you can, mixing it with manure or compost might be helpful.

This website with video is inspiring: http://backtoedenfilm.com/
 
Morana Revel
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That is essentially what I am getting. Over the years, the county has been dumping all of the refuse from county maintenance...Chipped wood and such along a fairly new highway cut thru the rock to the interstate. Most of it was inaccessible to get to easily. But I have found about 6 large piles from last year that are decently close to the road. I can take totes and trash cans and fill the back of my car with about 100 gallons at a time. Rough work, but only about $2.00 in gas per carload. A friend says that he can lend me his truck one day also.

Where I am, I can barely grow grass- 8 inches or so gravel on top of red clay. No viable soil at all. So to grow anything means making soil. I have tried with the compost and I cannot just get enough for much beyond using it as fertilizer. This winter, I will have access to frozen miniature pony poop too add to my compost but right now, it is all going into someone else's garden.

I have checked the chips for bugs and there only seems to be pill bugs that look like small armadillos.
 
steward
Posts: 2719
Location: Maine (zone 5)
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The DOT here just went down my street clearing branches away from the power lines and chipping them into the back of a dump truck. I went down to the truck and asked if I could have the chips. YUP! was the answer and they dumped a whole truck full right next to my garden. It was a mix of ash, apple, pine, maple and alder. I think some of it was in the truck since last friday and it was already HOT. I can't wait to see what happens to it in the next few weeks as it cooks. It'll be going on the garden once the harvest is over along with the rest of my yearly chicken manure and compost.



A combination of ans many different things as you can get will go a log way in building the soil. I say, any organic matter that you can get on the ground is a benefit. best of luck
 
Posts: 68
Location: Northern Tablelands, NSW, Australia
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I put broken/chopped up yard waste, which includes tree branches, on my gardens and over time it breaks down into beautiful black loveliness. I think the chips will be fine. The gravel underneath will probably provide some minerals at least. If the chips haven't decomposed enough to grow in you could speed things up by adding some nitrogen. The cheapest most readily available source is your urine. Dilute fresh urine about 10:1 with water and pour onto the chips. Of course, this isn't much good if everything freezes over winter where you.
 
steward
Posts: 3999
Location: Wellington, New Zealand. Temperate, coastal, sandy, windy,
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My condolences Morana, gravel sucks. About 8 inches you reckon?
I'd be worried about potential garden health issues if there's not much in the way of actual, mineral soil.
So while I think well aged chips, with a lot of nitrogen (urine, grass clippings, used coffee grounds) to deal with the carbon would be great, I'd also be seeking soil.
Maybe craigslist, that truck, a few workers and the promise of beer...
 
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have you considered raised beds or hugelkulture beds? you can probably fill them in with the wood chips and just add a layer of nice compost/topsoil on top of it.
 
Posts: 471
Location: Jackson County, OR (Zone 7)
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If you are looking to get started growing some of your herbs and veggies, maybe try Mel Bartholomew's Square Foot Gardening method?

Either replace the gravely soil you currently have and replace it with Mel's mixture, or build the beds on top of the gravel.

If you can position the square foot beds in full sun and close to your kitchen, it is amazing how much they can produce. 4 or 5 beds that are 4' x 4' in size can provide a good portion of your veggies and herbs.

In the meantime, you could use the chips to make more compost as suggested above using your diluted urine, or spread them a foot or so thick over areas that you would like to eventually use for a larger garden. After a couple of years, it should make a world of difference.
 
Posts: 70
Location: Kent, South-east England, UK
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Hi

Leafmould is gold-dust - can you collect leaves being swept from local municipal places? You have to rot them down for a year ideally, either in sacks or a wire cage, but it's one of the best soil-improvers ever, and absolutely free.

Agree about needing nitrogen to break down the wood chips - how about coffee grounds from your local coffee shop? And always empty your own grounds on your plot. They say dried coffee grounds keep slugs off too but I think it's mostly wishful thinking. Try growing beans (which collect their own nitrogen from the air) to start off.

Rosalind
 
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