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Any barefoot gardeners?

 
pioneer
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Location: Fresno Ca Zone 9b
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Hi,Thinking about wood chips or something to lay down for our forest garden but concerned about splinters as I’m always barefoot in the garden…. Any barefooters out there? If so… how do you manage this?
 
author & steward
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Location: Cache Valley, zone 4b, Irrigated, 9" rain in badlands.
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I consider wood chips the most unpleasant surface to walk on other than thistles, or thorns. I don't get slivers from the wood chips, just plenty of discomfort.
harvesting-cactus.jpg
barefoot harvest in cactus bed
barefoot harvest in cactus bed
 
Posts: 35
Location: South Western Ontario
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Bigfoot gardening is where its at
 
master gardener
Posts: 1576
Location: Carlton County, Minnesota, USA: 3b; Dfb; sandy loam; in the woods
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I walk gingerly on the wood chips, but I don’t get splinters.
 
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Bark chips and deep straw have been the nicest underfoot in my experience. Also like pine straw but that's not always a good option. But some wood chips are ok, either small ones or flatter ones (shaped more like bark nuggets). My problem with them has not been splinters though, it's just the "pointyness" which is also awful with pointy pebbles or gravel.
 
Kimberly Agnese
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Thank you:)
 
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I like being barefoot in summer.  I frequently walk the dog barefoot on a paved sidewalk. I especially enjoy doing that in the evening when the sun has gone down but the pavement is still warm. I like feeling how the different driveway material hold the heat differently. Some are warmer than others. I start building my tolerance up with short walks in the spring and get to the point where I can do the whole mile loop bare foot.  This has the added advantage to being able to walk on wood chips in the yard.  
 
pollinator
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A crunchy engineering friend of mine recommended decomposed granite for my garden path, as opposed to mulch. I haven’t researched it much yet.

https://www.gardenista.com/posts/hardscaping-101-decomposed-granite/
 
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I won't recommend wood chips; as for me it's a pretty bad surfact to walk barefoot on. Personally I prefer something like mix of sand and round stones, like shingles for such a trail pavement; my granny had exactly one like this on her farm. It's also good for rainy areas (the farm was in a very marshy area) as the water doesn't stay on it but goes below, and it dries fast.
 
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I am allergic to hay and many grassy-treey things so barefoot is rarely an option. I whined at my partner years ago when she dug up the lawn and dumped straw everywhere. I kind of loved that little lawn. I could actually walk on that lawn. I read Paul's old mowing article and everything; it was looking pretty good.

Now I had to wade through itchy mouldy straw to get to the one little patch of hardly-worth-mowing green left way in the back corner of our tiny lot. Could hardly see the lake (Témiscamingue; cold and well north of north).

Anyway much later we met Rob Avis from Verge Permaculture and he gave us the idea for micro-swale irrigation paths: weeping tile in a 10" trench covered in mycelial-infused wood chips. Look it up.

Strangely we could not get a pile of arborist chips dropped off for tips and waves (we tried) but we could get a pallet of compressed sawdust woodstove pellets for several hundred dollars!

I was again not sold, but with no additives (we checked) and no need for sterilization, it was actually a great medium for the blue oysters we put down.

And very quickly the pellets absorbed water and became a beautiful, soft, kind walking surface. Like corkboard but spongy.  I had a meandering path through elderberries, evans cherries, and wild strawberries all the way from the back door to my little patch of grass. Walking onions. Vines hanging from the trees. And pounds of oysters showed up that fall tucked under the rhubarb and around the boulders.

We moved shortly after, but flushes were reported at least three years later from the two or three spent mushroom kits we broke up and spread around.
 
gardener
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Location: Zone 6 in the Pacific Northwest
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R Sumner wrote:... and he gave us the idea for micro-swale irrigation paths: weeping tile in a 10" trench covered in mycelial-infused wood chips. Look it up.

Strangely we could not get a pile of arborist chips dropped off for tips and waves (we tried) but we could get a pallet of compressed sawdust woodstove pellets for several hundred dollars..., it was actually a great medium for the blue oysters we put down.

And very quickly the pellets absorbed water and became a beautiful, soft, kind walking surface. Like corkboard but spongy.



I'm trying to picture this but failing. I tried to look it up but maybe I'm using the wrong search terms. Did you put the weeping tile over the top of the pellets?
 
Posts: 192
Location: Rural Pacific Northwest, Zone 8
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Barefoot gardener, I’m putting wood chips in my orchard area that I want to make into a food forest. I love going barefoot. I walk barefoot on gravel. I hate walking on the wood chips. But soil, right?
 
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Sawdust is my choice. Its a great weed suppressor and kind on my feet.
 
gardener
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You can put softer things over the wood chips…. Leaves, straw, compost, grass clippings, waste hay.

I once soaked ripped newspaper… started to make paper mache, soaked it in a trash barrel, used a drywall mixing ‘paddle’ then used that for pathway paving.  It was slow to decompose, probably because it had no airspace.  It lasted a long time, prevented weed germination, was comfortable on the feet.  It seems like if you put it on top of the wood chips, it would protect bare feet from pointedness of wood chips.

I used iron oxide to get a uniform color…
 
Kimberly Agnese
pioneer
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Location: Fresno Ca Zone 9b
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Awesome idea! Thank u:)
 
Posts: 120
Location: Southwest VT, zone 5a slope ~10°-30°
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I usually have a shortage of mulch, and so I tend to leave the paths bare for a lot of the time, but I have scattered some orchard-grass and pine springs, and they make a relatively inoffensive carpet. There is also the path (pun half intended) of green mulch. I remember various sedges coming up in one of the paths, which I had mulched lightly.

Well-stomped goldenrod works too, but only once the boots have gone over them enough times to tamp down the sharper bits. And autumn leaves are of course not bad.

Since lots of people here do have access to wood chips, why not put those down and then something else on top? Various organic matter, maybe even putting soil down and sowing green mulch over that, like a compost-cover-crop-path? These are a bit wild of course... I had lots of success last year digging a trench, filling it with various stalks and food scraps, and covering them with soil and rotting logs as a kind of bokashi... the red worms became ecstatic when I excavated it and used it for a lasagna bed, and many of the fruit seeds that got in sprouted and are growing happily. A little more effort and perhaps it could have been a bokashi pit, a path, and a seed stratification method in one! It’s currently functioning as an excellent swale as well.
 
Kimberly Agnese
pioneer
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Excellent idea! Thank you:)
 
R Sumner
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Jenny Wright wrote:

R Sumner wrote:... and he gave us the idea for micro-swale irrigation paths: weeping tile in a 10" trench covered in mycelial-infused wood chips. Look it up.



I'm trying to picture this but failing. I tried to look it up but maybe I'm using the wrong search terms. Did you put the weeping tile over the top of the pellets?



Weeping tile in a 10" trench under wood chips/pellets.

Rob Avis on Urban Swales:

https://vergepermaculture.ca/urban-swales/
 
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It would depends (from my prospective, as I was able to get wood chips only once for free, when hydro was replacing hydro poles, but then....our car hitch broke off and so did the car, and have no way to access hay, straw, and so on) ), is to plant in between rows/raised beds Low growing plants/herbs that would suit your climate: moss, thyme, sedums, clover, rye and so on.  Or any groundcovers .If you wouldn't like plants to self seed, you could weed-wack those off before they set seeds

 
Posts: 119
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I walk barefoot on my wood chips. I got them for free from an arborist, and any other mulch is too much trouble to obtain.
I find they break down & sink in pretty fast if we get any wet weather. Undoubtedly better than twigs , which I try to keep off the paths.
This year most of my paths are overgrown anyway, so the surface is soft, for now. When the vetch dries out it will be scratchy.
 
pollinator
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D Baker wrote:I like being barefoot in summer.  I frequently walk the dog barefoot on a paved sidewalk. I especially enjoy doing that in the evening when the sun has gone down but the pavement is still warm. I like feeling how the different driveway material hold the heat differently. Some are warmer than others. I start building my tolerance up with short walks in the spring and get to the point where I can do the whole mile loop bare foot.  This has the added advantage to being able to walk on wood chips in the yard.  





I used to go barefoot all summer as a kid, but too many stubbed toes, broken toes and Tetanus shots have convinced me that shoes are a better option. I occasionally walk barefoot in the grass, lush clover, especially. At my age, it is also much easier to trip when stepping on uneven ground without shoes, but yes, I remember liking the feel of my bare toes in the dirt, or on a warmish sidewalk...
"Those were the days, my friend, we thought they'd never end" like the song says...
 
Posts: 83
Location: KY
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I love going barefoot, and sometimes force/train it just to stay somewhat grounded in reality and my feet tough - but, my place is rough in most areas and worn out crocs are a close second...thistle thorns and other things get in there, sharp gravel and a wrong-sitting sharp woodchip go right through...not to mention nails, locust thorns, blackberry and rose :)

I like hearing about pellets and other ideas, sounds nice. Cost, lots of paths, availability makes me use wood chips, leaves, straw, grass/garden/field clippings etc and just deal with the ouchies. It also builds soil and easier to maintain (by dumping more) than any gravel or costly thing IMO.

A few pushmower bags full of lush red clover goes nicely in those special areas 😁
 
Thekla McDaniels
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I wonder about using ashes on the wood chips, to soften the sharpness.  Seems like they might be good in some situations.

 
pollinator
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I too love barefoot,  but woodchips are free and soak up water so nicely.   I wear Xero shoes which is the closest shoe I have found to barefoot,  or for a quick walk to the garden,  I just wear socks.   😂
 
Cécile Stelzer Johnson
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Cris Fellows wrote:I too love barefoot,  but woodchips are free and soak up water so nicely.   I wear Xero shoes which is the closest shoe I have found to barefoot,  or for a quick walk to the garden,  I just wear socks.   😂




For a minimalist shoe, they do seem to charge full price. I like the style though, but why should it cost more if it has less material?
 
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I'm someone who is usually barefoot anytime conditions are not especially bad.
I have fairly tough callouses on my feet, but woodchips have a way of turning and jabbing like a little wooden sword.
This is my experience with the (mostly Fir) chips when they are newly laid.
After awhile they settle down, and don't jab as often.  No sliver issues that I have encountered with Fir chips.
However my little nieces and nephews whose feet are more tender DO NOT like walking barefoot on the woodchips, and have told me so.

Despite that, it is a very easy way to cover a lot of ground.
 
gardener
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Wood chips hurt and I'm allergic to both grass and hay/straw.  I like to throw stepping stones in my paths, then use whatever.
 
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