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Advice on how to use power company wood chips by the truckload

 
Julie Bernhardt
Posts: 54
Location: Indianapolis, Indiana
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I am on the list to get 2 or 3 loads of wood chips from the power company some time next month.
This will be almost all wood with very few leaves.

DO I still have to let it sit a while or can I start spreading it as soon as I get it? This will determine how many loads I get because 3 would probably spill over onto the neighbor's property so I would have to start moving it sooner.

Also, if I can spread it immediately, how deep can I put it over perennials and spring bulbs? I bought comfrey roots just last summer too so I don't want to smother them.
I have mulch down most places now but it is very broken down and my ducks turn it into the soil. Some areas I want to extend the mulched areas. I want to extend the area under my trees all the way to the drip lines.

I have used the wood chips from them before but it came during the growing season and I had to let it cook because so much was green leaves.
 
Matu Collins
Posts: 1976
Location: Southern New England, seaside, avg yearly rainfall 41.91 in, zone 6b
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Get as much as you can use and then some to have as a standby pile. You can inoculate your piles with fungi if you want to speed up the decomposition process.

In my experience comfrey can be buried under quite a few inches and come up with vigor. Most plants can take a few inches but maybe others have more specific recommendations.

I mostly use wood chips for paths and under trees and bushes. I use straw for garden beds.

I always feel like I can use more wood chips
 
S Bengi
Posts: 1356
Location: Massachusetts, Zone:6/7, AHS:4, Rainfall:48in even distribution
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Go ahead and spread it now without waiting due to the fact that it is mostly wood, not leaves.
Your bulbs shouldn't have a problem making it thru 4 or so inch of wood chip
 
John Elliott
pollinator
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Matu Collins wrote: You can inoculate your piles with fungi if you want to speed up the decomposition process.


Let me chime in to say you should inoculate your piles with fungi, because you really want to speed up the decomposition process.

Any mushrooms that you see popping out of the ground are suitable candidates. Whiz them up in the blender with some water and throw it on your piles of wood chips. Water them in good and if it goes a week without raining, give them some more water.
 
Ken Peavey
steward
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Location: FL
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Left in a heap, some warmth will be expected. This will give them a head start in decomposing. You'll be able to use them at your pleasure.
If spread out, the cold of winter will keep the chips from decomposing. Come spring, a thin layer of 2-4" will be in place to keep down the early weeds.
 
Julie Bernhardt
Posts: 54
Location: Indianapolis, Indiana
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Thanks everyone. I'll get the extra load and start spreading it as soon as I get it, weather permitting.

One time I got a load in the fall and since plants were going to sleep for the winter I went ahead and spread it about 6 inches deep as soon as I got it. It did have leaves in it but not as much as summer loads. The following year all of my ajuga and several ferns were gone. It probably wouldn't be that big of a deal if I did loose some of my ornamental plants but I have a lot of Daylilies and hostas I'd like to keep and in a pinch I think they are edible.
I transplanted strawberries in several places last year just as a groundcover. I am looking for ways to cut down the maintenance as much as possible. I didn't realize how much it was to keep up with until a couple years ago when I had surgery and couldn't work for a while. It took me a long time to catch back up and I aint gettin' any younger.

I can only get a load of mulch from the power company about every 3 years now. I don't know if it's because more people are doing it or just the price of gasoline but they will only accept you on the list if they are trimming trees in your area now. This summer I had to buy several yards of mulch and I can't afford to do that right so it went down thin and I started trying to start more groundcover plants.
 
Chris Kott
Posts: 796
Location: Toronto, Ontario
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Let me chime in and say that you want to decide where you want the chips to remain chips, like pathways and high-traffic areas, and where you want them to decompose faster, like anywhere you want more soil.

For the first, well, I would guess that, because you're getting them from the power company, most should be ramial wood, consisting of mostly sapwood, meaning they will likely decompose fast on their own, whatever you do. So you should be prepared to reapply chips to your paths more regularly than, say, if the chips were mostly from trunks and branches over 3", where they would consist mostly of lignin, and need external sources of nitrogen to break down.

For the second, as I said, you are likely to be receiving ramial wood, so there is very little that you will have to do to make them decompose, and because of the relatively low lignin content, you shouldn't even have problems with nitrogen draw-down. If you do, some like blood meal as a nitrogen supplement. I prefer liquid human fertilizer (I pee by my yellowing plants).

As to depth, I am pretty sure that the only plants that would not like a nice thick layer of chips would be those requiring sunlight to germinate.

-CK
 
R. Morgan
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Thanks for the information guys.

I am interested to see if I can improve some areas of my farm in South Australia to improve the pasture. Anyone used chips for this purpose?

Some of my land is hilly, some undulating and some flat. Any tips on how to get grass growing on these different areas using wood chips?
Also, are pine and gum trees ok for this purpose? I also want to try wood chips on a smallish irrigated pasture, which should help the chips to break down quicker.

I'd better contact the power company now, they are due to prune in this area very soon.
 
Ken Miller
Posts: 26
Location: Vashon, WA
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Here is a long video on wood chips that my be ofinteest.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uM_gtZb8qyk

Ken
 
Ken Miller
Posts: 26
Location: Vashon, WA
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of interest.
 
Julie Bernhardt
Posts: 54
Location: Indianapolis, Indiana
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I watched one of his videos a couple years ago. I put the wood chips in my veggie raised beds in the fall and pulled it away to plantin the spring. I had millions of pill bugs and some other tiny little dark centipedes in it and they didn't do well. I did plant starts and not direct seeding. I planted my strawberries in year old wood chips They did ok but I had slugs. Maybe my attempts are not doing as well because I have raised beds.

He said 16 inches of chips in the orchard. If I go for that I would need 4 or 5 loads. I could go that thick right under the trees but I don't know ift my strawberries, comfrey, fennel and elderberry seeds would grow through 16 inches of fresh chips. I like to throw annual seeds like cosmos in the mulch for pollinators.

I guess if I put 16 inches of wood chips on the paths between my raised garden beds they would no longer be raised.


 
mike mclellan
Posts: 94
Location: Helena, MT zone 4
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Julie,
I have used (and continue to do so) wood chips around fruit trees and bushes. Sixteen inches does not seem logical to me. Sixteen inches would smother most things not already firmly established heightwise, not allow water penetration to the soil, starve the soil surface of air, and my guess is that it would monkeywrench your entire soil microherd. Consider the forests in your part of the country. How deep is the O (organic) horizon before you hit actual mineral soil? Does using that as a beginning point at least seem consistent with what occurs naturally in your part of the world? I'm sure it varies by region and forest type. You could easily lay down a much thicker layer of chips in your pathways where you're probably not interested in dealing with weeds poking through. These would eventually decompose and you could move the decomposed material into your growing spaces relatively easily. I would suggest two to three inches max in areas you'll plant this year. The water must penetrate the mulch and air must get into the soil.

In your area, I would expect that decomposition is relatively fast compared to the dry side of the Rockies where I live. Even here, deciduous leaves decompose by the summer after they've fallen. Wood chips take considerably longer- like a few years to completely disappear into new soil. Keep the chips wet ( nature may well do that for you this winter) and inoculate with any mushrooms that poke their caps up in the spring. Have fun and enjoy the bounty the chips should help to provide.
 
Paul Donovan
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John Elliott wrote:
Matu Collins wrote: You can inoculate your piles with fungi if you want to speed up the decomposition process.


Let me chime in to say you should inoculate your piles with fungi, because you really want to speed up the decomposition process.

Any mushrooms that you see popping out of the ground are suitable candidates. Whiz them up in the blender with some water and throw it on your piles of wood chips. Water them in good and if it goes a week without raining, give them some more water.



I almost feel silly asking this question, but I'm assuming any mushrooms whipped up in a blender with water should do the trick then? I don't see why you should need to inoculate with native fungi, right?
 
Al Senner
Posts: 59
Location: southeast SD (zone 4b/5a)
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Last year I got several loads of chips from my tree trimmer neighbors. After only a few days in our warm wet summer, and my piles would explode with spores when I went to spread them. Very nasty on the lungs. Theyre still very "dusty" this spring and need to be spread on a windy day. I always spread them as fast as possible and the mushrooms find their way in just fine.
 
Judith Browning
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Location: Arkansas Ozarks zone 7 alluvial,black,deep loam/clay with few rocks, wonderful creek bottom!
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Paul Donovan wrote:
John Elliott wrote:
Matu Collins wrote: You can inoculate your piles with fungi if you want to speed up the decomposition process.


Let me chime in to say you should inoculate your piles with fungi, because you really want to speed up the decomposition process.

Any mushrooms that you see popping out of the ground are suitable candidates. Whiz them up in the blender with some water and throw it on your piles of wood chips. Water them in good and if it goes a week without raining, give them some more water.



I almost feel silly asking this question, but I'm assuming any mushrooms whipped up in a blender with water should do the trick then? I don't see why you should need to inoculate with native fungi, right?


I don't know the answer to native or non native but I wouldn't use a blender that is used for food if you are whipping up just any mushroom in your yard...we have some very interesting nonedible fungi around our place that i sure wouldn't want to find in my kitchen blender
 
Michael Vormwald
Posts: 154
Location: Central New York - Finger Lakes - Zone 5
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Pill bugs, like earthworms are merely creatures that assist in the decomposition of organic matter and not a detriment to vegs or ornamental's. But if you look/watch closely, Paul Gautschi's 'Back to Eden' wood chip garden method, he's not using wood chips in his garden (although he did long ago). He puts all of his yard and garden waste in the chicken run and the chickens feed on and compost the material which he digs out and spreads on his garden every fall. He suggests that if wood chips are used in the garden, they be no more than 4" and must be pulled back to plant in the soil. Then they can moved back as the plants grow. So the wood chips are really just a slowly decaying mulch, not unlike ruth stout's method (although she used hay).
Paul did pile wood chips deeply in the orchard years ago providing a permanent cover and a vast moisture store.
As others have mentioned, you can spread 'fresh' wood chips anytime. I would not spread very much over pre-emerging ornamental's as like weeds, their growth could be halted. I'd wait until all your ornamental's were up before piling on the wood chip mulch. I also don't think you ever need to inoculate wood chips with fungi. Nature has a way of taking care of this just fine.
Note: I use wood chips in lots of places but not the vegetable garden as I use my Troybilt tiller to power compost in the garden and as we all know, wood chips if mixed in would tie up nitrogen (wood chips best [if] used as a mulch.

Julie Bernhardt wrote:I watched one of his videos a couple years ago. I put the wood chips in my veggie raised beds in the fall and pulled it away to plantin the spring. I had millions of pill bugs and some other tiny little dark centipedes in it and they didn't do well. I did plant starts and not direct seeding. I planted my strawberries in year old wood chips They did ok but I had slugs. Maybe my attempts are not doing as well because I have raised beds.

He said 16 inches of chips in the orchard. If I go for that I would need 4 or 5 loads. I could go that thick right under the trees but I don't know ift my strawberries, comfrey, fennel and elderberry seeds would grow through 16 inches of fresh chips. I like to throw annual seeds like cosmos in the mulch for pollinators.

I guess if I put 16 inches of wood chips on the paths between my raised garden beds they would no longer be raised.


 
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