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Question about putting compost on top of soil  RSS feed

 
Stephanie Ladd
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Hey guys, I need a little guidance here. Today I planted radishes and beets. It's gorgeous out today (50 something) but we still are having lows in the 30s at night and possibly snow next week.

Wait, first I'm going to start with last year. Last year when we put the garden to bed, we decided to add mulch on top of the soil to protect from the cold a little bit. It was stump grinding mulch from street trees. It probably wasn't the wisest choice but whatever. It was what we had.

So today I turned the very top layer (tried to minimally disturb)over in the garden with a fork and piled on some compost. And now I'm questioning if that was a good choice. I didn't want to till in the compost because I have sooooooooo many worms and spiders and milipedes living in there that I didn't want to disturb them too much. So now I just have a layer of compost on top which I directly planted the beet and radish seeds into. Do you think it will all dry out? Kill the good stuff in there? I have coffee bean burlap bags that I could put on top to protect the soil a bit, but then my seeds won't germinate.

Any ideas about what to do?
 
Ben Johansen
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Loose straw mulch. Shake out flakes of strawbale, as a light layer over the top of your rootcrops. I've been doing this for years, and had little to no problem with germination. Grass clippings would be ideal, but loose straw mulch works wonders.
 
Ben Johansen
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Ben Johansen wrote:little to no problem with germination


Just make sure they're planted as shallowly as recommended. Beets and taters get grumpy if they've got too much blanket.
 
Stephanie Ladd
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Ben Johansen wrote:Loose straw mulch. Shake out flakes of strawbale, as a light layer over the top of your rootcrops. I've been doing this for years, and had little to no problem with germination. Grass clippings would be ideal, but loose straw mulch works wonders.


Awesome! I have access to lots of rotting straw from last years straw bale gardens at my place of employment. I will take some of those home and cover everything up.

Thank you!

What do you think about spreading compost on the beds that I haven't planted yet and covering them with the burlap and then planting into those? The only problem with burlap is that when you pull it up at the end of the season you pull up lots of goodies and you disturb lots of crawlies.
 
Marco Banks
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If you can gently pull the mulch back just enough to expose the soil in the areas you want to plant, you can let the little critters do their thing, yet get the seeds in good contact with soil below. I don't think you want to till those stump grindings into the soil anyhow -- they'd tie up the nitrogen. Leave them on the surface to break down over time.

Unless you are broadcasting your seeds, just pull the surface mulch back a little bit for the row you'll plant. Don't till, just create a little row through the mulch. I use a bow rake for this. (If you are broadcasting, you'll need to rake that surface mulch back --- you can put it back under the plants once they begin growing.

Or you could lay your burlap bags down over the bed, and cut little X's into the fabric with a sharp knife. Then add a small bit of planting mix inside the X and plant into those holes.
 
Ben Johansen
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Marco Banks wrote:cut little X's into the fabric


Dude, I've done this with varying degrees of success on landscaping fabric and black plastic, but had never thought of doing it with burlap before. I bet the thicker fabric would close up a lot better than the flimsy stuff I've been working with. +1 props.
 
Stephanie Ladd
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5. Permanent mulches attract vast numbers of earthworms. Undisturbed soils covered by permanent mulches over 4 seasons can have earthworm populations exceeding 1 million earthworms per acre = 23 worms per cubic foot. 1 million worms produce 1 ton = 2,000 pounds of earthworm casts = earthworm manure per acre per day during the growing season. That is a vast amount of free organic fertilizer.


If I grab a handful of soil, there is probably about 5-10 worms in that handful. We've been careful in the past not to disturb soil, so I think the worm population is a testament to no till= healthy. Thank you for the advice, it was very helpful.

Or you could lay your burlap bags down over the bed, and cut little X's into the fabric with a sharp knife. Then add a small bit of planting mix inside the X and plant into those holes.


See, this is why Permies.com is so great. I totally had a lightbulb moment when I read this. I have used burlap before but always as a mulch after the plants were big. I never thought to use it in that way before, and that it exactly what I am going to today!!! Thank you!

For my other beds, I am going to just do what the other have said above. Although, I never put compost into my beds last year, how should I go about getting the compost amendment in there without disturbing the soil?
 
Marco Banks
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Stephanie Ladd wrote:


For my other beds, I am going to just do what the other have said above. Although, I never put compost into my beds last year, how should I go about getting the compost amendment in there without disturbing the soil?



Well, getting your compost down into the soil without actually disturbing the soil isn't really possible --- but it's not really necessary. I suppose you could poke some holes and pack compost down into the holes, but that's a lot of extra work for a limited benefit.

There are a couple of key things compost brings to your soil that do not require it to be integrated (mixed) into the soil. Most significantly, compost contributes a big boost of beneficial bacteria and microbes to the root zone around your plants. So as you mulch the surface of the soil with compost and then water it in, those billions of bacteria and microbes are washed down into the soil. Job done. (And a good reason for using rain water or well water --- tap water is full of chlorine, and is hell on bacteria --- if you're using city water, fill a big garbage can with the water you'll be using tomorrow, and let the chlorine evaporate out).

In the same way, nutrients in the compost (N,K,P, and others) will wash through and down to the root zone as you water your plants.

Third, the humus/carbon will be integrated into the soil by the worms. Put the compost on the surface, and if you can, cover it with a bit more carbon rich mulch (leaves, chips, straw, whatever) and the worms will "dig it in" for you. Sunlight will irradiate bacteria and soil microbes, so if you can cover your compost with a layer of something else, it helps. That's why bare soil is so often dead soil -- at least on the surface. Worms will come out at night, but not during the day --- they don't need a sun tan. A thick layer of mulch keeps it dark for them --- they'll come up, move through your compost, and poop it out through the root zone.

No till, no problem.
 
Stephanie Ladd
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Thanks! I began setting up the burlap mulching yesterday and as I thought about it, I don't think it's going to work. It's not going to break down in one year and I don't want to have to pull it up at the end of the season/early next season and disturb all the buggies.

So what i did was just put compost on top and I'll layer lightly with straw and maybe on sunny days I'll cover it up with the burlap lightly until I see my sprouts. Then I'll mulch heavier around them. We have a big stretch of cooler and cloudy days coming so I don't think the soil is going to get too damaged.

The problem is I totally screwed up last year. Next year, when I put the gardens to bed, I will just put a layer of compost on top, then mulch. Then in spring I can plant directly into that. I don't know what I was thinking last fall
 
Jay Angler
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We've been able to get a load of cheap organic "burlap" sacks from a local Fair Trade importer. I'm really impressed with how the plant roots/shoots will grow right through a thin layer of sacking and be anchored into it. If anything, I tend to have more high nitrogen compost to add to my gardens than browns, so the sacking is a real asset. I consider its job to be to decompose and protect the decomposers in the process. A stash of them got left in the rain over winter and the rhizome infiltration of the stack was seriously cool to see. I've spread them out on some land we're trying to rehabilitate to spread the joy! I added a cover crop, but haven't seen signs of germination yet. If I don't soon, I'll try some different seeds - anything to out-compete the Canada Thistle that would like to live there!

*burlap is in quotes because the sacks come from various countries, and although the company guarantees they're organic, there are different fibers that can make up a "burlap-like" material that may not technically be the same plant. Anything similar - woven and biodegradeable - will do the job. Plastic mulches and landscape fabric have downsides that didn't impress me, so I only use them under very specific, rare circumstances.
 
Casie Becker
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Stephanie Ladd wrote:Thanks! I began setting up the burlap mulching yesterday and as I thought about it, I don't think it's going to work. It's not going to break down in one year and I don't want to have to pull it up at the end of the season/early next season and disturb all the buggies.

(


I'm a little confused about why you would need pull up the burlap at all. My wood chips mulches don't completely degrade in the course of one year, but I just push it aside as needed to plant and add more mulch on top. Is there a reason why you wouldn't just cut new holes for planting through the old burlap next year? That's assuming that it won't biodegrade in a year. I think people who are used to chemical agriculture tend to underestimate how much a healthy soil can digest in a year. My wood mulches are applied up to six inches thick and yet, if I don't refresh it, they will be down to and inch or less by the end of the year. If I'm trying to kill grass I might go as high as twelve inches, and even that is down to four inches or less after a year. It's only that very top layer that is exposed to sun, wind and weather extremes that will be slow to break down.
 
Stephanie Ladd
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Casie Becker wrote:
Stephanie Ladd wrote:Thanks! I began setting up the burlap mulching yesterday and as I thought about it, I don't think it's going to work. It's not going to break down in one year and I don't want to have to pull it up at the end of the season/early next season and disturb all the buggies.

(


I'm a little confused about why you would need pull up the burlap at all. My wood chips mulches don't completely degrade in the course of one year, but I just push it aside as needed to plant and add more mulch on top. Is there a reason why you wouldn't just cut new holes for planting through the old burlap next year? That's assuming that it won't biodegrade in a year. I think people who are used to chemical agriculture tend to underestimate how much a healthy soil can digest in a year. My wood mulches are applied up to six inches thick and yet, if I don't refresh it, they will be down to and inch or less by the end of the year. If I'm trying to kill grass I might go as high as twelve inches, and even that is down to four inches or less after a year. It's only that very top layer that is exposed to sun, wind and weather extremes that will be slow to break down.


Well, last year I did burlap mulching in a community garden and it didn't turn out well and certainly didn't decompose. But my beds are much healthier than the other garden. Cutting holes in the burlap is labor intensive, but that doesn't mean I won't do it. I'm just worried I'll have layers and layers of burlap that will just build up and the roots won't be able to through. Is that not correct? How would I cut holes in last years burlap if I am sowing rows of radish on the top in compost? Would it be broken down enough for the roots to penetrate without be going in and shredding the whole thing? How'd that be any different from tilling.

Maybe I am missing something.
 
hogie earthangel
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i use cardboard boxes with the tape and labels removed. they make nice mulch and paths and worms like to eat decomposing cardboard.
 
Peter Ellis
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Stephanie, on the burlap bags, my first question is whether the bags you have are natural fiber burlap or some synthetic. One quick and easy way to check is a burn test. Snip a little piece and light it on fire. If it leaves a blob, not powdery ash, it is definitely synthetic and likely will not decompose. I ask because a natural burlap in contact with soil for a year should definitely be breaking down.

If you plant through natural burlap, I would leave it year after year, trusting that tells soil organisms will eat it like all the other organic matter. I also would not worry about roots getting through.
 
Casie Becker
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Actually, I do most of my mulching with a combination of cardboard (for starting most new beds) and ramial wood chips. I was actually wondering if there was something that I was misunderstanding.

I was curious what made burlap such a different experience than chipped mulch. Particularly since you say they didn't do well in your community garden. I find I learn as much about how to care for my garden by what goes wrong as I do by getting it right the first time.

To be honest, everything you say you did this fall sounds exactly like how I (and my mother for 30+ years) garden. We just keep piling different layers of organic material on the soil. Worms and other soil creatures pull it down to the plants. We only dig enough to fit seeds or seedlings into the ground.

After the initial mulch buries the seed bank it is just a matter of keeping ahead of new seeds blowing in. Weeds are very easy to pull from out of organic mulches.

 
Stephanie Ladd
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Casie Becker wrote:Actually, I do most of my mulching with a combination of cardboard (for starting most new beds) and ramial wood chips. I was actually wondering if there was something that I was misunderstanding.

I was curious what made burlap such a different experience than chipped mulch. Particularly since you say they didn't do well in your community garden. I find I learn as much about how to care for my garden by what goes wrong as I do by getting it right the first time.

To be honest, everything you say you did this fall sounds exactly like how I (and my mother for 30+ years) garden. We just keep piling different layers of organic material on the soil. Worms and other soil creatures pull it down to the plants. We only dig enough to fit seeds or seedlings into the ground.

After the initial mulch buries the seed bank it is just a matter of keeping ahead of new seeds blowing in. Weeds are very easy to pull from out of organic mulches.



So I'm my mind, the difference between wood mulch (which I have on the beds right now) and burlap is root penetration. Roots can penetrate old layers on wood mulch, I'm worried about roots penetrating burlap, which is basically landscaping fabric. Once my seeds sprout, I have plenty of options for mulching. I have access to wood chips and straw. But right now I cannot do any of those and I'm worried about the top layer of compost dying.
 
Stephanie Ladd
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Peter Ellis wrote:Stephanie, on the burlap bags, my first question is whether the bags you have are natural fiber burlap or some synthetic. One quick and easy way to check is a burn test. Snip a little piece and light it on fire. If it leaves a blob, not powdery ash, it is definitely synthetic and likely will not decompose. I ask because a natural burlap in contact with soil for a year should definitely be breaking down.

If you plant through natural burlap, I would leave it year after year, trusting that tells soil organisms will eat it like all the other organic matter. I also would not worry about roots getting through.


Ok I'll check it out. I'm pretty sure they are natural. They have some kind of coloring or dye on them because they were green coffee bags.

I guess I will try the burlap thing in a bed or two. That way of it doesn't work, I won't be out of a garden. My husband is not fond of the idea so maybe this will be a compromise.
 
Earl Mardle
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Casie Becker wrote:My wood chips mulches don't completely degrade in the course of one year, but I just push it aside as needed to plant and add more mulch on top.


I always add compost on top and then cover with mulch, usually wood chip because I have tonnes of it, then plant seedlings through it. I also have a new process with beets and carrots that appears to be working well. I was rubbish at carrots especially, trying all sorts of clever ideas to get them to germinate and usually failing. However, I noticed that some volunteer carrots had come up, almost always where there was chip mulch so I prepared a new bed (yes, I tilled), added a little compost and then spread a 10cm or so layer of cryptomeria foliage mulch on top. I use it a lot because I have plenty but it also breaks down really quickly.

Then I scattered beet and carrot seed on top. Don't overlap them, the beet doesn't seem to compete that well with the carrots. The theory is that the tiny seeds will fall down into the spaces in the mulch which will hold moisture but provide air and dappled light. The germination rate has been excellent and growing through the mulch into the soil gave the carrots especially a great start and we have more than enough for us and a daily treat for the 2 cows. By the time I get to harvest the cryptomeria is almost completely broken down to soil and I will now just build on that.

Also had a couple of beetroot plants that I left to seed. Once the seeds had dried off on the plants and some seedlings had started to sprout beside the garden I cut off the seed heads, laid them on new compost and covered with mulch. Right now its a case of thinning, not sowing and it feels a lot more like permaculture.
 
Marco Banks
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If the burlap doesn't break down after a season, so what? Just cut the plants off at the ground (leaving the roots in the soil), punch new holes through the burlap, and plant next year's crop in these new holes.

If it takes 3 seasons to break down --- so what? It all rots eventually.

Which is the existential thought for the day: we are all food for worms. Eventually. Enjoy every sandwich.
 
Roberto pokachinni
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today I turned the very top layer (tried to minimally disturb)over in the garden with a fork and piled on some compost. And now I'm questioning if that was a good choice. I didn't want to till in the compost because I have sooooooooo many worms and spiders and milipedes living in there that I didn't want to disturb them too much. So now I just have a layer of compost on top which I directly planted the beet and radish seeds into. Do you think it will all dry out? Kill the good stuff in there? I have coffee bean burlap bags that I could put on top to protect the soil a bit, but then my seeds won't germinate.

Any ideas about what to do?
Plenty of good advice above already. I'd say, just consider how nature does things. Case in point I was on my property last weekend and decided to go on a hunt for potting mix. I walk in the forest floor and what do I see? : 1.)loose branches and dry leaves with perennials poking through. I go to the base of some birch or poplar, or fir trees, and scrape off the dry branches, dry leaves or needles, and take off the heavier materials down to the next layer. What do I see? : 2.) It's the same stuff, but it's wet, it's broken down (the bits are smaller, mushier), it's full of white mycelial hairs and likely lots of bacteria. I sometimes see worms. I scrape up some of this material with my trowel and put it in my pail. I put the dry mulch back and grab a few extra sticks locally to add to and to help the mined area to recover quicker. I make sure my next harvest area is at least 20 feet away, and do it again. The point though is that soil is build from the top down. You never need to till it or fork it, or dig it, but sometimes people do till a bed for the first time, or they double dig it, or they broadfork it, or they spade fork it, but soil can be built by just mulching (sometimes with areas with tenacious weeds like thistles or grasses the mulch has to be quite deep [like a foot], and is best helped by cutting the weeds down to their crowns, wetting the cuttings and soil, covering the area with a layer of cardboard and then mulching heavily... sometimes this must be left undisturbed for a couple years to be sure of killing some weeds, but it's worth it, and the soil is amazing!). Worms and your plants and the rest of the soil community do most of the rest of the gardening for you. You should never need to work your top layers (compost or mulch) into the soil. The worms do it. The burlap, or cardboard, or straw, or wood chips... all of them will gain a mycelial web that will interface the carbon with the soil food web matrix, and will slowly become soil from the top down.
If the burlap doesn't break down after a season, so what? Just cut the plants off at the ground (leaving the roots in the soil), punch new holes through the burlap, and plant next year's crop in these new holes.
What you could do is cut X's the size of mature beets in your burlap to plant your beet seeds. When you pull the beets out, you could put a small lettuce transplant or seed into the hole. Let the lettuce die in the hole (or chop and drop it), it drops it's leaves on the burlap. This lettuce crop/residue keeps the burlap shaded or covered and thus wetter which help the microbial system to create soil and keep the burlap breaking down, just like Nature does to a stick or a leaf or even a log in the forest. The more it is in touch with the soil, the more it is kept covered, the more it is kept damp, then the more it will break down.
 
Stephanie Ladd
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Thanks. I suppose I feel a little better now. Soil does build from the top down, so thanks for pointing that out.

I think I'm just a little frustrated because the first year we had our garden beds, we had a crazy successful garden. I suppose brand new clean organic soil and compost had something to do with it. Every year since (this will be our 4th year) the weeds have gotten worse and our yield has also gotten worse. I planted a lot of beet seeds last year and only got about 10 grown beets. And the greens were all scabby. Our onions did terrible and the tomatoes didnt redden before the first frosts came. We also gardened in a community garden lot which was a total flop due to the pretty much dead soil. I'm now finding out that gardening takes actual work. This is our first year doing no till so I'm out of my comfort zone, though I am certain it's the right way to go.
 
Paul Walker
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Wood mulch is probably the worst thing you could put on the garden of anything else. First, it depletes the nitrogen in the soil as it uses vast amounts to break down and compost. Second, it draws criters, mostly the kind you do not want. The best thing to do with wood is to let in fully, repeat fully, compost before using. Also, the wood mulch is probably cover with weed spores and seeds.

Leaf compost is the very best, but let it cook, 140 to 160+ degrees to kill the weed seeds then keep it covered until you use it. I have a piece of ground that is sandy clay, like concrete when dry and a sloppy soup when wet. I put the leave compost right on top about 6-8 inches deep and four feet wide and plant in that. It goes into the ground and now after three years I have good soil 4-6 inch deep and getting deeper. When I get ready to plant I just add more leaf compost on top.

I am not sure how it works, but I have attempted to attach a couple of pictures.

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Todd Parr
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Paul Walker wrote:Wood mulch is probably the worst thing you could put on the garden of anything else. First, it depletes the nitrogen in the soil as it uses vast amounts to break down and compost. Second, it draws criters, mostly the kind you do not want. The best thing to do with wood is to let in fully, repeat fully, compost before using. Also, the wood mulch is probably cover with weed spores and seeds.

Leaf compost is the very best, but let it cook, 140 to 160+ degrees to kill the weed seeds then keep it covered until you use it. I have a piece of ground that is sandy clay, like concrete when dry and a sloppy soup when wet. I put the leave compost right on top about 6-8 inches deep and four feet wide and plant in that. It goes into the ground and now after three years I have good soil 4-6 inch deep and getting deeper. When I get ready to plant I just add more leaf compost on top.

I am not sure how it works, but I have attempted to attach a couple of pictures.



Many, many people are putting wood chips directly on their gardens and having great results, including me. I've never been happier with my gardens than I am now that I started putting very think layers of wood chips down. Wood chips will deplete your nitrogen if you put them into the soil, but they will not if you leave them on the top.

Leaves work great, but I prefer wood chips for several reasons, namely because you don't have to wait for them compost, you can just get a load of them, spread it on the garden, and you're done.

Go here Back to Eden Garden film to watch a free movie that outlines using woodchips in great detail. It also addresses any concerns you have about weeds, nitrogen tie-up, fertilizing, and whatever else.
 
Tyler Ludens
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Paul Walker wrote:Wood mulch is probably the worst thing you could put on the garden of anything else.



Absolutely not my experience. I put woodchip mulch on the paths, on the beds as used chicken bedding, on the beds with sheep poo, buried in the beds under a layer of soil, so far only good results.

 
Marco Banks
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Paul Walker wrote:Wood mulch is probably the worst thing you could put on the garden of anything else. First, it depletes the nitrogen in the soil as it uses vast amounts to break down and compost. Second, it draws criters, mostly the kind you do not want. The best thing to do with wood is to let in fully, repeat fully, compost before using. Also, the wood mulch is probably cover with weed spores and seeds.

Leaf compost is the very best, but let it cook, 140 to 160+ degrees to kill the weed seeds then keep it covered until you use it. I have a piece of ground that is sandy clay, like concrete when dry and a sloppy soup when wet. I put the leave compost right on top about 6-8 inches deep and four feet wide and plant in that. It goes into the ground and now after three years I have good soil 4-6 inch deep and getting deeper. When I get ready to plant I just add more leaf compost on top.

I am not sure how it works, but I have attempted to attach a couple of pictures.



I respectfully disagree.

Wood mulch is one of the best things you can put on a garden. It does not deplete nitrogen if you leave it on the surface. If you till it under, yes it will temporarily tie up nitrogen (not deplete), but if the only point of contact between soil and mulch is the one or two millimeters where the mulch is touching the surface of the soil, the earthworms and decomposing carbon will more than make up for any surface nitrogen that is tied up. In fact, as the carbon is integrated into the soil by earthworms, studies have repeatedly shown that nitrogen and other nutrients attach to the humus and are held where plant roots can then access them.

Long term, the benefits of decomposing organic material (whether that be leaves, as you are advocating, or chips, which are also carbon, but much more slow to decompose) are profoundly life-giving to soil.

Wood mulch is not, as you state, "cover [sic] with weed spores and seeds". Just the opposite is true: wood chip mulch suppresses weeds. When an arborist runs trimmed tree limbs through a chipper into the back of a truck, where would there be any opportunity for weed seeds to enter the system? Tree branches are not covered with seeds. Bare ground is, but not branches of trees. Even dead trees or limbs laying on the ground are not "covered" with weed seeds. Further, a layer of chips on the surface of the soil is a poor medium for airborne seeds to take root in. If there are, in fact, fungal spores, thats a fantastic thing to add to your garden. Beneficial fungal networks are one of the primary reasons why you want to lay a layer of wood chips down between the plants growing in your garden. If you see mushrooms sprouting after a good hard rain, smile and break into a happy dance.

I would respectfully encourage you to please be careful about making such a blanket statement such as "wood mulch is probably the worth thing you could put on the garden", as it is simplistic and unfounded.
 
J Bartlett
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What about using old cotton or wool clothing as mulch? I have some threadbare cloth I've considered cutting to flatten out, and plant through.
 
Todd Parr
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Oaken Sage wrote:What about using old cotton or wool clothing as mulch? I have some threadbare cloth I've considered cutting to flatten out, and plant through.


I think it would work great. Especially wool. I wish I had some to try on quack grass.
 
Roberto pokachinni
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I think it would work great. Especially wool. I wish I had some to try on quack grass.
This might work, but I'm not sure. But if your quack is as bad as mine, then it might send a long branch of rhizome past the fabric in search of light. If you prepare a complete cover over an extensive area, by overlapping several pieces by at least six inches, you might have a chance. This method is what I have had success with cardboard and with newsprint.
 
Cristo Balete
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I'd just like to mention, here, that the wood chip version of Back To Eden doesn't provide enough nutrition for a human being.  Just because you can grow big, verdant plants doesn't mean they have nutrition in them.  We can get tons of growth out of high-nitrate fertilizer, too, and we all know we get nutrients we don't want out of that, so greenery cannot be the only  indicator of healthy food.

Humans need organic matter from many sources, Compost, leaves, mowed weeds, animal manures, chopped greenery and cover crops.   We need as many sources of soil amendments as we can possibly get.

  The other part of the wood chip issue is that not all wood chips are alike.  Everyone talks about them as if they are equal, and they are not.  It's crucial to know what kind of wood you are getting, because some of them, like redwood and red cedar, have growth inhibitors. 

 
Tyler Ludens
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Cristo Balete wrote:I'd just like to mention, here, that the wood chip version of Back To Eden doesn't provide enough nutrition for a human being. 


Have the vegetables been tested and proven deficient?  It seems to me that wood chips from tree branches would contain all that the trees contain.  Don't trees pull minerals from deep in the soil?  It seems to me that most people who use wood chips get them from a wide variety of trees.
 
Todd Parr
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Cristo Balete wrote:I'd just like to mention, here, that the wood chip version of Back To Eden doesn't provide enough nutrition for a human being.  Just because you can grow big, verdant plants doesn't mean they have nutrition in them.  We can get tons of growth out of high-nitrate fertilizer, too, and we all know we get nutrients we don't want out of that, so greenery cannot be the only  indicator of healthy food.



I have never seen any evidence to show that any of that is true, and quite a lot of things convince me that it isn't.  Paul feeding his family from his gardens for many many years without ill effect would be just one example.
 
Anne Miller
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Cristo Balete wrote:Humans need organic matter from many sources, Compost, leaves, mowed weeds, animal manures, chopped greenery and cover crops.   We need as many sources of soil amendments as we can possibly get.

  The other part of the wood chip issue is that not all wood chips are alike.  Everyone talks about them as if they are equal, and they are not.  It's crucial to know what kind of wood you are getting, because some of them, like redwood and red cedar, have growth inhibitors. 



I agree, though I don't know a lot about plant nutrition. It seem to me that just relying only on wood chips is relying on just the nutrition in the wood.  And pine, cedar, and redwood all inhibit growth.  I can't plant anything within the drip line of my cedars.  There are some plants that like growing there like agarita and a thorny vine that I don't know the name of.  Adding compost, leaf mulch and other things give the plants better nutrition.  Like composed egg shells would supply calcium to the plants.  And most understand the benefit of nitrogen fixing cover crops.  And these nutrients need to be replenished every years as the plants are using them up.
 
Todd Parr
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Anne Miller wrote:
relying only on wood chips is relying on just the nutrition in the wood.  And pine, cedar, and redwood all inhibit growth.  I can't plant anything within the drip line of my cedars.  There are some plants that like growing there like agarita and a thorny vine that I don't know the name of.  Adding compost, leaf mulch and other things give the plants better nutrition.  Like composed egg shells would supply calcium to the plants.  And most understand the benefit of nitrogen fixing cover crops.  And these nutrients need to be replenished every years as the plants are using them up.


The Back To Eden method of gardening doesn't used just the woody part of the tree chipped up.  It uses wood chips made from chipping the branches of the wood, to include leaves, needles, and green bark.  I have planted in wood chips made entirely from chipped pines and have had great vegetable growth.  I saw no inhibition whatsoever.  Paul popularized the method.  He uses cedar for many of his wood chips with no issues.  Using chips from a particular type tree is vastly different than trying to grow something under that tree.
 
Anne Miller
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Thanks for the info.  I don't watch videos because I don't have sound on my computer and don't read lips well enough to understand what they are saying.

"Using chips from a particular type tree is vastly different than trying to grow something under that tree."

That is true because your soil may already have nutrients in it and there maybe benefit from the nutrients in the wood. If my tree happen to be removed I don't know how long it would take for the soil to be usable.  But I don't think cedar wood chips would help.  I have too many piles of barren wood chips where nothing has grown for many years. 
 
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