I posted in another thread about using an area with a large maple tree as part of a new food forest; I'm wanting to rebuild the compacted, rocky, clay soil in the area around this tree so that eventually I can plant various perennial flowers, shrubs, etc. My husband works at a lumber mill and today brought home a pickup load of mostly composted bark/sawdust (hog fuel, using pine). I had originally planned to cover the area with wood chips, but because we can get this other stuff for free, am now thinking of using that. Is there any reason this wouldn't be a good alternative? And because we have access to this stuff, any creative ideas on how else it could be used in the garden? Thanks in advance!
Hi, and welcome. I know, there may be plenty of threads that talk about wood chips as a mulch. That's because wood chips are a great mulch.
However, it is more about putting on a cover, water retention and feeding the soil food web. Any mulch (saw dust, wood chips, bark, dead plants, compost and even rocks) will help with one or more of these goals (usually all three).
If the mulch is organic it can come in two flavors, kinda. It can be bacteria dominated or fungal dominated. Both of those things (bacteria and fungi) are important to maintain a healthy soil food web. Usually the "dominance" is a result of where the mulch comes from. Bacteria dominated comes from green stuff, like decayed leaves, composted manure, table scraps. Fungi dominated comes from brown stuff, like wood shavings, bark, paper and other woody stuff.
Most people assume fungi dominated for wood chips, but really it is both, that is why everyone likes it. It is free, light, bacterial and fungi components (leaves and wood and bark), and if composted a little, fast acting.
I assume the saw dust and bark and stuff you get will be fungal dominated.
Who likes what? Well, in general, any mulch will work for any plant, but in general trees like fungal dominated and annual plants like bacteria (from what I have read and observations on Paul Gauchi's farm). You wrote you are putting this around a maple. I believe most would agree that in great.
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Sawdust can be used as a replacement sometimes. In terms of growing perennials and shrubs it might not be your best bet because of how slowly it breaks down. It is also low in Nitrogen, so it won't help a ton with fertilizing, unfortunately.
If you wanted to use it for any fungus-related purposes, it would be great! Or if you wanted to sell or donate it to a nearby mushroom farm, they would love you.
As far as wanting creative ideas for a forest garden, you should totally consider a Forest Garden Design class with Dave Jacke! There's one coming up in July, it's a little far from you, but definitely worth the trip. Heartwood + Dave Jacke is an awesome combination. Here is a link to his upcoming course. I hope this will be helpful! would love to see photos of your garden
Thanks so much to both of you. I'm posting some photos below to show what we went ahead and did. This stuff is really broken down, as you can see. What I'd like to do for this year is plant a cover crop in the mulched area and not go ahead with planting anything else until next year. The curved bed closest to the tree has been planted with blackberries, currants, rhubarb, blueberries, asparagus, and soon strawberries. This area has been fenced in along with the rest of my garden.
Ellen, I would just love a class with Dave Jacke! I have his Edible Forest Gardens books and have been slowly making my way through them. I've learned so much and yet have so far to go.
I've been using hugelkultur for the past three years, but food foresting is new to me this year.
WOW!!! okay you seriously must come to Heartwood!!! This is incredible and are you doing this all yourself!!?!? Yeah, we would love your expertise out here, and especially while Dave is on site! Holy cow so cool, thanks for adding pics!
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