• Post Reply
  • Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic

power company wood chip mound bed

 
patrick mort
Posts: 11
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
So I recently got the power company do dump their shredded branch trimmings on my yard. There is a space along the road I wanted to put a hugel bed as a fence and to cut down on noise as well as grow shade tolerant food as it is between 2 100 year old western cedar trees. The material is mostly Sitka spruce and alder and Doug fir, I imagine, as those are the predominant species in the area.
I'm thinking about just having them dump the loads in this spot (so they are not piled up against or touching the tree's trunks).
There is lots of leaf matter in this stuff so it will hot compost for a while.. then I can let it sit there untill it breaks down enough to be planted in. I'm not sure how long that will take. A year? 5 years? I know this isn't huglekulture but it sounds like it can be an easy way to make a garden bed if I give it enough time and then, when I can, plant soil building cover crops in it..
Downsides, I'm thinking, is I would have no soil in there providing minerals.. it would be straight composted branch wood and leaf matter.. and it may take forever to be able to plant in it.
If this is a bad idea I have no shortage of needs for mulch.
Any thoughts?
 
John Elliott
pollinator
Posts: 2295
76
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
In Georgia, it would completely decompose in 5 years. My pile of 2 year old power company wood chips is now dark brown humus with no recognizable pieces in it. The chips that were delivered in late winter now have extensive fungal activity in them and are no longer 'hot'. Actually, I've never gotten a load from the power company that had enough greens in it to make it hot compost; it may have enough bacterial activity to make it warmer than ambient for a few weeks, but then it transitions over to cold, fungal composting.

As for colder climes, I will defer to the advertising caveat "your mileage may vary".
 
patrick mort
Posts: 11
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Did you happen to try to plant in the chips before 5 years with any success??
I wouldn't have thought they would hot compost either but I got my first load today.. 6 or 7 yards.. cut and shredded today.. tons of leaf and needle matter. it was steaming already when the dumped it! I stuck my arm in there a couple hours later and it's already a bit hotter than body temp. It's in the 60s and partly clowdy today.
I'm going to let it do its thing untill it cools down before I use any of this batch for anything.
 
K Putnam
Pie
Posts: 174
Location: Unincorporated Pierce County, WA Zone 7b
15
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Last year, I had a tree dropped and I had them chip all the branches in place to smother a lawn. A solid eight inches, maybe more in some places. I dug down and planted two trees into it a couple of months later and they've done well. I'm not sure I would plant into the mulch directly, i.e. something like vegetables or a small shrub, but I didn't worry about planting trees into the soil below the mulch and letting the mulch sort itself out.
 
Marco Banks
Pie
Posts: 299
Location: Los Angeles, CA
20
books chicken food preservation forest garden hugelkultur trees urban woodworking
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Wood chips break down in less than a year in my garden/orchard . . . IF they are kept moist. I have to replenish the chips every year. Fall is the best time for me, but I take them when I can get them.

I can't imagine that it would take 5 years for a pile of chips to break down unless they were totally dry.

What you can do to hasten their decomposition is inoculate them with healthy soil or compost, so that there is a microbial herd working on the pile. Better yet, if you have fungal dominated soil, get some of those fungi working on your pile. After the pile has been rained upon for a few days, mix in a couple of generous shovels of fungal soil down into the chips and then let them do their magic.

 
patrick mort
Posts: 11
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
i know that wood chips will break down pretty quickly if they are in contact with soil.. im wondering about how fast they will break down in a large mound. im on the oregon coast so winter has much moisture.. im sure the mound will not dry out. im going to try it and see what happens. its really hot now because of all the leaf matter.. ill order some oyster mushroom spawn and inoculate the outer layer with that once the wood isnt so green. then later ill layer a bunch of composted cow manure i have access to on top to throw some more nitrogen in there for decomposition... then once its pretty broken down ill start with cover crops.
if this works this will be the easiest garden bed ive ever built.
 
Marco Banks
Pie
Posts: 299
Location: Los Angeles, CA
20
books chicken food preservation forest garden hugelkultur trees urban woodworking
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I love the Oregon coast! We honeymooned in Depot Bay 25 years ago, and spent many summers north of Lincoln City at a small campground we returned for for years. I've got favorite haunts up and down the coast from Cannon Beach to Newport. Sadly, we won't be going back any time soon, as my parents have moved down from Oregon to live with us in Los Angeles. They sold their motorhome, so we don't have our lodging any more. I may have climbed the dune in Pacific City and crabbed in Tillamook for the last time. Next time you drive by a Mo's, run in an get a cup of chowder for me.

If you can inoculate the pile with compost and/or soil --- just dump it on top and mix it in a bit, it will greatly increase the rate of decomposition. There will be microbes already in the pile, but adding more and feeding them a bit will make a big difference. What if you were to hollow-out the top of the pile a bit and make that your compost pile? All your banana peels, apple cores, coffee grounds and old french fries could be piled on top. At night, you could go out and take a leak on top of it when the neighbors aren't watching. That extra nitrogen and extra food source will leach down into the pile and hasten the microbial herd along.

 
John Elliott
pollinator
Posts: 2295
76
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
patrick mort wrote:Did you happen to try to plant in the chips before 5 years with any success??


Oh sure, we can plant as soon as 3 months after the load is dropped. As has been noted, if you put some soil on top of it, it's ready to go. My two-year old piles are now given over to squash plants of all types. I think after 4th of July, I will plant on the chips that were delivered in March.
 
patrick mort
Posts: 11
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Nice I love it! That is so simple.
Piss is a good idea too. And it will give me an excuse to bring the bedside piss bottle that I had to give up after I got married.

Yeah I am quite fond of the oregon coast. We've been here for 2 years now. Bought last year. Live near tillamook.
 
Marco Banks
Pie
Posts: 299
Location: Los Angeles, CA
20
books chicken food preservation forest garden hugelkultur trees urban woodworking
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
patrick mort wrote:Nice I love it! That is so simple.
Piss is a good idea too. And it will give me an excuse to bring the bedside piss bottle that I had to give up after I got married.

Yeah I am quite fond of the oregon coast. We've been here for 2 years now. Bought last year. Live near tillamook.


My sister has a place in Bay City. I love to go clamming and crabbing in Garibaldi.

When the kids were little, they always wanted to visit the cheese factory. They'd walk out with their hands full of the cheese curds. We'd get an ice cream cone and then drive over to Garibaldi to go crabbing.

There's a crappy little ghetto air museum outside of Tillamook --- to the south. I love that little dump. They let you walk right up to the planes, touch anything you want . . . its in an old hanger. They've got some fun WW2 planes, and a random assortment of other aircraft as well.
 
  • Post Reply
  • Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic