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pollinator
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Just watched this on youtube: Woodchip soil transformation  The difference made to the soil by wood chips is amazing.  The chips were put in paths, with no intention of improving the soil and the soil is completely transformed to an amazing depth. 

 
pollinator
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It just seems so simple—and it is.  Add organic mulch, step back, and let the soil biota do the rest.

I'm surprised that there weren't many worms in his video.  Decomposed wood chips are a perfect worm nursery — usually there will be dozens of worms even in a small hole like he dug. 

It absolutely KILLS ME to see people hauling wood chips to a landfill.  That's a crime, in my book. 

Think of how much carbon that guy has sequestered when his soil is black and full of organic matter 26 inches deep.  Thousands of pounds of carbon, and thousands of gallons of water captured, just by dumping a few wheelbarrow loads of chips on his garden paths every year.

Do people get tired of hearing us "Back to Eden" types talking about the wonders of wood chips?  Chips have been, without a doubt, the single best thing I've ever done in my garden and integrated food forest.  Having used them now for over 15 years, I still add them annually.  I can't seem to get enough of them.
 
Todd Parr
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Marco Banks wrote:Chips have been, without a doubt, the single best thing I've ever done in my garden and integrated food forest. 



I couldn't agree more.  By far the most successful thing I have done is using load after load of wood chips.  I would love to figure out a way to device a test of hugel beds compared to wood chip beds.
 
Marco Banks
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Perhaps this merits its own thread, but it would be interesting to see someone think through the similarities and differences between a hugel and just wood chip mulch.  There are some key points of intersection, and some key distinctions.

Both are ways to introduce a significant amount of carbon into the soil in a short amount of time.

Both create a fantastic medium for fungal growth.

Both create excellent conditions for water retention.

But the differences are many.

Chips "gas off" much quicker as they break down, and thus, need to be replenished regularly.  Hugels are more stable and lasting.

Hugels initially tie-up nitrogen in the soil until the wood sufficiently breaks down, whereas chips sit on the surface and don't pull N from the soil.

Hugels put a great deal of carbon deep down into the soil profile, whereas chips depend upon worms and other biota to transfer that carbon down from the surface to the lower levels of the soil.

Chips keep the sun from irradiating the soil, whereas a hugel's wood is buried, so the UV rays cook the exposed soil on top.

Chips are easy to move, rake-up, repurpose, etc., whereas a hugel is stationary.

Hugels create more surface area (on their hilled-up sides) whereas chips just cover the existing surface area of the soil.


BOTH are amazing techniques to be utilized by serious gardeners and permaculturalists.  Both have a place within my garden.
 
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Can you pile the wood chips too high? I have put about 10 inches of wood chips (Willow) around my asian persimmons and was thinking about just covering the whole area of about 30 foot by 30 foot with 10 inches. I want to keep the weeds down.
 
Marco Banks
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Dennis Bangham wrote:Can you pile the wood chips too high? I have put about 10 inches of wood chips (Willow) around my asian persimmons and was thinking about just covering the whole area of about 30 foot by 30 foot with 10 inches. I want to keep the weeds down.



I suppose that you could pile them too high, but 10 inches isn't too high at all.  In your region, you'll get enough rain to completely soak those chips so they will quickly break down.  10 inches will be 3 inches within 6 months as the fungal network goes to work and begins to break those chips down.  If you start to see mushrooms popping up after a hard rain, you are seeing garden goodness.

Keep the chips away from the trunk of the trees.  Slope them away from the tree.
 
pioneer
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I've got a friend who received a delivery of wood chips from the tree service guys who maintain the power lines and he has a loader bucket on his tractor so he piled them with that beside a couple of his fruit trees with the intent of going back and spreading them in an even thick mulch around the trees by hand.  These piles were conical piles about six feet high at the center. 

The interesting thing was that he has a line of these fruit trees (originally bought from Stark Brothers) and he made piles beside some of them and not others.

And then he never got around to distributing the mulch.  He just left the tall piles beside the trees, off to one side.

The trees with the tall piles beside them are now almost twice as thick in the trunk and substantially taller than the trees with no wood chip pile adjacent. 

So I am gonna say no, there is NO thickness of wood chips that is too thick.
 
pollinator
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The moisture retention is what amazes me. I have a few of those 6ft tall piles i got a few months ago. 2 weeks after a rain,  with sunny 95+ degree days after that rain, the soil was wet under the chips. Not moist, but wet. I was using a skidsteer to move some when i noticed it.
 
Marco Banks
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Dan Boone wrote:
The trees with the tall piles beside them are now almost twice as thick in the trunk and substantially taller than the trees with no wood chip pile adjacent. 

So I am gonna say no, there is NO thickness of wood chips that is too thick.



I've found this same principle to be true with slash piles/junk biomass piles.  At the end of a growing season, the thing that's often messiest are the vines left over from pumpkins, watermelons, tomatoes, artichokes, etc.  They are stringy and hard to turn in a compost pile.  Than then there are branches that are trimmed from fruit trees and moringa trees. What DO you do with the trunk of a papaya tree?  I end up with piles of this stuff.  I can't make biochar out of it and it just makes a mess of the compost pile when you try to turn it.  So I'll pile it up on the south side of my trees.  Initially, some of these piles are 5 feet high, but after a couple of months, I'm able to climb up onto them and stomp them down to 2 feet or so.

Why the south side?  Because that's where the sun bakes the soil at the base of the tree.  On my property, that's also the downhill side, so by piling stuff up below the tree, it starts to make a bit of a terrace.  The pile keeps things cool and moist where it would otherwise be fried already by July.  Sweet potato vines crawl up over the piles, capturing the sunlight and further keeping the piles cool and moist.

As you stated above, without exception, those trees that have a big biomass pile next to them have consistently grown larger and more fruitful than those without.  For water retention, fungal feeding, earthworm/biota nurture, and soil creation, you just can't beat the long-term effects of a nice big pile of biomass sitting there rotting down over the years.
 
pollinator
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haha at least you folks get it. I moved to a new place early last spring. It just so happened that a tree crew was here removing some very large tree limbs that were in danger of falling onto the house. I asked them to put ALL the wood chips in the area where I was starting a veggie garden. I returned & discovered they had put maybe 3 inches there & dumped the rest in the woods nearby. ARGH. I've been moving them manually for months now. At least they didn't haul them away.
 
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Straight up - wood chips have completed transformed our operation on the farm. My problem? I can't find them for free barely ever! I'm the whack-job that literally pulls over and bribes the Asplundh truck to dump their chips in our pasture. I've even taken to putting a half rack of beer in the trunk in the fall in case I come across a truck loaded and ready to go. And because I only want wood from healthy trees, I've had to pass up on loads that contained diseased trees or shrubs. This beggar is also a chooser, but for good reasons.

What has been profound on our land is the amount of fungi growth as a result of wood chip distribution - between paths, on hugel beds, around trees, and as mulch. I have a whole patch of morels that comes back year after year after spreading a patch in the back of our garden around our seaberries with mulch I got from a tree trimmer 2 summers back. Our ducks love the tall umbrella mushrooms that populate our strawberry beds and watching them high step over garden beds to be the first to eat the mushrooms is so funny. In our neglected pasture that we are rehabilitating, whole swaths of large, fleshy white mushrooms come out after heavy and prolonged rains. And little button sponges creep in waves across our bean beds, inoculated at some point by the diversity in the last load of wood chips I laid around them.

And don't get me started on the worms. *swoon*

I haven't noticed an uptick in slugs or snails, but that could be from our herd of ducks gorging on them before I see them. I have noticed that mycelium spreads it's white tendrils just underneath the soils surface with such ferocity that I don't dare dig. I just layer and walk away, whispering my thanks as I go.

And no layer is too deep. More is more. Pile it on. The only thing I watch for is not to pile wood chips right next to the trunks of fruit trees. Everything else is fair game.

Added bonus? What weeds do pop up are easy to pull from the deep mulch of wood chips.
 
Dennis Bangham
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Thanks for the feedback. I tend to go overboard on these things and am learning a little at a time.  Of course I went overboard because I can get chips by the large truckload. 
Here is an earlier chip pile where the mushrooms are now popping up after recent rains.
20180925_154731.jpg
[Thumbnail for 20180925_154731.jpg]
 
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Dan Boone wrote:I've got a friend who received a delivery of wood chips from the tree service guys who maintain the power lines



I managed to reach them and get them to dump a whole lot of wood chips on the organic farm where I was - and then ended up moving before I got any benefit from them. I hope they use them for something.
 
gardener
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You can even use 2 foot thick wood chips to plant in (same as using straw bales).
Trees that get the benefit of retained moisture will grow faster and they will produce better fruits too.

There is no downside I've ever found (except for perhaps the voles love you for giving them something to hide in and make tunnels through).
 
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I imported a bunch of wood chips and one day my daughter stepped into what I was sure was either horrid animal barf or dead something. Turned out to be Bleeding Tooth Fungus. Nasty! And awesome at the same time.
 
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Hi all,


This spring I planted a bunch of sapling fruit trees into a heavy clay soil with pH 5.9, and they trees are barely surviving with minimal growth. I have a near limitless supply of free wood chips from an acquaintance who runs a tree trimming company.  My plan was to lay down a good 10 inches of chips around each tree to try to improve the soil texture. The general consensus on this site seems to be that there is no such thing as too many wood chips around trees.  BUT....

A very experienced orchardist told me not to do this because he said it would further acidify the soil and will likely burn and kill the tree roots.   Is this accurate? How can I add the chips to improve texture without further acidifying? I can spread some crushed limestone, but have no idea about the proportions.  Any good data out there about the relationship between woodchips, soil and pH?
 
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Dennis Bangham wrote:Can you pile the wood chips too high? I have put about 10 inches of wood chips (Willow) around my asian persimmons and was thinking about just covering the whole area of about 30 foot by 30 foot with 10 inches. I want to keep the weeds down.

get yourself a couple bags of wine cap mushroom spawn and mix it into your chips and water well. youll have lots of tasty mushrooms to eat by next summer and your chips will break down quicker.
 
steve bossie
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Fred Estrovich wrote:Hi all,


This spring I planted a bunch of sapling fruit trees into a heavy clay soil with pH 5.9, and they trees are barely surviving with minimal growth. I have a near limitless supply of free wood chips from an acquaintance who runs a tree trimming company.  My plan was to lay down a good 10 inches of chips around each tree to try to improve the soil texture. The general consensus on this site seems to be that there is no such thing as too many wood chips around trees.  BUT....

A very experienced orchardist told me not to do this because he said it would further acidify the soil and will likely burn and kill the tree roots.   Is this accurate? How can I add the chips to improve texture without further acidifying? I can spread some crushed limestone, but have no idea about the proportions.  Any good data out there about the relationship between woodchips, soil and pH?

I've been adding at least 3in. of hardwood sawdust, every spring,  around my fruit trees/ bushes for 8 yrs. now and haven't had any issues. a handful of lime every other year or so can't hurt but unless your regular soil is already acidic you should be good.
 
Dennis Bangham
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steve bossie wrote:get yourself a couple bags of wine cap mushroom spawn and mix it into your chips and water well. youll have lots of tasty mushrooms to eat by next summer and your chips will break down quicker.


That is one of my future plans.  I will put a planter of concrete blocks filled with wood chips between some of my fruit trees and also cover with shade cloth.  Garden giants are first on the list.  My concern is bugs tend to eat all the warm weather mushrooms so I need to concentrate on cool and cold weather mushrooms.
 
pollinator
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I have a couple threads on here about wood chips. Marco sold me, and it is as billed. A couple things on here of note:

Lindsey- if you aren't getting wood chips with your method, I have no idea. A lady with beer is kryptonite for an arborist. Nice work. Make sure they have a well-marked place to dump with a reasonable approach and you are as good as they will get. I give them gas cards (they buy beer) for the local quickie mart if I'm around. I have paid 100$ for at least 100 yards of chips- this year!

Dennis- I put the chips down a year before I plant trees. The year they go in I plant stuff that has lower transplant shock. I've had super success with asparagus, mint, monarda- seems like rhyzome spreaders and similar can deal with it pretty well. The next summer I make a 2' spot in the chips and plant the trees. I don't think the "acidity" is the problem,it is the lack of oxygen at the feeder root level I think. Could be some nitrogen deficiency because the trees tend to have very shallow feeder roots in chips, which can be a nitrogen depleted zone the first year. After that, bombs away. I just keep the chips a couple inches from the trunk. I'm doing this in major bulk, so I am applying the mulch 2-3' deep with the intention that I won't have to reapply that area for a few years since I am working on a new area each year. I plant in tubes for many species and that lets the trunk breathe. No chips in the tube...

Now I have enough chips that I have about 100 yards windrowed and aging for next spring/summer application. Full of shrooms, and seeded with winterpeas which grow in the chips all winter. The windrow was 5' tall at start, and has compacted/degraded to about 3' in the last few months. It is hot in there and should degrade all winter. I made some 10' hills which should degrade even faster, they are steaming in the morning! I am mixing deer carcasses in the chips a la Salatin. I get as many as I want from a processor. I get my deer processed for free this year (normally I butcher my own but may take a break) and I get tons of bone meal for free.  It does not stink at all (trialled this last year), and I dont even turn them. I just shove the loader bucket in the chips, lift up, and throw the carcass in there. It will be tremendous compost next summer. 
 
Dennis Bangham
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All of the trees have had a small (~5 foot ring of chips around them for a while. I just went crazy and wanted to get rid of my Centipede Grass .

Hauling chips by wheelbarrow right now and I tend to come in the house dripping wet with sweat and sore.  I may have to get a small subcompact tractor with a front end loader unless there is something better for a lot of 0.65 acres.

I have heard to avoid the mints since they are hard to stop from spreading. 
 
Dennis Bangham
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TJ Would like to learn more about "I plant in tubes for many species and that lets the trunk breathe. No chips in the tube... ".  I have looked into tree shelter tubes and also burlap covered cages for some 4 different grafted pawpaws I have on order.  I kind of expect them to be around 2 foot tall but do not know until they get here.  Where I plant them they will only get 4 hours of direct overhead sun and will be between an Elaeagnus hedge and a small building.  Should I use tubes for my Zone 7B area? 
 
Posts: 186
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I've seen Council garden staff dumping mounds of wood chips around trees for years and thought nothing of it, other than it's a lazy way to stop grass growing and to dispose of a 'waste' product.

As gardeners we're always advised that doing it will cause significant nitrogen depletion unless manure or compost is applied first, but the result on Councils trees is outstanding- very healthy trees and shrubs.

Similarly, I needed to cut out a very mature Weeping Bottle Brush tree several years ago to build a brick fence. Much later decided to plant a row of Camelia trees along the same strip. The tree that was planted directly over the old root ball has basically been on steroids compared to the others which, coincidentally, died from being planted in exactly the same soil - loamy red clay.

Over the decades of bushwalking in remote areas we've regularly disturbed deep leaf litter and fallen trees. The weblike threads of the now acknowledged 'mycorrhizal network' were everywhere, even in the driest of areas.

Goes to prove that most learning is observational, but the brain and mind needs to be in gear first!
 
steve bossie
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Dennis Bangham wrote:

steve bossie wrote:get yourself a couple bags of wine cap mushroom spawn and mix it into your chips and water well. youll have lots of tasty mushrooms to eat by next summer and your chips will break down quicker.


That is one of my future plans.  I will put a planter of concrete blocks filled with wood chips between some of my fruit trees and also cover with shade cloth.  Garden giants are first on the list.  My concern is bugs tend to eat all the warm weather mushrooms so I need to concentrate on cool and cold weather mushrooms.

blewitts flush in the fall. might want to try them. they grow great on composted leaves and composted wood chips.
 
Gail Gardner
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Dennis Bangham wrote:All of the trees have had a small (~!5 foot ring of chips around them for a while. I just went crazy and wanted to get rid of my Centipede Grass .

Hauling chips by wheelbarrow right now and I tend to come in the house dripping wet with sweat and sore.  I may have to get a small subcompact tractor with a front end loader unless there is something better for a lot of 0.65 acres.



On small hp tractors, instead of a front end loader they used a 3 point scoop on the back that dumps. I had one for a Massey-Ferguson T035 I had. I wonder if there is any similar attachment for a riding lawnmower?
 
Dennis Bangham
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I used to have a Yanmar Grey Market tractor that had a pond scoop. It would be a lot more trips back and forth.  I would probably find a front end loader more efficient and you know guys like our toys. 
Plus I see several of the smallest tractors with front end loader for sale in my area.  I think the buyers soon realize they really need a larger tractor if they have 5 or more acres.
 
steve bossie
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a few years ago i got a 25hp diesel 2005 mahindra 4x4 tractor w/ a front end loader and snowblower for 5 grand from my neighbor. that made my mulching chore so much easier. raised beds are a breeze to fill. love that thing!
 
Dennis Bangham
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If you have a tractor you find things to do with it.  I wish I would have kept the one i had when I built my house. Next time something a little smaller.
 
Mike Barkley
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Steve, want to drive it down here & make me some swales? haha
 
steve bossie
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Mike Barkley wrote:Steve, want to drive it down here & make me some swales? haha

was closer id glady help you.
 
Tj Jefferson
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TJ Would like to learn more about "I plant in tubes for many species and that lets the trunk breathe. No chips in the tube... ".  I have looked into tree shelter tubes and also burlap covered cages for some 4 different grafted pawpaws I have on order.  I kind of expect them to be around 2 foot tall but do not know until they get here.  Where I plant them they will only get 4 hours of direct overhead sun and will be between an Elaeagnus hedge and a small building.  Should I use tubes for my Zone 7B area?



A link to the most recent exploits. I have several posts about species, tube size, et cetera. For under an acre (I assume with a house and stuff taking up space?) you are marginal on the tractor side. The small ones have such tiny buckets you get the same amount with a wheelbarrow (they sell them with the size bucket they are unlikely to tip with a dense load like gravel).


i honestly use a wheelbarrow near the house anyhow, but I do this for exercise! Tubes are fantastic for pawpaws, mine were second year plants and are about 3' after one year in the ground. They have put on growth three times this summer, which is amazing. They love the chips, I have some without chips and they are almost 50% smaller. The tubes keep the chips from the trunk, but they allow air to the level of the feeder roots. that means more air exposed chips near the tree, and rapid degradation which = compost. I have bluebirds going in and out of the tubes and some small finches. I have paper wasps in there, they seem to be great habitat for stuff in the interim between clearing the trees and growing the new ones. Mine are 60" x 4" tubes made from milk jugs and with occasional holes punched out, they are pretty sturdy. I dump chips with the tubes in place, which sometimes pancakes the tubes, then I dig it back out and they pop back into shape. But I'm doing literally an acre at a time. Next year I'm hoping to increase by even more so I am striving for efficiency in the operation.

The best way I have found if you have the space is to age the chips first (this was an input from the actual Back to Eden gentleman Paul), then fall plant trees in tubes, and lay down aged chips. Spring planting is for the perennials. And yes mint family spreads like crazy. I try to keep them in smaller rows or partial rows where there is a barrier to spreading. The monarda is not nearly as rapid but will establish thickly. Those plants along with onion family are mainstays of my cerculio control strategy, so this is acceptable to me. Asparagus or comfrey can be used to demarc a limit of spread. Interestingly comfrey is not appreciative of deep chips at all but fine <6". Asparagus is very happy.

I forgot to say I always add rock dust to the chips, in fact I add them in the aging windrows, to obtain fungal uptake of the minerals and more rapid availability in the alleys at the feeder roots. I have inoculated with both blewits and stropharia but some of my chip suppliers the chips are pretty well degraded in the truck because they are not disciplined about dumping them same day. If you can hook on with Asplundh or one of the big companies, they have a policy of dumping the same day and the inoculation is likely to be more effective.
 
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Tj Jefferson wrote:Tubes are fantastic for pawpaws, mine were second year plants and are about 3' after one year in the ground. They have put on growth three times this summer, which is amazing. They love the chips, I have some without chips and they are almost 50% smaller. The tubes keep the chips from the trunk, but they allow air to the level of the feeder roots. that means more air exposed chips near the tree, and rapid degradation which = compost. I have bluebirds going in and out of the tubes and some small finches. I have paper wasps in there, they seem to be great habitat for stuff in the interim between clearing the trees and growing the new ones. Mine are 60" x 4" tubes made from milk jugs and with occasional holes punched out, they are pretty sturdy. I dump chips with the tubes in place, which sometimes pancakes the tubes, then I dig it back out and they pop back into shape. But I'm doing literally an acre at a time. Next year I'm hoping to increase by even more so I am striving for efficiency in the operation.



If you have time, could you post a picture of the tubes?
 
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