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Wood chip Mulch, 3 ft deep.

 
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I live in SC close to the waterway. My land is flat and nearly at sea level. The house is raised 30" above the surrounding land.. Any amount of planting in my first year left stunted plants, as the surrounding soil is pure sand.
I created multiple 3' high raised beds 16'x6'x3' around the house and filled them with a variety of mulch types. The first was 100% fall leaves added each week and compressed till solid..
The second 100% wood chip mulch (free, delivered from most tree loppers) The third got the results of raw kitchen waste compost, mainly green leaf and coffee grounds.
Three years has passed and each of the raised beds have been topped up as required.
I have continued to add 1' - 2' deep wood chip mulch garden beds elsewhere around the property as low berms to direct floodwater, add soil and grow plants..
All garden beds are healthy and support growth based entirely on sunlight needs as though garden soil was used.
Now my low lying 1/3 acre property has received 24 x 20 cu yards free fresh wood chip mulch, and is thriving, after a slow first year and obviously has a higher, less flood prone level.
All free.
I based the concept on the natural forest floor approach, and cannot understand why people pay a fortune to landscapers and nurseries to achieve chemical laden results.
- Beau -
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New 3' deep, off raised patio
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2 yrs old, off raised patio
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3 yers old, 3' deep, 8'x8'
 
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Location: Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada
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Post some pics!!!
 
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awesome beds!
one thing, if you collar a tree with mulch it can damage the cambium
leave a little space for breathing room
 
Beau Nestor
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I was concerned about covering up the trunk, but after checking it each year, it seems in perfect condition. (River Oak)
 
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"The first was 100% fall leaves added each week and compressed till solid..
The second 100% wood chip mulch (free, delivered from most tree loppers) The third got the results of raw kitchen waste compost, mainly green leaf and coffee grounds. "

Did they all effectively perform the same?  The reason I ask is I have just made (and am filling) three of each:  2.5' wide x 6' long x 4' tall, and 4' wide x 6' long x 3' high raised beds.   In my case, I'm filling with layers of leaves (kindly left out on trash day already bagged...) followed by a 1cf bag of composted steer manure, so that I have some effective high C/high N material mixing.   I DO have lots of woodchips too, but I decided on leaves as I think they'll break down faster.  I'll let them settle over the winter, then top with about 4" of really good soil/compost mix for planting veggies.  

Anyway, any input on which of your methods "worked" better?   Or were they all equal, allowing one to draw the conclusion that all organics eventually decompose to equality?
 
Beau Nestor
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I thought they were all equal, and yes, the leaves decomposed first, although they spent a long time being too wet and slimey to break down well.
After a year, I looked at the quality of two separate clumping bamboos (same variety and start date) and the one in 'leaves only mulch' fared much better in the first year. Each plant was given 3x plant volume of vegetable compost with worms. Not scientific of course...
After 2 years, both bamboos seem to be on a par. Leaves can be too wet, deep chip mulch can be too hot in the early stages..
 
gardener
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Wow -- that's really impressive.  Have you been able to dig down into the (former) layer of sand and see how much of that carbon is being integrated down into the soil profile by worms and other biota?  I'd be curious is you are seeing a blurring of the "line" between the sand and the mulch.

I've been aggressively putting mulch down on my land for years, like you, sometimes as deep as 3 feet.  But unlike you, I've got heavy clay --- or at least I used to have heavy clay.  Now I have to dig down 8 to 10 inches before I hit that heavy clay.  There is a significant amount of organic matter down through the root zone of most plants, and it's clear that worms are dragging that humus down into the soil.

One thing you'll find is that the longer you do this, the faster that mulch will start to disappear.  As a healthy fungal network is established throughout the soil, the fungal strands will reach up and chew through that mulch very aggressively -- which is a wonderful thing.  That carbon will be transferred into the deeper soil by the fungi.
 
Beau Nestor
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In all cases I turned over the sand to a depth of around 9" before adding leaves or mulch. Primarily this was to allow a greater surface area contact with mulch to facilitate the breakdown. Initially I was turning over the 'soil' to plant in, but when I realized the depth of the sand was not just a top coat, turned it all over.

Forest floor approach seems to work for me, although I don't have a well read scientific basis, just guessing my way though.
I am attempting to use all reclaimed materials including hardscaping lumber, brick pavers, mulch etc... Most plants have been acquired through taking cuttings and planting in similar lighting conditions as their parent..I have a  large area that is shaded a lot, so ferns and evergreens rule.
 
Beau Nestor
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I have not applied this rule to my food crop as yet, those beds are currently raised 8," and have a natural household compost turned into the sand. I use Willow water to help establish roots and offer tributes to the gods of broadleaf kitchen trimmings.
Veggie patch... Hmmm, I could be starving here..
 
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