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!!! Talking about types of mulch - which do you prefer?  RSS feed

 
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Types of Mulch

In this week's blog post - Mulch Types - What You Need to Know I go over 5 different types of mulch and the pros and cons of each.

5 Types of Mulch Covered in this Blog Post

1. Wood Chip Mulch
2. Straw or Hay Mulch
3. Fall Leaves as Mulch
4. Chop-and-Drop Mulch
5. Rock Mulch

Before we dive into these 5 types of mulch make sure you check out part 1 of this 2 part series on mulch if you feel like you need an introduction to mulch and why mulching is awesome.

Which of these 5 types of mulch do you use and where do you use them? Is there a type of mulch not listed here that you like to use?

Wood Chip Mulch



Wood chips are one of my favorite mulch types. But despite the success that a lot of people have using it in their gardens it is actually not my favorite type of garden mulch--I tend to use leaf mould in the garden instead.

But I use wood chips around all my perennial plants and it is my favorite mulch type to use to help prepare a new area for planting.

Wood chips are fantastic at building soil, increasing the percent of organic matter in the soil, reducing evaporation, and suppressing weeds. Plus it creates a fantastic environment for beneficial critters and fungi. So why don't I prefer it for use in the garden?

Some of it depends on the type of wood chips. Wood chips made up of smaller pieces that are well aged and was composted first with a nitrogen source can be amazing. But I'm afraid that is not an easy thing to come by on my homestead at the moment.

I find larger and fresher wood chips to be a pain when it is time to sow seeds. Not impossible but a pain.

So instead I like to use leaf mould. It provides a lot of the same benefits as wood chips but I find it easier to work with. Plus, it is easy for me to make since fall leaves are common in my area. So for my garden this is currently the best option.

But I still love wood chips and use more of them on my homestead than any other type of mulch!

What about you?

What About You?



So what type of mulch do you prefer? Please reply and share your answers below. Also, don't forget to check out my blog post mentioned in this thread. If you are one of the first to leave a comment on here you might even get a surprise in the form of pie or apples

If you missed part 1 of this series don't forget to check it out for a more general introduction into mulch and why mulching is awesome.

Thank you!

Mulching Series

- What is Mulching? The Complete Introduction to Mulching
- Mulch Types - What You Need to Know
 
master pollinator
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Great info Daron! Enjoyed the extra info in the blog too!

I believe that mulching can be one of the simplest and most rewarding ways to increase abundance!  

It slows evaporation of water from the soil and introduces organic matter, which maintains a good moist habitat for beneficial organisms, which develops high soil fertility, which encourages stronger and deeper roots, which all increase the health and disease resistance of the plant- helping it reach full production of full flavored, nutrient dense food!  

It's a chain of permaculture awesomeness!

I like to mimic nature with my mulch like you mentioned above, and prefer to mulch trees and bushes with mostly leaves and a few tree limbs or logs and a little bit of wood chips if I have them, and vegetables with preferably mostly living mulch and chop and drop, along with some grass clippings if needed.

I also like to try to mimic nature in the amount of mulch I put down. I put down too much as chronicled here https://permies.com/t/105734/Steve-Thorn-Plum-Trees which caused excess heat I think, resulting in the plum tree blooming early. I think I'm going to try adding some rocks to it, to hopefully increase the temperature more and hold the heat longer so maybe the blossoms and fruit can make it through our notoriously late frosts.

I also strongly dislike black plastic and landscape fabric. I had a similar experience like you mentioned, where the previous owner of my property used landscape fabric around a tree. Everything grew on it and through it, and when I took down the tree, I had to dig up almost the entire stump to get rid of it all. I would also strongly recommend not using these.

Awesome info Daron, really enjoying your weekly posts, and the blogs always have such great extra information too!
 
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few tree limbs or logs



Steve, this is an underutilized part. I laid down 4' log sections to define my alleys with gaps between the logs for trees. It will take years for those to degrade and they add structure and seem to wick moisture better than chips, so the trees aren't drowned. The big downside is they attract voles. They also attract snakes, which here means mostly blacksnakes but could be unpleasant in places where pit vipers are a big issue. I have some inoculated with mushrooms (oyster and shiitake) as a test. Those species need the logs to be in a partial trench to maintain moisture, so a bit more labor intensive.

Other mulch substrates include bark mulch, which takes longer to degrade and is kind of waxy (very different qualities from lignin-based chips). This is a better substrate for starting plants, it doesn't seem to sequester the nitrogen much, and is the basis for most potting soil.

I also have quite a bit of pampas grass planted out in areas prone to erosion, this is my vetiver equivalent. In winter I can steal the canes and they make a great boundary mulch that lasts about two years here. A smaller bunch bamboo would also work in this application.

One other idea kind of like rock mulch is paving stones or slate. I snap up any on CL and use under trees or for long-term pathways.
 
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Speaking of what's customary for us, we use three types of mulch.  One is a sort of fine, narrow wood shaving that comes from the planer machinery of a family-homestead sawmilling business.  It takes me about eight minutes to drive there, and the guy gives me a generous pickup load in exchange for a six-pack of cold Corona.  The shavings are what we use to mulch our blueberries, strawberries, and raspberries.  We use long grasses (spoiled hay, straw, chicken-house litter) for our squash bed.and between raised beds in our smaller garden — since we move the bed positions a bit each year in this garden, we get soil-enrichment benefit from the breakdown of this mulch (lots of earthworms). We use shorter-clipped grasses (still green) as mulch in our raised greenhouse beds, which are contained (hence immobile) but have a healthy soil life due to this mulch and other organic cultivation.  However, being somewhat north in our location, we let the dark soil absorbed heat for at least the first month of the growing season in the g.h.  Surface mulch would retard that warming process a little if applied too early.
 
Daron Williams
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Thank you Steve! I'm glad you are enjoying the posts! Very good points and thoughts on mulching.

One downside of course is just the sheer amount of material it can take to mulch a large area and then how much that can cost (if not from free sources) and the time it takes to spread it all.

In my zone 1 area I'm mulching a ton--the whole area will end up mulched. In total that is around a quarter acre. I also think my zone 2 will all be mulched. But zone 3? zone 4?

In those zones I'm trying to figure out other methods and I might go with a living mulch and regular chop-and-drop using my scythe plus using animals to improve the soil. Not sure... still need to figure that all out but luckily those zones won't be dealt with for a while since I need to finish zone 1 and 2 first

Thanks again!
 
Daron Williams
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Thanks for the comment TJ! In my area the only snake I will likely attract are garter snakes and since they eat slugs I always want more of them But I know in some areas you would need to be careful about creating too much snake habitat near the house.
 
Daron Williams
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Thanks for the comment Joel! Sounds like you got a good system setup with using different mulches for different areas and types of plants. That is a good example for others about using different mulches depending on the situation. Thanks for sharing!
 
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I'll add one more. Paper shreds. It was amazing over bermuda grass around my blackberries. As it got wet it formed a paper mache' that really wreacked havoc on it. The grass had to travell under it to find a way up . The blackberry stalks punched through just fine.
 
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I prefer free.

Over the years I have had several different homesteads and the available mulch has varied.

The most commonly free mulch for me over the years has been grass clippings. Of course, I collect them from our property. But years ago the county where I lived at the time would mow ditches along the road. This area was not sprayed and so several times per year there was free grass hay. I would get my cart and a fork and collect loads of it.

I have also used old moldy hay and straw. Free moldy round bales of hay stored outside too long have been a favorite. I have gotten a few so decomposed that thet were just shy of compost when unwrapped.

I have not been so lucky to score free wood chips often, but when they are available, I love them.

Leaves are usually chopped and left in place. But sometimes I collect them to build up. a new bed .
 
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I got lucky recently and befriended a local arborist. He splits a lot of firewood at his yard and in the process the pile gets crowded with bark chunks, smaller offcuts and chainsaw shavings. He told me his firewood customers don't want the bark and offcuts, so they just end up on his burn pile. I offered to come by periodically and take a trailer load away as biochar feedstock and he encouraged me to do it. When I got a load a couple of weeks ago, I found that months of aging had turned the shavings and smallest pieces into dark, crumbly humus. So it all got scooped up along with the chunks, and when I got it home I just graded everything with a 25mm screen.

Late yesterday I stopped by for another load and he had just sawed a bunch of pine stumps, so I got a trailer full of clean, fragrant shavings for chicken coop litter. This is turning into a real bonanza. I might have to locate one of my kontiki kilns at his yard and let him try it out...he could add biochar to his bulk product line.
 
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I also use different mulches depending on availability and plant type, but wood chips and rocks are the most available generally.

Our evenings cool off quickly when the sun goes down, so my grapes get rock mulch - particularly fairly large flat ones if I find them.

One of my goals for this year is to "grow mulch" in suitable places. I added comfrey roots north of my purple plum and have earmarked more for north of my Asian pear as soon as the snow melts.

I use a lot of wood chips on my paths, and once they've decomposed for a year or two, I'll use them around plants and put fresh on the paths. I also use urine on my wood chip piles to help them degrade a little their first year, or similarly, putting them in the duck house for a few months before composting them.

The one mulch not mentioned is seaweed mulch. My friend in Nova Scotia uses it a lot. I used to use Lemna from my pond for mulch, but now I've got ducks..... they'd be scandalized if I didn't feed it to them instead! Here's a basic link about it:  https://learn.eartheasy.com/articles/how-to-use-seaweed-to-mulch-your-garden/
Many ponds and lakes are suffering from high nitrogen/phosphate runoff which promotes algae and then causes oxygen loss when it dies and decomposes. Harvesting the algae and composting/mulching it on land, may actually help the health of the pond, assuming you harvest responsibly.

 
Joel Bercardin
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Jay Angler wrote:I also use different mulches depending on availability and plant type, but wood chips and rocks are the most available generally.

Our evenings cool off quickly when the sun goes down, so my grapes get rock mulch - particularly fairly large flat ones if I find them.


I haven't tried this, Jay, but I'm intrigued.  By any chance, did you have experience growing your vines and ripening the grapes before you put the rock mulch down?  I'm wondering if you were in a position to make any kind of direct comparison of "before" and "after", in terms of the ripening.  Have your grapes ripened earlier with the rock mulch?  Have they been sweeter?
 
Jay Angler
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Joel Bercardin wrote:

By any chance, did you have experience growing your vines and ripening the grapes before you put the rock mulch down?  I'm wondering if you were in a position to make any kind of direct comparison of "before" and "after", in terms of the ripening.

Sorry Joel, my growing season is long so far as frost free, but it rarely gets hot and cools quickly when the sun goes down, so I just assumed that if I didn't do something to help the grapes, I'd get nothing. One vine is between a sidewalk, and concrete steps and it produces fairly well every year. A second I rock mulched and it's against a bit of a rock outcropping but it's too young to fruit. A third I put near a metal shed - wind protection but no thermal mass - and it died. I have a friend nearby and her grapes that are in a bit of a sun-trap do better than the ones on a trellis with less protection -  larger grapes and nicer flavour - and she gets much more warmth and sun than my property does.
 
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Shredded tree fern trunks make good mulch and soil amendment, but I only ever found one pile of that.

More commonly, I'll mulch a garden using nothing but fresh-cut fleabane (Conyza) as there are billions of these weeds everywhere and its easy to fill up a bag on my morning walk.
Get them before the flowers are well established or they'll finish seeding up post-harvest.
 
Daron Williams
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wayne fajkus wrote:I'll add one more. Paper shreds. It was amazing over bermuda grass around my blackberries. As it got wet it formed a paper mache' that really wreacked havoc on it. The grass had to travell under it to find a way up . The blackberry stalks punched through just fine.



Interesting! I had not thought about that! I have only used paper shreds in a worm bin but that makes a lot of sense. Thanks for sharing!
 
Daron Williams
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Myrth Gardener wrote:I prefer free.

Over the years I have had several different homesteads and the available mulch has varied.

The most commonly free mulch for me over the years has been grass clippings. Of course, I collect them from our property. But years ago the county where I lived at the time would mow ditches along the road. This area was not sprayed and so several times per year there was free grass hay. I would get my cart and a fork and collect loads of it.

I have also used old moldy hay and straw. Free moldy round bales of hay stored outside too long have been a favorite. I have gotten a few so decomposed that thet were just shy of compost when unwrapped.

I have not been so lucky to score free wood chips often, but when they are available, I love them.

Leaves are usually chopped and left in place. But sometimes I collect them to build up. a new bed .



Yeah, free is always great! I don't normally pay for mulch though I did in on case when I needed a specific type for a specific project. But most of the time I just get free mulch. Though I have found that even the free stuff can add up depending on travel distance. Plus there is always the time involved with getting it... I love it when a local tree service company will just drop a load off at my place for free but that does not happen as often as I would like...
 
Daron Williams
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Nice Phil! That is great--it is on my list to make friends with a tree service company so I can start getting regular loads of wood chips. I would love to get a drop once a month
 
Daron Williams
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Jay Angler wrote:I also use different mulches depending on availability and plant type, but wood chips and rocks are the most available generally.

Our evenings cool off quickly when the sun goes down, so my grapes get rock mulch - particularly fairly large flat ones if I find them.

One of my goals for this year is to "grow mulch" in suitable places. I added comfrey roots north of my purple plum and have earmarked more for north of my Asian pear as soon as the snow melts.

I use a lot of wood chips on my paths, and once they've decomposed for a year or two, I'll use them around plants and put fresh on the paths. I also use urine on my wood chip piles to help them degrade a little their first year, or similarly, putting them in the duck house for a few months before composting them.

The one mulch not mentioned is seaweed mulch. My friend in Nova Scotia uses it a lot. I used to use Lemna from my pond for mulch, but now I've got ducks..... they'd be scandalized if I didn't feed it to them instead! Here's a basic link about it:  https://learn.eartheasy.com/articles/how-to-use-seaweed-to-mulch-your-garden/
Many ponds and lakes are suffering from high nitrogen/phosphate runoff which promotes algae and then causes oxygen loss when it dies and decomposes. Harvesting the algae and composting/mulching it on land, may actually help the health of the pond, assuming you harvest responsibly.



Nice! I just used rocks in a similar way around some purple tree collards that just arrived in the mail. They are only frost hardy down to 20 degrees F so I planted them along the south side of my house and put rocks at the base. Most winters my area does not get that cold but this winter we got down in the upper teens so I'm hoping the house and rocks will make a nice warm micro-climate.

Seaweed and algae could be great--despite being on the Puget Sound there is not enough seaweed here to make that work but in some areas that is a great option.

Thanks for sharing!
 
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Duck bedding is my go-to mulch. I usually apply it in the fall/winter on my dormant garden beds, so there's no risk of salmonnella/listeria/etc. I also compost some during the summer months, and apply it direct to my raspberries and other perenial fruit crops.

I also use woodchips (when I get them...which is usually only once a year, and I can't use them all before the next batch comes, or my kids are sad about the loss of their mulch mountain). Grass clippings, fern fronds, and raked leaves are also mulches I turn to.

Like many, my garden has kept expanding...and I don't have enough mulch to go around. I like leaving most of the leaves around my maples so that they stay healthy, and I like how healthy my grass is because I let it keep its clippings. So, it's looking like just my zone 1 and 2 will be getting mulch, and not many of my established perennials. Hopefully they'll keep doing well without the continued addition of mulch!
 
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Peanut shells.
 
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I spread straw on our garden one spring. That led to an endless bindweed apocalypse from which it has never recovered.
 
Daron Williams
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Margaret Bad Warrior wrote:I spread straw on our garden one spring. That led to an endless bindweed apocalypse from which it has never recovered.



Sorry to hear about that! I'm assuming the seeds were mixed in the straw?
 
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Daron,

I will chime in here.  I started using mulch well before I intentionally headed down the Permies path.  In fact, using mulch may have been my first baby Permies step.  My third year gardening I started to use straw mulch to shade the soil and improve soil moisture (the previous season we had a terrible drought).  Our soil was absolutely terrible and I hesitate to call it soil at all.  The area had been a coal strip mine that was filled in with tailings and then covered with clay.  I could actually go out into the yard and dig up pieces of shale.  When planting trees we would hit layers of hard pan so hard that we simply could not dig through without soaking with water first.  Sufficient to say, it was poor ground for planting.

So during the drought year, the soil would turn brick hard and no roots could penetrate aside from weeds.  I would water, but any penetrating water would turn the surface to a soupy mess and about 2-4 inches down, the soil would be brick hard and dry.

Finally I heard about straw mulch and what a difference!  Even in the heat the soil stayed workable, retained moisture and was soft (er).  Being a teacher I get LOTS of paper at the end of the year.    Straw was good, but some weeds still grew through and the straw made weeding with a hoe a little difficult.  Eventually I hit on the idea of laying down papers (3-page tests are my favorites) as both weed barrier and mulch—then place straw on top.  

I have plenty of weed bushes (autumn olive) that need clearing and chipping on my property.  Now I lay down my paper barrier, several inches of wood chips infused with wine cap mushroom spores, with 1-2 inches of straw on top.

I hope this is a useful contribution to the discussion.  I don’t like weeding and I barely do it anymore as the tests, chips and straw really beat them back.

Eric
 
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Seaweed and algae could be great--despite being on the Puget Sound there is not enough seaweed here to make that work but in some areas that is a great option.  


You are on the wrong end of the Sound; most of the storm winds come from the south. On the north end of Carr and Case inlets the tide will frequently leave windrows of seaweed.  It is mixed with grit and barnacle shell so it is a perfect supplement for the chickens.  Makes an excellent mulch for asparagus which is salt tolerant.
 
Myrth Gardener
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Eric Hanson wrote:Daron,

I will chime in here.  I started using mulch well before I intentionally headed down the Permies path.  In fact, using mulch may have been my first baby Permies step.  My third year gardening I started to use straw mulch to shade the soil and improve soil moisture (the previous season we had a terrible drought).



I grew up with organic gardening. My dad was a big believer in tilling. Manure, leaf mould, compost - it all got tilled in. That was the norm for me.

Then I read Ruth Stout. Her ideas were revolutionary for me. I started using mulch. DEEP mulch. I managed to create a good garden from poor yellow clay soil. It totally changed my views. It took me some time to fully embrace the ideas. Didn’t I “need” a tiller to start a bed? So it was still some years before I ended up selling my old TroyBilt tiller. I moved it, unused, a couple of times. But eventually I let it go. Good soil does not require violence. Indeed, the violence of tilling causes at least as many problems as it solves. Good soil does not require the carbon emissions of a tiller, either.

Ruth was a wise woman, ahead of her time.
 
Eric Hanson
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Myrth,

I couldn’t agree more, and in fact, your journey sounds like my own.  I used to own a tiller, then I sold it cheap!

Admittedly, my soil is pretty brick hard and difficult to work in the traditional sense.  But now I don’t really care.  I really pile on the “stuff”.  I am lucky to have an abundance of wood chips and I am now embarking on an experiment where every year two I trim back my numerous autumn olive “weed” trees and run them through a chipper and produce mounds of wood chips.  After they age a bit, I add in wine cap mushroom spores to produce mushroom compost.  I do finally top off with straw.

This is new to me and this spring I hope to have my first crop of mushrooms and mushroom compost.  I am really liking the idea of building the soil and not beating it.

Eric
 
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Sugar cane mulch is commonly available here so I usually underlay it with chook manure, blood & bone, and maybe some lawn clippings. The mulch is typically laid thick: 10-15 centimetres when slightly compacted.

The mulch is resilient and can last for a few seasons, breaking down at the soil interface into a nice loam if kept moist.

Even with the smelly underlay, the aroma of freshly laid cane mulch is particularly inviting, something like hay dipped in honey!



 
Jay Angler
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F Agricola wrote:

Sugar cane mulch is commonly available here

Now if only the sugar growers realized this and incorporated the cane on their own land, we would have hope that "industrial" farming practices would die a natural death. At least sharing the cane with you is much better than burning it.... a small step forward.
 
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Daron Williams wrote:Thanks for the comment TJ! In my area the only snake I will likely attract are garter snakes and since they eat slugs I always want more of them But I know in some areas you would need to be careful about creating too much snake habitat near the house.



A few years ago my wife was yelling at me for help.  She had seen a snake (a garter snake, but, she didn't know that) while on the toilet.
I managed to catch it and take it outside.
It's a good thing she was already on the toilet or she would have needed one.
It was quite some time before she could laugh about that one.
 
Eric Hanson
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F Agricola,

I have so direct knowledge of sugarcane bagasse.  Is this material somewhat like choir or maybe peatmoss?  Bagasse sounds like a great mulch, but I live in the American Midwest and the material is just not available.  But I have used lots of peatmoss and a little bit of choir.  I was just looking for a reference material.  Sounds like the bagasse works for you.

Eric
 
Eric Hanson
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When I look at a mulch, I have to look at it’s intended purpose before I place it down.  To me, not all mulch is alike.  

For starters, I am talking about organic mulches and not stones or plastic, but those may have their place based on their use.

I basically have four mulches I use, frequently in combination with each other.

My first mulch was grass clippings, which if free from herbicide, are free, plentiful, and best of all, can actually fertilize, something that other mulches just won’t do.  I like my grass clippings because they are so easy to get and I can really pile them thick, especially in spring.

The second mulch I use is straw.  I use straw much like grass, but I tend to do so when the temperature gets hot and I run out of grass clippings.  For my purposes, it is the same as grass clippings but won’t add any nitrogen (but still does a good job at cooling the soil and conserving water).

My third mulch is a fairly recent addition to the collection and that is paper.  Being a teacher I get loads and loads of paper by the end of the year and I use these (especially 3 page tests) to lay down on the soil as a weed barrier and then cover with grass or straw.  I have heard of people having reservations about using paper on the grounds that it is bleached and has chemical treatments that will leach into the soil.  All I can say is that I have had no issues thus far.  As far as I am concerned, paper is a great type of barrier mulch.  Weeds don’t stand a chance, water seeps right in and the ground is really protected from sunlight and heat.  Grass and straw mulch always have a few weeds that get through and the mulch then makes weeding difficult with a hoe.  Now I basically don’t weed at all.

My last mulch is my most recent, wood chips.  I am lucky in that I have a couple thousand feet of living fence that needs a major trimming and cut-back every year or two or it will take over my wild grass area.  My wild grass area also grows highly invasive autumn olive bushes.  When I cut these down I rent a chipper and make small mountains of chips which then go on the garden.  

Lately I have had so many chips that I am now embarking on making these chips into mushroom compost via wine caps.  When I do so, I pile down the chips, inoculate and then cover with straw mulch to protect from sun and drying out.  I hope to have my first crop of mushroom compost this summer.

I hope this is helpful,

Eric
 
Tj Jefferson
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Eric,

Mark Shepard does the winecaps after chipping with great success. I think you will be eating well. I started the same thing this last summer. One thing to remember is that the stropharia will expand until it runs into material already colonized as I understand it. So if you have really fresh chips it can take two years and all of a sudden you are buried in winecaps. Which sounds like a good way to go out!
 
Eric Hanson
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Thanks for the comment TJ,

I am learning how long it can take to fully colonize a pile of wood chips.  I started last spring using two 5.5 pound spawn kits to inoculate a batch of chips about 6' wide by 12' long by about 1' thick.  Realistically, I probably should have used more spawn.  These were put down in April, and by November, they were not terribly broken down.  But what a difference a month made!!  For us, December was a warm, cloudy, rainy month and in that month the chips drastically broke down, and when I dug into a place that had been undisturbed since inoculation in April, I found loads of white mycelia running through the chips.  I am hopeful that by spring we will start seeing mushrooms, but the main point of the exercise was the chips anyways, so presently I am happy with the results.  I am going to inoculate a bunch more chips this spring when I get the chance.

Eric
 
F Agricola
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Eric Hanson wrote:F Agricola,

I have so direct knowledge of sugarcane bagasse.  Is this material somewhat like choir or maybe peatmoss?  Bagasse sounds like a great mulch, but I live in the American Midwest and the material is just not available.  But I have used lots of peatmoss and a little bit of choir.  I was just looking for a reference material.  Sounds like the bagasse works for you.

Eric



G'day Eric,

it does depend on how a particular growing area harvests their cane. For example, in NSW cane fields are still commonly burnt to remove vermin and 'waste'. In Qld I believe they harvest it unburnt. Both methods have their pluses and minuses.

The compressed bales of sugar cane mulch available here are the dried stem tops and leaves, which are finely cut and shredded to produce the mulch. (Obviously, mostly produced in Qld)

Bagasse is actually the remnants of the cane once it has been crushed during sugar extraction. After extracting all the sap, many sugar mills use the bagasse as fuel in their boilers to help power the mill, often more than enough so it's put into the State electricity grid. My Uncle was a Supervisor in one of the local mills for years (it's seasonal work) so he was able to get truckloads of the boiler ash delivered, to what is now my property, for use as fertilizer/soil conditioner. It has a slight alkalinity due to the addition of lime in the sugar extraction process. Importantly, most cane farmers in the area are eliminating the use of chemicals, relying on frequent floods and the spread of the same boiler ash as fertiliser. All very 'green'.

 
Daron Williams
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Eric Hanson wrote:Daron,

I will chime in here.  I started using mulch well before I intentionally headed down the Permies path.  In fact, using mulch may have been my first baby Permies step.  My third year gardening I started to use straw mulch to shade the soil and improve soil moisture (the previous season we had a terrible drought).  Our soil was absolutely terrible and I hesitate to call it soil at all.  The area had been a coal strip mine that was filled in with tailings and then covered with clay.  I could actually go out into the yard and dig up pieces of shale.  When planting trees we would hit layers of hard pan so hard that we simply could not dig through without soaking with water first.  Sufficient to say, it was poor ground for planting.

So during the drought year, the soil would turn brick hard and no roots could penetrate aside from weeds.  I would water, but any penetrating water would turn the surface to a soupy mess and about 2-4 inches down, the soil would be brick hard and dry.

Finally I heard about straw mulch and what a difference!  Even in the heat the soil stayed workable, retained moisture and was soft (er).  Being a teacher I get LOTS of paper at the end of the year.    Straw was good, but some weeds still grew through and the straw made weeding with a hoe a little difficult.  Eventually I hit on the idea of laying down papers (3-page tests are my favorites) as both weed barrier and mulch—then place straw on top.  

I have plenty of weed bushes (autumn olive) that need clearing and chipping on my property.  Now I lay down my paper barrier, several inches of wood chips infused with wine cap mushroom spores, with 1-2 inches of straw on top.

I hope this is a useful contribution to the discussion.  I don’t like weeding and I barely do it anymore as the tests, chips and straw really beat them back.

Eric



Thanks for the sharing Eric! Sounds like you had to deal with a tough situation. It is awesome to hear that mulching with straw helped you! Got a question for you... with the wine cap mushroom infused wood chips--how have you gone about infusing the wood chips? This is something I want to do but have not gotten around to learning how.

Thanks again!

Edit: nm, I got done reading the rest and noticed you already talked about your process! I need to read all the replies before commenting!
 
Daron Williams
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Myrth – Thanks for sharing that story! I admit sometimes I still use soil disturbance to start a new garden area. I’m actually doing a double (triple?) dig right now to create 3 large hugelkultur beds that will form my new kitchen garden. But I fully agree that tilling on a regular basis is not ideal in many situations. Ruth’s methods are really great.
F Agricola – That is great making use of a locally available resource. Here it is wood chips and fall leaves so I tend to focus on those. Even straw is hard to find from a local source.
Phil – lol, yeah I know snakes are not fun for a lot of people. I grew up in an area with rattlesnakes and others. But my Dad also taught me from a very young age how to catch and release all kinds of snakes so I think I just got used to them and they don’t bother me. Here in Western WA there are no poisonous snakes so it is easy to be carefree about them.

Thanks all for the great discussion! Lots of great information!
 
Eric Hanson
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Daron,

I should probably be just a bit more clear regarding the post you quoted.  The garden planted in “soil” on top of mine tailings was the first house my wife and I lived in as a couple.  It was our starter house and we lived there for a bit over 4 years.  In late 2004 we moved to our present house which was built on virgin ground used for ages as a pasture.

Both houses are built on heavy clay soil, but house #1 had a “subsoil” of tailings whereas the current house is built upon deep heavy clay.  

At both houses the gardens dramatically improved by having mulch, but I can actually dig a hole at house #2 unlike house #1 where I would hit hit shale.

Regarding the wood chips and wine caps, I tried this without any experience whatsoever, so I am sure I could have done a better job.  My technique was to level a tall pile of chips into a 1’ tall bed.  I then dug a series of pits about a foot across and 6” deep.  In each pit I liberally spread spores in layers.  After I was finished with the pits I connected all the pits with a series of trenches, spread spores and covered.  Finally I still had a bunch of spores left so I spread these on the surface, watered thoroughly, added about 4 inches of straw, watered again and was done.

To aid in cooling and shading, I did plant tomatoes right into the chips.  Before I added and spores, I dug 8 holes in the chips for the tomatoes.  In these holes I added in a combination of manure and bone&blood meal.  The tomatoes grew right up their ladders and provided shade for the summer heat.  

This year I will plant summer squash in the same holes for summer shade.  Also, as the chips are much softer, I will plant a cover crop of peas in spring followed by beans with the summer squash in a double attempt to both shade the chips and start to fix nitrogen.

Daron, this is a long, convoluted post, but I hope it fills in some blanks I left from my last post.

Eric
 
Tj Jefferson
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Eric,

at 27:40. Winecap (stropharia annulata rugosa) in a silvopasture system.

Mark is awesome. I've never met him but I suspect we could talk for an entire day and not get bored. Actually more that I like to listen to his findings and he has a ton of them!
 
Eric Hanson
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TJ,

Very nice,  thanks for the video.  My gardens are going to be raised beds, but I love the idea of having wine caps scattered about my property.

This spring I plan on inoculating a lot of wood chips, and this time I will use a lot more mushroom spores than I did last year.  After this if I need more spores hopefully I will have enough in my beds to just dig up a couple shovels of old chips and transplant them into new wood piles.  Hopefully I can then scatter them about my property and have wine caps doing their magic all over the place.

Again, thanks for the information,

Eric
 
Daron Williams
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Thanks for the info Eric and thanks for sharing that video Tj!
 
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