Wood Chips in the Garden | Volunteer Gardener

Wood Chips in the Garden | Volunteer Gardener

(light acoustic music) – Wood chips are
extremely valuable not only for their
fungal activity but because the trees
have brought up minerals that have leeched
deeper into the soil than our annual
plants can access. The calcium and potassium
and other minerals that are lower in the soil
then come up through the roots and are in those wood products and eventually end
up in the garden. When they're fully rotted, wood products have minerals
and microbes in abundance. And the humus that
forms in the garden will grow the healthiest crops. These products are
organic matter, and organic matter is
necessary to make humus, and humus is good
for the garden. The problem with
this logic is time. And the factor of time
involved is about a decade. Over and over again in
my garden consultations, I find wood products
being used improperly. Garden paths and even plants
are oftentimes mulched with wood chips
or hardwood mulch which is far from being
broken down enough to really be good
for the garden. These fresh wood products
release tannic acid and other acids, which are
poison to the life of the soil. These should never
be used green. Fresh wood chips have a high
carbon to nitrogen ratio. There's 400 times as much
carbon as nitrogen in this. So wherever you put this, it's going to temporarily
steal the nitrogen. It'll take 10 years
for this to rot down into something that's
unrecognizable as wood chips. This pile of wood
chips is two years old. But as you can see, it still
has pieces of wood in it that you could burn. They're still hard, yeah. So this pile would still
have too much carbon and not enough nitrogen, and
consequently rob nitrogen from your soils. It probably wouldn't have
the acids that are bad because they've
leeched out by now. Here's what I like. This pile of wood
chips is 10 years old and there is nothing visible
of wood products in here. The carbon to nitrogen
ratio is down to 20 to one where you want it and so it's
not gonna steal nitrogen. It's gonna help
your garden grow, it's a humus
product, smells good. There's a lot of fungal
activity in wood chips and the mycelium,
the fungus roots, go all through these piles
and when you put those in your garden, those
microorganisms are
really beneficial for creating good soil
and a clay humus complex that'll grow really
healthy plants. I like to add a little manure,
especially if it's rotted, to the wood chip
pile towards the end of its rotting process, and that adds that little
extra bit of nitrogen and also lots of
bacterial microorganisms that are also beneficial for
making this clay humus complex. When we use wood chip
products on our soils, we have to be sure
and add lime too because wood chips have
carbon and carbon is acidic. Many folks have
access to sawdust, which of course is another
wood chip, it's finer. And so it will rot down
quicker, but still, you don't wanna use
it green at all. All these wood products should
be brown before we use 'em. The important thing to do for
our gardening to be successful is for ourselves to create
a live clay humus complex in our soils, and of course
we can use the wood products once they're rotted, to do this. This field has had various
rotted wood products over the years and it makes for a nice, crumbly, humusy soil. Humus is the black waxy stuff
that coats these soil grains. And once you have your
soil real loose and crumbly like this, there's
lots of air in it. And so excess moisture
can go through, but then when it gets dry,
moisture can come back up. And so having the soil real
crumbly and loose and humusy really makes for
the healthy plants. Just give all of
these wood products, the wood chips, the
hardwood mulches, sawdust, time so that they fully
rot and become digestible for your garden soil. (light acoustic music) – [Narrator] For inspiring
garden tours, growing tips, and garden projects, visit our website at
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3 thoughts on “Wood Chips in the Garden | Volunteer Gardener

  1. I personally disagree with the opinion about 10 years needed for breakdown. Maybe if you pile it in a big pile like that, then yes. Look at back to eden gardening that is mostly based on use the use of raw woodchips. check out Paul Gautschi who has multiple gardens and orchards in which he utilizes both raw, composted, and screened wood chips. copied from his webpage backtoedenfilm – Back to Eden Gardening uses wood chips that are 90% needles, leaves, and branches that have been chipped from tree trimming waste. It is important to understand that the leaves are a source of nitrogen and the branches are a source of carbon. This ratio creates an ideal mulch gardening material when the wood chips have composted.

  2. I'm confused, a gardener said it's fine to use fresh woodchips as a mulch but listening to you it seems a bad idea, would I be right in thinking this?

  3. I don’t feel so badly about the refusal of the tree people to drop off wood chips. I have light gray soil and it’s mucky clay. I frequently feed it coffee grounds and cardboard. Do you have any suggestions for how I can get this soil to be a nice brown. I have also recently planted clover, Crimson and white in it.

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