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Jardin du Fort
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"composting WOOD CHIPS"

I had originally considered using the city compost for starting my veggie garden, then reconsidered, becoming aware of all the undesirables that might be in it. My thought now is that maybe I can just get the wood chips (which are free!!!) and allow them to decompose (compost) to start the garden. Apparently that is just what the guy on the EDEN garden site does, placing them directly on top of the dirt (and grass etc.) with newspaper as a grass/weed killer.

https://backtoedenfilm.com/faqs/index.html

I think this guy is in California, and I am in Indiana, so there would be some differences in climate, tree species of chips, etc.

Does anybody have any idea how long I would have to let the chips compost before I could plant veggies? Has anyone done anything like this? Should I consider adding "clean" manures (rabbit for one!) to help speed up the process? What else should I do.... or not do?

:?:

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Re: "composting WOOD CHIPS"

Jardin du Fort wrote:I had originally considered using the city compost for starting my veggie garden, then reconsidered, becoming aware of all the undesirables that might be in it. My thought now is that maybe I can just get the wood chips (which are free!!!) and allow them to decompose (compost) to start the garden. Apparently that is just what the guy on the EDEN garden site does, placing them directly on top of the dirt (and grass etc.) with newspaper as a grass/weed killer.

https://backtoedenfilm.com/faqs/index.html

I think this guy is in California, and I am in Indiana, so there would be some differences in climate, tree species of chips, etc.

Does anybody have any idea how long I would have to let the chips compost before I could plant veggies? Has anyone done anything like this? Should I consider adding "clean" manures (rabbit for one!) to help speed up the process? What else should I do.... or not do?

:?:
Actually Paul Gautschi's, Back To Eden Garden is in Sequim Washington.

Climate ....Sequim, WA ........... United States

Rainfall (in.) 16.5 ......................... 36.5
Snowfall (in.) 4.9 ........................... 25
Precipitation Days 122 .................. 100
Sunny Days 132 ...........................205
Avg. July High 72 ...........................86.5
Avg. Jan. Low 31.5 .........................20.5
Comfort Index (higher=better) 89....44
UV Index .........2.7 ......................... 4.3
Elevation ft. 194........................... 1,443

I like some of his techniques, but he is lacking factual reality.

Eric

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Jardin du Fort
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Re: "composting WOOD CHIPS"

DoubleDogFarm wrote:
I like some of his techniques, but he is lacking factual reality.

Eric
If by that you mean that he is not very scientific, I agree. It seems to work for him though......

:roll:

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pine wood chips are good but watch certain trees like walnut and a few others because they will hinder a garden!
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Re: "composting WOOD CHIPS"

Jardin du Fort wrote:
DoubleDogFarm wrote:
I like some of his techniques, but he is lacking factual reality.

Eric
If by that you mean that he is not very scientific, I agree. It seems to work for him though......

:roll:
Yes and No and I will be getting myself in trouble here. I think a man of his age, should no longer have imaginary friends. Is he speaking literally.

Eric

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fresh wood chips are net nitrogen users - nitrogen is used to kick-start the decay process. you eventually get it back, takes about 4-5 years in a temperate climate.

it takes 3-4 years for chips to break down into powdery stuff around here (PA) - and that process seems to start from "the bottom up" - that is you'll fine "wood dirt" at the bottom but the chips on top are weathered but still "intact"

as Bobberman mentioned, walnut and locust are two you don't want in the chips pile. how one comes to "know" what's in a municipal heap would be an interesting exercise.

adding any organic material that breaks down faster than the chips will establish a root friendly mass faster than chips alone. manure should be aged before planting - so fresh chips + fresh manure is a good start if you can wait a year to begin planting.

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I've used plenty of wood chips, as a mulch on top of the ground. They will decompose slower or faster depending on what time of year they were cut, twig and branch and leaf content vs. heavy limb and trunk wood, and whether you add anything to them. I would not till them in as I've heard way too much advice about nitrogen sequestration to risk it.

If you're trying to start a new bed, I would till in compost first, then use wood chips to mulch paths or between larger plants or rows of smaller plants. That way you get fast acting soil amendments plus long-term soil improvement.

You might be surprised how fast they decompose. If they are still there next time you want to dig or plant, simply rake away the remainder to use for mulch before digging.
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Jardin du Fort
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Re: "composting WOOD CHIPS"

DoubleDogFarm wrote: Yes and No and I will be getting myself in trouble here. I think a man of his age, should no longer have imaginary friends. Is he speaking literally.

Eric
Well, DDF, I hope you're not in trouble......

I have friends that have daily conversations with God. And I have friends that don't believe there is a God. So you're not in trouble with me. But if God spoke to you, would you hear him?

O:)
I like some of his techniques, but he is lacking factual reality.
I think it is curious that he won't even bother with a Ph test. I would think that it would be something everyone would want tested, as correcting ph levels is so easy.

I think he is saying that since he is not putting the wood chips in soil that it doesn't tie up the nitrogen. Does this make any kind of sense??

His climate is not a good match to mine (thanks for the info BTW) significantly more edenic than mine given the avg Jan. low.

Anyhow, I think there is a ready source of wood chips for free from the city, and I'll likely make use of a couple or five pick'emup truckloads. But that will be a spring thing, not now in the doldrums of seasonal dormancy.

:roll:

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Jardin du Fort
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Dillbert wrote:as Bobberman mentioned, walnut and locust are two you don't want in the chips pile. how one comes to "know" what's in a municipal heap would be an interesting exercise.

adding any organic material that breaks down faster than the chips will establish a root friendly mass faster than chips alone. manure should be aged before planting - so fresh chips + fresh manure is a good start if you can wait a year to begin planting.
Well, around here we have had two significant events. The incursion of the Asian Ash Borer has caused the city to cut down hundreds of sizable ash trees that were growing in the city easements. Secondly, last summer we had a BIG wind storm that blew down or damaged hundreds more trees of all varieties. So, if you go out to the city boidegradables dump, you will see a really BIG pile of dead tree cuttings that haven't even begun to be ground up.

I am a carpenter, and know the smell of woods. I can identify many by smell alone, so I'm pretty sure I can avoid the walnut and locust... :wink:

Given that I still have about three months of work on replacing my backyard fence, as well as numerous other "necessary" projects around here, it is not outside of consideration that I may not actually get around to planting veggies in a garden for another year. I could define the area, spread wood chips, mix in some manure, water it occasionally if the drought continues, and maybe plant some winter rye before autumn gets too cold. Then by NEXT year spring it would be ready to till in and plant....

:D

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Jardin du Fort
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toxcrusadr wrote:If you're trying to start a new bed, I would till in compost first, then use wood chips to mulch paths or between larger plants or rows of smaller plants. That way you get fast acting soil amendments plus long-term soil improvement.
Well, yes, I'm trying to start a new bed. The problem is going to be coming up with the compost. I figure I would need perhaps 4 x 20 x 1/4 x 2 = 40 cu. ft. or 1 1/2 cu. yds. of compost. I don't have anywhere near that kind of source on my own property, nor do I want to avail myself (unfortunately) of the city compost. And buying what passes for compost from the big box store is out of the question due to cost. :(

SO, it looks like the most parsimonious route will be to use the wood chips and see where I can come up with some post-consumer-product vegetation.

:flower:

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Jardin du Fort wrote:SO, it looks like the most parsimonious route will be to use the wood chips and see where I can come up with some post-consumer-product vegetation.

:flower:
If you re-read hugelkultur bed plans, based others real-world trials should tell you what a bonsai hobbyist will: namely. fresh bark chips neither steal or sequester nitrogen.

Reduce your first year expectations of your bark-mulch enriched beds, because they don't hold water as well the first year.

Also your bark laden beds may produce more toadstools and mushrooms for a few years (the real nitrogen fixers of things wooden.).
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I have never done hugelkulture, but I have read many people say that the first year or two of an hk bed produces very poorly. Whether that is because of drainage issues or nitrogen robbing by all that wood, I can't say. It certainly makes sense to me that something very carbonaceous uses up N in the process of being broken down. But consensus is that after that the wood is more broken down and then the bed is very rich.
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Jardin du Fort
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tomc wrote:If you re-read hugelkultur bed plans, based others real-world trials should tell you what a bonsai hobbyist will: namely. fresh bark chips neither steal or sequester nitrogen.
OK, so I have not previously heard of hugelkultur. Where do I read up on it? I guess I'll start by doing a search for it on this forum, but is there a book?
:?:

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I've not done a search here, but it (hugelkultur) is a reoccurring thread on other forums.
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Jardin du Fort wrote:
tomc wrote:If you re-read hugelkultur bed plans, based others real-world trials should tell you what a bonsai hobbyist will: namely. fresh bark chips neither steal or sequester nitrogen.
OK, so I have not previously heard of hugelkultur. Where do I read up on it? I guess I'll start by doing a search for it on this forum, but is there a book?
:?:
Jardin,

Basically a German forestry practice, where they learned bury is better than burning.

Take a look at this video

What do you think?
Eric

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DoubleDogFarm wrote:Jardin,

Basically a German forestry practice, where they learned bury is better than burning.

Take a look at this video

What do you think?
Eric
Hmmmm.... Well, the video shows the concept better than what I was reading on the forum pages I found.... I hadn't thought that they would build up the piles all THAT high!!! It looks like a cross between "stick people" and "Mound Builders".

I would say that, although the practice (as in the video) might be do-able on a larger property, it is definitely NOT suitable for my city lot. Nevertheless, the concept of burying (composting?) wood may be do-able on a smaller scale, as in making a (smaller) pile of wood chips and covering it with greens and dirt.

:?

rot
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Vass iss diss?

..
Could someone possibly clarify something for me with this hugelkultur thing?

It seems like there are a bunch of folks who swear up and down that putting wood into the soil robs nitrogen, at least in the short run. Then there are others that swear up and down about what great good results they get from burying big chunks of wood in the soil. It would seem the two are in direct contradiction of each other but yet I've seen both asserted in multiple places over a long while now.

It seems to me that the nitrogen sequestration effect comes with tilling in large amounts of wood chips - lots of small bits of wood providing a lot of surface area for all that wood - as opposed to the hugelkultur thing that says use a bunch of logs of wood. Using a bunch of logs instead of chips would minimize the surface area for decomposition and we know that that decomposition is a function of surface area and therefore a minimization of the nitrogen sequestration effect. Kind of like building a fire in the fireplace, the smaller bit of kindling burn up fast but the big logs, if done right, will burn a long time. This would also explain the other assertion that comes with the hugelkultur thing, it returns good results for many years.

Have I got this right? Is the key to the hugelkultur thing to use big honking pieces of wood with minimal surface area in the soil as opposed to a bunch of small bits with maximum surface area? Or, did I miss something?


Thanks in advance
..

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Re: Vass iss diss?

rot wrote:..
Could someone possibly clarify something for me with this hugelkultur thing?

It seems like there are a bunch of folks who swear up and down that putting wood into the soil robs nitrogen, at least in the short run. Then there are others that swear up and down about what great good results they get from burying big chunks of wood in the soil. It would seem the two are in direct contradiction of each other but yet I've seen both asserted in multiple places over a long while now.

It seems to me that the nitrogen sequestration effect comes with tilling in large amounts of wood chips - lots of small bits of wood providing a lot of surface area for all that wood - as opposed to the hugelkultur thing that says use a bunch of logs of wood. Using a bunch of logs instead of chips would minimize the surface area for decomposition and we know that that decomposition is a function of surface area and therefore a minimization of the nitrogen sequestration effect. Kind of like building a fire in the fireplace, the smaller bit of kindling burn up fast but the big logs, if done right, will burn a long time. This would also explain the other assertion that comes with the hugelkultur thing, it returns good results for many years.

Have I got this right? Is the key to the hugelkultur thing to use big honking pieces of wood with minimal surface area in the soil as opposed to a bunch of small bits with maximum surface area? Or, did I miss something?


Thanks in advance
..
That's a good anology.

I will add, when wood chips are tilled in, they are all through the root zone. Well, the top 6" to 10" anyway. Most mound culture has a foot or more of soil over the woody base. Not robbing nitrogen from the upper root zone. The plant roots grow down into nutrient and moisture sponge.

Eric

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digging fresh wood chips into the soil does tie up nitrogen short term - several months to a full season, depending on climate.

note the use of the word "fresh" - using wood chips that have been sitting in a heap for a year or two is not going to cause this problem.

putting wood chips on top of the soil as a mulch or cover does not tie up nitrogen in the soil - the soil has no "magic finger feeders" that reach up into the chip covering . . .

hugelkultur - first the translation: hugel = German for small hill or mound. in practice it looks like raised beds (no sides) on steroids. kultur = culture aka "cultural method"

there are several reasons given for its success:
(a) the wood decomposes and gives up nutrients
(b) the soft/rotting wood is more apt to stay moist and provide a "reservoir" for the plants
(in fact some folks like to dig a shallow depression to become a 'water pool / collection basin')
(c) at the same time, being raised, good drainage is promoted
(d) the settling & 'cover dirt' movement as the pile collapse decreases soil compaction

what I have witnessed in practice: all the little branches / twigs / small limbs that fall from the sky in the forest are gathered up. instead of burning / chipping them / creating a solid waste disposal problem, they go in a ditch and get covered up. I've not seen large (i.e. 4 inch or larger) size tree trunks/limbs used in this practice, however I should add that I've never played a German Forester - not even on TV, so reality may vary.

I suspect ambient moisture / rainfall amounts play a big role in this method - part and parcel to the 'success' of the method is that the wood remain damp and decay is promoted. which makes me wonder how it would work out in an arid climate without an artificial water supply.

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The belief that the presence of high-carbon materials must steal available nitrogen, and the use of rounded particle inert material, must inhibit root development. Well, they're both lovely urban legends and have no basis in fact.

Mycoriza infect woody material and collect their own nitrogen from the air.

On average a tree growing in a bonsai pot is nestled in 40% or more bark mulch. And will grow just fine with utterly no added fertilizer (as long as there is adaquate water).

Likewise roots don't care at all how many corners inert (stoney) material has.

It is a matter of indiference to me if you never let bark mulch come near your plants or trees.

You'll also be disappointed when you see studies that have been done in this regard.
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rot
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thanks guys

..
Thanks guys.

So maybe big logs aren't required but I think I'm inclined to go with limbs or logs larger than the chips out of a chipper. The other take away is wood should go deeper and not too close to the surface. Chipped wood should be aged.

Not too long ago I stumbled across some pictures posted on a forum somewhere where someone had dug up one of his more successful plants in an experimental bed he had going. The photos showed the roots clinging around a small log underneath.

It will be interesting to see how it works in a dry climate.

to sense
..

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I really think mycorrhyzae -- fungus/mushroom -- and soil foodweb plays a key role as tomc said.

If, say, someone works wood chips into the garden soil and then uses chemical fertilizers which kill off the myco, the results are probably different. If they use wood chips as surface mulch then emplys heavy applications of fungicides, that's going to affect the outcome too.

When the white mycelium start spreading through the woody material, people often think its "mold" in the bad sense (powdery mildew, etc) and panic. When mushrooms start growing they think it's poisonous/bad, etc. The immediate reaction and often advice they receive is to stop watering, dig them up, turn/till the soil, or ...spray something....

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Trees most definately eat with help from mycorrhyzae. Bonsai pots routinely contain up to 50% bark mulch.

In past years I've put the fines from sifted bark mulch, where i was sifting by the cubic yard onto beds and turned it in The volume of what amounts to sawdust was going to sequester available nitrogen, then I would've done it.

Now I like logs for hugelkultur because they last longer, years longer.
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Okay, so let's just say that the most significant amount of bio-mass that is available to me to supplement my limey-clay soil is wood chips. Assuming that the chips are reasonably "fresh", what would be the best method of promoting its transition into a "good and proper" soil amendment? Is there a source for the mycorrhyzae? Do I need to find a rotten log and crumble it up, and mix it into the fresh chips? Of course, merely waiting for the cultures to develop on their own is an option, but can it be sped up? And then how do you know when the wood chips are ready to be mixed into the dirt?

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>> Assuming that the chips are reasonably "fresh", what would be the best method of promoting its transition into a "good and proper" soil amendment?

time is the key. heap it up, let it start to decompose / compost / whatever words chosen to apply.

wood chips, sawdust, whatever - it's all "organic" and given time will decompose to a nice fluffy mass.

it's like creating "the ideal compost heap" - one mixes browns (carbons) and greens (nitrogen) to promote the most rapid decomposition / rotting / decay.

a heap of fresh wood chips or fresh sawdust or (whatever wood) _will_ decompose "all by itself" - given enough time.

tomc only refers to composted wood products - and then only for bonsai. mini-trees - by design and intent - root and growth restricted - have a different nitrogen demand than green beans.

I do not disagree with tomc theory that a lot of composed wood is used - I have used MetroMix (various grades) for years and depending on grade it has a low/med/high percentage of "composted bark"

the key issue is "composed"

decomposing fresh wood will tie up nitrogen short/medium term.

so if only what you got is "wood" - compost it minimum one year, more better two years, and garden away.

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Jardin du Fort
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Thanks Dillbert. I'll go ahead and get some wood chips and let 'em rot. I mean compost.

:D

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Garden Du Fort, Add, build, pile. Keep close tabs the first year that you are adding adaquate water. And you'll be fine.
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Jardin du Fort
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I'll see if I can divert some of the roof run-off to the wood chip pile. That way I won't dry up the rivers and be charged for doing it.

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wood chips

I did not know this post was going and posted on NPK. All I can say is as far as the day lilly's, iris and strawberries ...it did not kill them and they thrived and the soil was better for it. I have used wood chips around my trees, around my bushes, iris, day lillies and strawberries to keep down weeds and use as compost. Started about 7 years ago with NO adverse effects.

I did not put in my garden and now use organic straw. I would use wood chips again though. Where I used these chips I did not see a negative reaction. No very scientific but what works, worked.

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Oh you want mushrooms

..
I had couple of 55 gal barrels full of wood chips from a chipper jag when renting a chipper for a day. Before I could get around to the second barrel, the rains came. We only get the rains in winter here.

Well it was a couple of months before it dried up enough so I could tip it over and let the water drain off. Then it sat soggy for another month before I used the chips to start a slow, cold, add as you go pallet bin. I used the chips as a bottom liner, 4 to 6 inches deep as biological sponge and started adding.

The bin started filling up faster than I anticipated after 3 months until I got mushrooms. After the mushrooms arrived the volume reduction really kicked in and I was adding about 3' x 3' x 1' of material once a month and at the end of the month, the bin reduced to its original height from the previous month. Did that for over a year before I finally started piling it on and topped it a few times and then just let it reduce for another year to half volume.

It was like a perpetual digesting machine. I got rid of a lot icky stuff that I didn't want to turn that way.

to sense
..

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Garden,
If there is a problem with a new homestead (and new pile) and garden, is we want to step through time to year four or five. Where the results of our countless tons of yard waste have become the loam we wish for.

You aint the first guy (or gal) to wave his manure fork at the pile and invoke his micro-herd to get up off their edited and get busy.

Pile it on. The little beasties will catch up soon enough.
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