oliverbirdseye
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Need Help! What to do with woodchip garden area?

Hi all!

Pretty new gardener, and I moved into a new house which has a stone tiered garden area that is tarped down, with woodchips on the top (see attached pic).

Planning on planting veggies in there, however I was wondering what I should do with this area? How do I handle it? Should I just cut holes in the felt tarp where I plant? Should I pull the whole tarp and woodchips up completely?

Thanks for the help!

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rainbowgardener
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Re: Need Help! What to do with woodchip garden area?

Hi and welcome to the Forum! You didn't tell us where you are located. There are hardly any garden issues that can be discussed without regard to location and climate. Even what to do with your tarp and wood chips. If you are somewhere hot and dry like Phoenix, that is a better argument for keeping all that because it helps conserve moisture in the soil and keep the soil cooler.

Otherwise, it partly depends on how much work you are willing to do and how permanent you want the work to be. The short cut version would be to do as you suggest, just cut holes where you want to plant things. Of course you can't plant seeds that way, just larger sized transplants.

But in the long run, over the course of the next few seasons, the felt will start breaking down, weeds will start growing through it or through all the holes. The wood chips will start breaking down, and weeds will start popping up in the broken down chips and rooting in to the felt. All those weeds will be much more difficult to deal with because of the felt. Where the wood chips end up in contact with the soil, they can steal Nitrogen from it. And of course it is very difficult to do anything with your soil that way, turn it, amend it, even water it. Unless there is irrigation under the felt, you will end up with dry nutrient starved soil all around your plants sucking water and nutrients away from them. In my opinion, getting rid of the whole thing would be better, but a huge project and pretty much it would all just have to be trashed.

Probably not what you wanted to hear! Others may have different opinions. Welcome to the Forum, anyway. It is a lovely amount of garden space.
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applestar
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Re: Need Help! What to do with woodchip garden area?

My biggest concern is that you don't know what's under there :hehe: (ghosts and gnomes?)

-sorry a bit of gardening humor there :> -

At the very least, pull up or open up several spots along the perimeter and in the middle and dig up some samples and dig down and see what kind of soil goes how deep.

If it's all lovely stuff, sure, plant away. But more likely, it would be best to turn and amend the pretty much dead lifeless fill soil before attempting to grow anything or you'll be disappointed.

I have to say I'm also concerned that in an attempt to keep this area pristine, the previous owner may have heavily applied herbicides and pesticides. A test grow with bean seeds might yield some useful information as beans are said to be sensitive to certain herbicides and chemicals.

Ultimately, you may want to consider having the soil tested first....
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oliverbirdseye
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Re: Need Help! What to do with woodchip garden area?

I am located in Denver Colorado.

A few weeds have poked through already, however I believe the garden area was a "new addition" to the home before it was sold and don't believe they ever planted anything in there.

There is a self-watering system but it doesn't go under the felt.

I was just curious what the "point" of this area was. Was this put in to be a flower bed instead of a vegetable garden you believe?

I am thinking that pulling it up would make sense, however I want to use it as it was intended. I would assume the soil is pretty healthy under there.

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rainbowgardener
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Re: Need Help! What to do with woodchip garden area?

Don't assume. Since I have just been through the process of getting my house and yard ready for real estate agents to show, I know that what they want is superficial beautification and neatening up. If there was something ugly there before, they may have just put down the beds, wood chips etc to make it look neat and more attractive.

You have no idea what could be under there. That's another argument for getting rid of the felt and chips.
Twitter account I manage for local Sierra Club: https://twitter.com/CherokeeGroupSC Facebook page I manage for them: https://www.facebook.com/groups/65310596576/ Come and find me and lots of great information, inspiration

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