Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Gardening with Wood Chips

      "My Grand Mother once had five wood chips dropped into her garden when a tree was cut down.  She couldn't use that bed for years.  Was the chips robbing the nitrogen.  Yep, can't use them wood chips."  Such are the comments I hear all of the time.  Not grounded from one's own experience or scientific evidence, but from urban legend.  Please check out this link for positive comments:        

Bellevue free wood chip pile

      I have been using wood chips for garden paths for thirty years.  And have never experienced a negative side effect.  To the contrary, I swear to the benefits of greatly reduced weed populations, great moisture control, and on location soil improvement.  After about three years, you can rake off the thinned layer of chips, and use a shovel to harvest the layer of black gold soil that has formed under the wood chips.  After stripping out one or two inches of this loam, just start building up your chips again.  I am always amazed at how quickly the garden eats wood chips, and how often I need to find more.  Luckily, the park maintenance folks drop piles of free chips by the gardens, and tree services are often happy to drop chips at your home in order to avoid the tipping charges to drop them at the landfill.  If using a tree service, ask them to drop only clean loads without branches or brush.

Wood chips surround a garden bed
      This early spring season delivers lots of rain to gardens in this area.  Muddy swamps appear like mushrooms after a rain.  Yet a thick layer of wood chips makes a path walkable instantly.  The amount of water sponged up and retained by the chips is also amazing.  I have pulled up tomato plants at the end of the season that have ten foot root systems that have run under the chip paths.  Sought out the chips, not killed by them!

Bellevue, my plot, number 84

1 comment:

  1. I've never heard that one before! What do they think happens in forests? The trees fall down and decompose into dirt that grows new trees. And what about the dyed wood chip mulch that everybody puts on their garden beds? I'm confuzzled by their "logic"!

    I use straw to mulch the veggies because that's what I have, but I'd use wood chips if I had a cheap and easy source for them!