Author Topic: wood chip gardening (bte gardens)  (Read 63702 times)

Offline woodchip gardener

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wood chip gardening (bte gardens)
« on: February 02, 2016, 04:39:01 PM »
after watching the back to eden gardening movie  i got an entire load of wood chips from an arborist about a year and a half ago.  after spreading some in the yard i put the rest into a 20x20 square.  it broke down some over that fall/winter and  i gardened in it this past summer with excellent results.  i thought this thread would be a great place for us to share info on wood chip gardening and our results!
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Offline woodchip gardener

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Re: wood chip gardening (bte gardens)
« Reply #1 on: February 03, 2016, 06:35:28 PM »
digger66 was kind enough to message me to warn me of using black plastic to kill weeds as the high temps that can gather under it will kill off my little fungus buddies in there.  he gave me a great tip about getting brown paper on the roll at the office supply store to use instead.  it will block the light without the risk of heat and without the possible ink related issues.

thanks for the help and great advice digger!
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Offline Mbell97

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Re: wood chip gardening (bte gardens)
« Reply #2 on: February 03, 2016, 07:31:46 PM »
Did the brown paper and wood chips keep the weeds out??

Online LAFarm

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Re: wood chip gardening (bte gardens)
« Reply #3 on: February 03, 2016, 08:04:04 PM »
Would the rolls of masking paper they sell at the paint stores work or is it too thin?  Price is pretty reasonable.
Farming in West Central Louisiana using an International Cub w/planter, fertilizer and cultivators, an Estwing claw hammer... plus some assorted support equipment...

Offline Digger66

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Re: wood chip gardening (bte gardens)
« Reply #4 on: February 03, 2016, 09:41:47 PM »
When applying wood chips it is highly recommend to use a weed barrier of some type, Cardboard or paper is best. I do not recommend newspaper due to the ink. One of the better papers to use for a weed barrier is brown craft paper. Brown craft paper is the type used for wrapping packages and comes in rolls of various widths. I like the 36 inch by 1200 ft. long.  It comes in 30 and 60 pound weight. Both types will work fine for a weed barrier and will decompose in 3 to 4 months.  The roll paper is much easier to use than news print especially on a windy day. Cost is around $24 a roll.   I recommend an overlap of at least 3 to 4 inches. I used this method on 6,000 sq. ft. and was weed free for 15 to 16 months, even today I see very little in the way of weeds.

Method I used: I used two rolls of paper at the same time, I would roll both with an over lap of three inches for a total of 10 feet. I would then apply enough wood chips to hold the paper in place. I would then roll out another ten feet. Do as much as you wish at any given time,  I would then wet down the paper and chips, then apply the final layer to achieve 4 to 6 inches of wood chips.

LAFarm - I am not familiar with the masking paper you speak of, just be sure it has no plastic coating, the thickness should be 30 to 60 pound stock. anything thinner will require multiple layers and may not be cost effective. I get my paper at Office Depot, I got free shipping and they delivered right to my door.

MBELL97 - I know of no magic organic bullet that will keep weeds out forever, in my case the only weeds I see is what little weed seed blows in from my yard or my neighbors. It takes me less than 30 minutes to weed my 8,000 sq. ft. The weeds I have won't cover the bottom of a 5 gallon bucket.

Best Regards
Bill
North Central Florida, 8,000 sq. ft. no till Back to Eden Garden. Equipment: One Heron, One Honey Bee, one garden Rake and one rusting tiller.
Retired and enjoying the good life. Married to a wonderful woman. Zone 8b/9a

Offline Okie Bob

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Re: wood chip gardening (bte gardens)
« Reply #5 on: February 04, 2016, 07:54:27 AM »
I'm very glad to see this thread started and hope it continues as a way for us woodchippers to share info.
I too have started very recently and perhaps too late to see much results this year. I actually had my compost and wood ships delivered the first of December, two months ago.
My garden is 30 X 70' or 2100 sf. I had access to cardboard so I put down a layer of cardboard, 6" of compost and then 6" of woodchips.
To speed up the process, Digger suggest I add bonemeal, which I did and then decided to also add dry molasses. I used about 50# of each for the 2100sf. I have tried to keep it watered good and am very pleased to see how well the wood chips maintain the water.
I'm attempting my first planting now. Put out 4 bunches of candy onions and plan to get another 4 today. I have my seed taters ready to put out within the next couple of weeks.
My thanks to Woodchip Gardener for starting this thread and for Digger66 for all his assistance these past few months!
I'm excited about the potential and looking forward to much less effort keeping my garden grass and weed free from now on, and not to mention the productivity of an orgainic garden that will be the best thing I could do for my poor soil.
I'm Sooner born and Sooner Bred and when I die I'll be Sooner dead!
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Offline Double B

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Re: wood chip gardening (bte gardens)
« Reply #6 on: February 04, 2016, 08:06:55 AM »
Okie,

How will you plant potatoes among the wood chips? Will you trench through the chips or just dig a hole for each potato? Please elaborate. I wished you guys could show some pictures of this. I am curious how fast your decomposition rate is on the chips.
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Offline arkiegardener

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Re: wood chip gardening (bte gardens)
« Reply #7 on: February 04, 2016, 09:35:23 AM »
How often are you adding compost or manure to this if any. I would assume the wood chips would suck the ground dry of any nitrogen while they are trying to break down themselves. I know when i watch the bte videos he was always adding his chicken manure to the garden. I had a friend do this method but they just put out the cardboard and mulch. Planted in the spring (the next year) and had the worst garden to date. did a soil test and their ground was depleted of nitrogen and other nutrients. The extension office told them it would take a couple years to get the ground back to a point they could think about planting it.

Offline Digger66

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Re: wood chip gardening (bte gardens)
« Reply #8 on: February 04, 2016, 10:00:17 AM »
Hello, Double B

First off speed of decomposition will depend on several factors, physical location, wood used, Chip size, moisture content, nitrogen levels, worm population and all beneficial fungi, bacteria and microbes currently present and future growth. In my case decomposition was relative fast, I was seeing beautiful dark humus in 6 months, it has been 18 months now and the level of humus just keeps getting thicker.
As for Potato's I just dig a hole and plant whole seed potato's, this is my second year of planting potato's in wood chips. The beauty of planting in wood chips is you do not have to hill at all, the wood chips lift with potato growth and they are always covered. I only water if needed until the plant is  established then I stop. I only use brewed compost tea in this area. The section I plant potato's in was covered with 6 inches of oak leaves and then 6 inches of wood chips on top no weed barrier was used, In this section I have had only four weeds in 18 months. I only plant 2, 55 foot rows one of red, Norland and one of white, Kennebec.

Also note that in this same section I have grown Sweet Potato's, Watermelon, and Pumpkins all with great results. My pumpkins were not very large due to the fact I was way late in my planting. The sweet potato's grew so well they grew to be 40 feet in diameter and I was loaded with sweet potato's, some were so large they split and I did not use them.

I will try and post some photo's, I am not real good at getting photo's to post well.

Best Regards
Bill   
North Central Florida, 8,000 sq. ft. no till Back to Eden Garden. Equipment: One Heron, One Honey Bee, one garden Rake and one rusting tiller.
Retired and enjoying the good life. Married to a wonderful woman. Zone 8b/9a

Offline Mbell97

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Re: wood chip gardening (bte gardens)
« Reply #9 on: February 04, 2016, 10:44:11 AM »
Thanks Digger! I would love to see some pics of your garden with woodchips if you have any from past years. I'm just curious what it looks like, guess I am a visual learner. LOL

Offline Digger66

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Re: wood chip gardening (bte gardens)
« Reply #10 on: February 04, 2016, 12:08:48 PM »
 Good Afternoon,  arkiegardener

It has been 18 months and I have not added any compost, however I do use Fish emulsion and Brewed Compost Tea from Boogie Brew. My start up routine was as follows and it had two goals one to speed decomposition and two to jump start all of the beneficial bacteria, Fungi and microbes.

1. Blood meal was added as a topping and watered in. Mainly to speed decomposition.
2. Azomite Rock dust was added to reinforce mineral content.
3. Inoculated with Mycorrhizal Mushroom fungi,  was added to aid decomposition and jump start fungi growth.
4. Added Alabama jumpers to garden.
5. Keep wood chips very moist first three months this will help speed decomposition and aid Mycorrhizal development.

Wood chips do not deplete nitrogen in the original soil. The only place this takes place is at the boundary layer between the wood chips and original soil and this is very minimal
Now if you till in the wood chips, yes, it will suck nitrogen right out of the soil. So you never till.

Paul Gautschi only adds compost to his garden once a year about an inch or so. His compost is 10% chicken manure and the balance is composted from yard and garden waste. He also adds, at some point composted wood chips to his garden from a local supplier. This is not yearly it is several years between applications.

As for your friend I can not say as I can not see the garden. I have heard of other people having the same issue and have been asked this question several times. My educated guess is, it is a wood chip issue and or the lack of nutrients reaching the plants.  The type and quality of wood chips will have a direct bearing on how the garden performs. Knowing the type of wood chips you have up front to start with will help in the overall success of the BTE journey.
More than 75% of nutrients are stored in twigs and leaves. Therefore the more you have in your wood chip mix the more nutrient rich your garden will be. Size of wood chips also have a direct bearing on the out come as well. I have seen people use chips that look like the size of silver dollars. This type of chip has little value except foe organic matter and will take a long time to decompose without some sort of added help and even then it will take some time to reach your goal of good humus. Some of the best wood chips to use is brush if you have it available this source is mostly over looked, however it is strong in nutrients, minerals and nitrogen and should be a primary source in your mix.
 
I would also take issue with the extension office comment it would take two years to get the soil back to a point to be able to plant. They could have it ready to plant in three months or less. Did they plant directly into the wood chips or the original soil? Most likely the issue has very little to do with the wood chips, my guess is the original soil was already depleted and needed some help.

Best Regards
Bill
North Central Florida, 8,000 sq. ft. no till Back to Eden Garden. Equipment: One Heron, One Honey Bee, one garden Rake and one rusting tiller.
Retired and enjoying the good life. Married to a wonderful woman. Zone 8b/9a

Online jimmiec

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Re: wood chip gardening (bte gardens)
« Reply #11 on: February 04, 2016, 12:12:49 PM »
Mbell97, in the meantime there are a lot videos on youtube with Back to Eden style.  The following video is one of the Paul's garden tours:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2vuXU0aFpgk
« Last Edit: February 04, 2016, 12:16:15 PM by jimmiec »
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Offline arkiegardener

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Re: wood chip gardening (bte gardens)
« Reply #12 on: February 04, 2016, 01:00:12 PM »
Thanks Bill for the reply. I am very interested in the concept of the BTE garden but I have not pulled the trigger yet.

Offline woodchip gardener

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Re: wood chip gardening (bte gardens)
« Reply #13 on: February 04, 2016, 01:09:10 PM »
hi everyone!  just a bit of history would help i guess.  i received an entire truckload (a huge pile as tall as me) of wood chips in the fall of 2014.  from what i could see it was a blend of woods including pine and cedar.  they just sort of came and dumped it in my yard, so i did not really have time to lay down a bed of any sort of weed blocker.  (they actually buried the small raised bed i had built there for my onions)  i used about 1/2 of it as mulch around my yard and around most of the roses/plants i had around the yard.  that still left me a really decent sized pile.  i pushed it around into a 20' x 20' square(ish) bed that when first laid was probably a bit more than a foot thick.  i let this sit over the winter uncovered.  it did go down probably about 4'' over that winter. 

in the spring i wanted to garden, but did also read the information about the wood chips sucking the nitrogen out of plants as they use it to decompose.  summer 2015 i did a modified planting.  the chips were not broken down enough to plant in directly and were still too deep to push aside and try to get to the dirt below.  my decision was to shovel pockets into the wood chips and fill them with a compost/dirt mixture that my plants could grow in.  i put my plant in and then spread the wood chips back over the top to act as a mulch.

my plants did really well this way.  even with it being 90+ here most of the summer and in the hottest part of my yard, they did well.  I did have to water more than a true eden garden would require since they did have dirt, but not as much as i have in previous gardens I have had.  the chips really do hold the water.   

i am now also skeptical about the wood chips robbing nitrogen info.  on a lark, i did put 2 plants directly into the mulch to see how they did.  tell ya what...they grew just as well as the plants i had grown in the compost/dirt mix.   so i agree with digger, there may not be much to that info.  or at least not on a level that it would cause the plant to stunt or die.

after the summer plants were done i pulled them out and let the bed be.  it has broken down substantially over this winter.  when i recently went out to put plastic on the whole area just sinks down when you step on it.  also, i moved the top chips aside to see a really nice composting going on below.    when i remove the plastic i will take a picture of what is under the top chips and post it.

i know i have a good little fungal network going on under their since after a good rain i have lots of mushrooms pop up. 

i can also mention that i had no disease and only 1 pest issue all summer.  in the movie paul mentioned that healthy plants don't attract bugs.  it is true.    the only problem i had all summer was a single pesky little hornworm.  he had the little eggs on his back that the wasps had gotten to him.  i know i could have left him, but the little pest had already munched out on 1 whole stem of one of my tomato plants, so i picked him off and set him over in the end of the yard to live what few days he had left.

this year i am going to plant directly in the wood chips.  we will see how it goes.  our last frost date is not until april 5, so i have a good bit of time to prep.  i am going to throw some coffee grounds in there.  i will also be collecting banana peels to blender up and add as i get some.   might toss on some epsom salt once i get the plants in. 











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Online jimmiec

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Re: wood chip gardening (bte gardens)
« Reply #14 on: February 04, 2016, 01:55:33 PM »
Woodchip gardner, I think you should add some rock dust / azomite to make it just a little bit better with additional minerals in the bed.
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Offline Digger66

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Re: wood chip gardening (bte gardens)
« Reply #15 on: February 04, 2016, 06:13:05 PM »
Hello All,
Just some more information as to the validity of the wood chip method and process. First off wood chip farming and gardening is much more than a mulch it is a process of building new soil and at the same time a living soil. That is we build live organic matter with chipped deciduous tree limbs that contain the leaves, twigs and branches. In nature it takes roughly 100 years to build one inch of top soil. With the wood chip method you can build unlimited amount of soil in short order, you are only limited by the amount of wood chips used.
There was a 20 plus year study done around the world by three French Canadian biologists from LAVAL UNIVERSITY FACULTY OF FORESTRY AND GEOMATICS, Department of Wood and Forest Sciences
Coordination Group on Ramial Wood. The overall results were exceptional especially the harvest percentages and worth reading. I have included a link to the "The French Gardener", under the heading of Information you will find the report plus additional information.
http://www.thefrenchgardener.net/edu/rcw.php

Best Regards
Bill
North Central Florida, 8,000 sq. ft. no till Back to Eden Garden. Equipment: One Heron, One Honey Bee, one garden Rake and one rusting tiller.
Retired and enjoying the good life. Married to a wonderful woman. Zone 8b/9a

Offline woodchip gardener

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Re: wood chip gardening (bte gardens)
« Reply #16 on: February 04, 2016, 08:20:49 PM »
thanks for the link bill!  i will read up.  looks like a lot of great info.

jimmiec, thank you for the suggestion.  i will pick some up.  yes, i am trying to build the best soil possible, so enrichment will be necessary.
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Online LAFarm

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Re: wood chip gardening (bte gardens)
« Reply #17 on: February 04, 2016, 10:08:59 PM »
A few years ago, I purchased a WoodMax chipper for our tractor to use on brush and prunings around the house.  Got tired of handling the limbs so many times - loading a trailer, hauling to burn pile, unloading and piling, etc..  Now, just cut and stick into the self-feeding chute.  Only handle limbs one time.  We directed the discharge into a trailer we pulled with the lawnmower.  Since I am not fond of weedeaters, we used the chips to mulch around the trees and shrubs in the yard.  Never had thought of the BTE concept.  We also mulch with grass clippings and the resulting growth of our azaleas has been phenomenal over the years.   We bought the azaleas from WalMart for 99 cents each about 25 years ago and now they are over 5 ft tall.  We have a lot of pine trees that are about 10 years old that we hand planted and have lots of limbs to prune up.  Are pine chips ok to use in a BTE garden or should we use chips from something different?
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Offline Digger66

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Re: wood chip gardening (bte gardens)
« Reply #18 on: February 05, 2016, 08:57:01 AM »
Good Morning, LAFarm

Like you I also need to constantly pick up sticks and limbs in my yard, so I am considering a Chipper myself as I have 110 oak trees that constantly shed limbs,  plus I need to raise the canopy on some of my oaks. At this point I could get a lot of use from a chipper/shredder.

You can certainly utilize your Pine limbs and needles, However if you have brush and other wood growth I would mix that in as well, also mix in your grass clippings with the pine. Pine will make good humus, however it will take much longer to decompose than hardwood. I have both hardwood and pine in my original mix and I have beautiful humus. I do not know the percentage of pine to hardwood, however my guess is only 10%.  For a old fart that lives on a sand pile it is working very well. There are many myths about wood chips in the garden and varieties of trees to not use as they are poisonous to your soil, the vast majority of these myths are not fact based and are just plain false in practice.
One fact about wood chip gardening and PH is that wood chips will neutralize PH to 7.0 no matter which side of 7.0 you are. I can not give you the facts on why this is, however it does in fact work like that. My soil is almost a perfect 7.0 
I also use all the oak leaves I can get my hands on for compost. I just finished by annual fall/ winter compost pile that is 5 feet wide 35 feet long and 4 to 5 feet high. The height varies a lot as it does not take long to flatten out. These leaves are only from two sides of the house so you can imagine how many leaves I have. In my case I have a year round supply of leaves which is good. I always have free compost to use.

If you decide to try BTE and use your Pine, keep in touch and I will be glade to help you work on ways you can speed up the decomposition of the pine.

Best Regards
Bill
North Central Florida, 8,000 sq. ft. no till Back to Eden Garden. Equipment: One Heron, One Honey Bee, one garden Rake and one rusting tiller.
Retired and enjoying the good life. Married to a wonderful woman. Zone 8b/9a

Offline woodchip gardener

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Re: wood chip gardening (bte gardens)
« Reply #19 on: February 05, 2016, 08:25:53 PM »
hi la farm,

the only chips i have ever read anything negative on is walnut wood.  it has some sort of chemical in the wood that kills off plants it is around.  it said something about the trees kill of the plants around them so they and their little nuts don't have to fight for nutrients that way. 

that is the only one i can remember having to avoid.
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