Wood chips mixed with dirt

Maynard1980March 28, 2014

I recently had a large cherry tree removed from my front yard. They ground much of it down and I was left with a pile of wood chips mixed with dirt, which the guy from the tree service said makes a great planting medium. I spread the pile out over the spot where I want to plant my flower bed, and will probably plant in a couple weeks. It's not quite mulch, as it's mixed in with soil, but it's not exactly sawdust either. Has anyone ever used something like this? Can I plant right away, or should I let it decompose a bit? Is it good for my vegetable garden?

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I'd either use it as a top coat or wait a year. The critters that help decompose fresh wood use a lot of nitrogen and since your soil and chips are mixed your plants may not get enough nitrogen. I use a lot of wood shavings on the top surface as mulch and to insulate my in-garden winter storage veggies, but I don't mix it in until it is pretty well decomposed.

The other problem is that where the tree was is likely to settle quite a bit as the deeper remains of the tree and the woodchips decompose, so when you do plant that area, you might want to plant annuals for a few years (that includes annual veggies) so that you can add soil as needed as things sink.

Adding nitrogen fertilizer will speed up the rate of breakdown of the woodchips based on my experience.

    Bookmark   March 28, 2014 at 6:11PM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

Agree - it will make a great planting medium...in a year or so. Until then it is just wood chip mulch.

How fast it will decompose depends on where you live and the weather there. And since you already spread it out it will take longer to decompose than if it was left in a pile.

Planting in it now means problems and lots of amending for healthy plants. Can't recommend doing it.


    Bookmark   March 28, 2014 at 6:52PM
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I have spread it out over the top of my soil, but haven't mixed it in. I suppose for now, I'll just leave it there as mulch and mix it in next year.

    Bookmark   March 28, 2014 at 8:30PM
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I had a huuuuuge oak tree stump ground out about six months ago. The tree had fallen some time ago, years I think. There is nothing left at this point that resembles fresh sawdust, so I'm going to use it. I've been reading about a technique called hugelkulture where you actually put logs in your garden bed. You dig a hold and pile in fallen logs and cover with soil. The rotting logs hold moisture that becomes available for your plants. According to these guys, although the rotting wood will draw nitrogen from the soil, it holds it to later be returned to the plants. They say amend with blood meal if plants show yellowing. Personally, I'd do a little experimenting. If you've got the space and patience.

    Bookmark   March 28, 2014 at 10:18PM
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seysonn(8a WA/HZ 1)

I would just rake it off and away.
Fresh wood chips are no more than just mulch around trees, shrubs, not in veggies garden. They attract termites, ants, pill bugs, mosquitoes among others. And tie up nutrients if fertilizer is applied on them.

    Bookmark   March 29, 2014 at 12:23AM
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By the way, leaving it in a pile was not an option, since it's in the front of my house and needed to go, some way or another. I can either move it to the back yard or spread it out.

    Bookmark   March 29, 2014 at 10:30AM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

I'd spread it out broadly as a mulch. I put fresh wood chips down every year and it soon disappears into my heavy clay soil, which is improving over the years! No pests, no problem with nitrogen, nothing but positive benefits.

    Bookmark   March 30, 2014 at 6:04PM
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