BAck to Eden/wood chips vs no mulch experiment results
Back a couple months ago I said I was doing a comparison experiment and asked if folks would be interested in knowing the results, and some folks said yes, so here they are. I apologize for the no photos (which I promised) but it turns out that without an eight year old to help me, I am too tech challenged to post photos.
Potatoes were planted on the same day, using the same method (stick shovel into ground, push shovel back to make a gap, pour liquid fish fertilizer into the gap, put seed potato piece into gap, remove shovel, which allows the soil to fall back into place).
The two places were:
the best soil in my main garden (where the manure pile used to be 3 years ago, so the soil is black and rich) This will be called MG for main garden.
where the tree trimming guys had dumped a pile of wood chips about 4 years ago and they had sat there and rotted down to a thin layer. This will be called BTE after the Back to Eden method, the movie about which got me interested in this in the first place.
The two places get sun all day and the water was equal -- rain only.
Type of potatoes: Yukon Gold
Potato bugs: more on BTE than MG, but very few overall
height of plants: taller in MG than BTE by a few inches.
amount of work: More for MG than BTE (had to hill in MG, but not BTE as per directions from guy in the movie)
ease of harvest: equal
Harvest: drum roll please . . . I'm getting about 1 pound from BTE for every 3/4 pound from the MG
So, even though the plants are a little bigger and fewer bugs in MG, BTE is producing better.
Now, I normally mulch with hay, and didn't do this in MG, and the hills were definitely dry (dryer than the soil under the chips -- no surprise there). Probably a better test would be to mulch in MG as well, the way I normally do.
One other disadvantage -- when I dug the potatoes in the BTE, some of the wood chips fell into the hole. There seems to be consensus on this forum that if you mix wood chips into soil that it robs nitrogen -- so some mixing is inevitable, which I suppose could affect the next year's productivity.
The movie, and discussion of it on here made me curious. I was actually really surprised to find the BTE producing better. But that could have been because of the no mulch. Still, I kind of thought that the BTE wouldn't do much.
I've only dug the smallest plants so far. When I get to the biggest plants, if there are different harvest ratios, I'll let you know.
Results: More research is needed! :) (don't they always say that?)
My personal results: I think if I saw tree trimming guys passing by, I would get wood chips dumped on an area outside of my MG and have fun planting in it. I would not, however, dump wood chips in my MG, since I've done so much to build the soil, and I wouldn't want to risk messing it up by mixing some of the chips in while planting, weeding, harvesting, etc.
Hope this has been interesting.
We now return you to your regular programming.