Clay with 4-5 inches of wood chips on top

nostalgicfarm(5)May 1, 2011

Last year my husband secured a bunch of free wood chips. They were spread over the garden about 6-12 inches thick. They are now about 4-5 inches thick. I am getting very discouraged when I pull them back to plant in the CLAY soil that had previously been ammended with compost. Because of the wood chips, the clay is very wet, so if I try to till or turn the soil, I'm just dealing with clumps. I can't spend any more money on my garden this year, and was really hoping for a productive veggie garden.

Should I just plant in the mulch?

Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Yes, It is awesome
Thank Your Husband, He is a wonderful man (despite what you were thinking about him ;-)
Pull back the mulch and plant your seedlings, you will have the best crop ever.

    Bookmark   May 1, 2011 at 8:16PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Yes, my husband is pretty awesome...he is also the one who built me my very large garden fence/arbor ;)
My current plan is pulling the mulch back (and higher than my planting ground) and planting in the clay valleys. Oh, but that clay...I am so worried I will have such a wimpy garden this year. The garden was built 2 years ago (when tomatoes in the midwest were hard to grow by everyone it seemed) and I striked out on most baby(# 3) last garden then...
I can see this mid-summer garden overflowing with veggies and beautiful mulch pathways...

Do I need to wait a few days after pulling back the mulch before digging/tilling/planting? Right now, the soil is so moist when I pull back the mulch that is I push a shovel in, I get 1 clump out, and it doesn't break on its own?
I know that we are on the path to a great garden, but feeling a little anxious this year! Awesome garden by the way!

    Bookmark   May 1, 2011 at 9:06PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I wouldn't, when it's time to plant,pull it back and plant away.... would be nice ;-)
We all want to learn.... whether it works or not ;-)

    Bookmark   May 1, 2011 at 9:25PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Nostalgic, Tilling and turning soil over is no longer recommended for any type of soil because it destroys the structure and ecosystems. The more you work with clay, the worse it gets. If it is wet, don't even touch it. And never walk on the soil... if you cannot reach across the bed, lay a plank on the soil to step on.

For planting, rake the wood chips aside so the soil can dry out. Once it is dry, gently use your trowel to make shallow furrows. Mix some good compost with the soil from the furrows and plant your seeds in this mix. Then push the wood chips back, leaving a couple inches of clear space directly around the seed rows.

Next fall, rake any remaining chips aside. Put down an inch of good compost, and top the bed with the wood chips, straw or shredded dry leaves. By next year, your soil should start to improve. Follow this routine from now on for continued improvement.

Happy gardening!

    Bookmark   May 1, 2011 at 10:36PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

What would be the recommendation in clay for strawberries?
Also, if I were to go spend $50 in "stuff," what would be the best thing to get that $ stretched the farthest? Would it be best to get some coir, peat moss, bagged soil, etc to plant at least in the holes before I add my plants?
I also have some lovely chicken manure mixed with straw in the coop. I can't really mix this into the clay nicely with the straw, but I did put some down with some soil on top of that were I planted pea seeds. They are coming up now and look good. If only my inside seed-started plants looked nice...I stuck them outside for a while the otherday, and they are all severely windblown...guess I forgot to run a fan on them inside this year!

    Bookmark   May 3, 2011 at 8:57AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL(8B AL)

I have been in your shoes (and garden) before. Don't hate me but I would love to have more clay in my soil here in AL, it's so sandy and always seems parched.

Anyway, years ago I bought a house (in OH) and wanted half the back yard to be a garden. As usual in a housing development, the top soil was gone, the "dirt" was pure clay. I had a professional spray everything on 1 side to kill it, then had a whole dumptruck of mulch delivered, it made a layer about 6" thick. I started planting flowers and a few veggies right away, amending the holes I dug with compost. That first year most things grew well. The next year when I would move the mulch back to dig a hole, there was an amazing difference, and tons of worms had appeared. I'm a firm believer that good drainage can be mostly attributed to worms. The following year, the mulch was mostly decomposed and more was needed, the soil was much more crumbly and dark, sooo much more well-drained. It just takes time, and you've already waited, so I also say go for it!

If it were my $50, I would spend it all on compost to amend individual holes or rows. No need to try to mix it in, just backfill your holes with it, or put along your rows. I agree with your use of the manure/straw on top, don't try to mix it in. Naturally, that stuff would be on top of the soil anyway. The worms, microbes, and rain will redistribute these materials in nature's intended ways. I think most types of raw manure have too much something (nitrogen?) to be helpful below the surface. It sounds like you have a rural-type yard where I would imagine you have plenty of room to make a nice BIG compost pile. If you can make enough of your own, that should solve your clay/drainage problem over time.

Also wanted to say that since you've got too much moisture, you might do better at least this year with little hills instead of furrows.

This fall, put all of your leaves on your beds. When I lived in OH, I would put up to 15" of leaves on beds and they would be gone by spring. Most of the time I didn't have as much leaves as I wanted from my own yard, but so many people gather this valuable resource from their yard and bag it up for you for free, and even set it by the curb for easy pick-up.

    Bookmark   May 3, 2011 at 10:11AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

The depth of so much mulch is surely adding to the wetness that hides under it. I think if you do some research into the act of mulching you will find that 2" is quite satisfactory for wood mulch.
It should definitely be pulled back in early spring to allow the soil to dry out some. One intention of mulch is to conserve moisture ..."when its necessary" and leaving it over damp ground in March/April is not doing the ground any good. Better to pull it back, let the ground dry, then put it back with fresh additions later on when ground appreciates it.
With 4" of cover, I would think, where vegetables are concerned, the invitation to insects would be heightened.
Earwigs, looking for dampness, would be, I think, one of the uninvited guests that would surely appreciate the gardeners' kindness.

    Bookmark   May 3, 2011 at 11:32AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

purpleinopp-thanks for your experiences. I did go to the store with the intention of getting some bagged soil and compost. I was rather concerned about dumping just compost in the whole, as I have no idea if it is actually composted. The bagged soils are all 50% peat moss, so I just got some peat moss, compost, and top soil. I also have a pile of sand at home that isn't as course as it should be...but I have it here. I made up a mixture of soil out of these. I dug about 2-3 shovelfuls of clay out of my planting holes, scraped the sides of the wholes, and added my soil mixture. I may regret this for this year, but I think over the course of a year, the worms will distribute everything, and make the overall garden area better.

I should say that my garden space is 40*60 feet, so even a 2 inch layer of compost throughout is a lot! I don't have any raised beds yet, so no defined planting spaces. I don't know if the plants will go in the same holes next year as I am still trying to visualize where everything should go in the garden?

Goren-I can see how that much mulch could be a bad thing also. I primarily wanted it for weed control. I have 3 little kids, 2 of which are helpful pulling weeds, but have so much other work to do that I CAN'T keep up with the weeds in a larger garden without the mulch. There are a LOT of frogs hidden in the mulch, so maybe they will eat a lot of my bad bugs?

2 years ago, my husband did provide me with many grass clippings for my garden, so those have since improved my clay. This year he got a zero-turn mower, which is great for reducing the mowing job here, but it doesn't have a bagger :( So far, we are keeping the other mower which has a bagger, but it will be used very little. He is even talking about taking the mower deck off it so I can use it like a tractor (keeping the mower blades on is NOT an option for something that will be used with the kids in the yard.) Maybe I can have him put the mower deck on in the fall (assuming we do keep it) when the leaves are out, and I can mow then for composting leaves.

    Bookmark   May 4, 2011 at 8:48AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
lisascenic Urban Gardener, Oakland CA

Froggies! How wonderful!

    Bookmark   May 7, 2011 at 12:10PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

The newest way to use wood chips is to use ramial wood chips...
do a study using this country upped tomato production by 1000%, sounds amazing....will be trying this method soon....the dirtdoctor has a good article on this method...use only live tender branches, brush etc, small, less than 3 inches or so...old branches and dead wood etc does not contain what ramial wood chips does....apply in fall, 2 or 3 in and its okay to plant in next spring...also loads up soil with mycorrhiza fungus, which will give you amazing results...the indian

    Bookmark   August 15, 2014 at 7:05AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

on ramial wood chips, wait until leaves turn brown and start falling, do not use green leaves in this method...the indian

    Bookmark   August 15, 2014 at 7:08AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Using wood chips, logs, etc. to build up soils has been known for well over one hundred years. The paper I found that Garret posted is around 20 years old, and has material I have known about since the 1960's and has been available long before that.
The original poster, some three years back, had a common problem, mulch causing clay soils to retain too much moisture, most likely because the clay had not been properly amended to correct clays most common problem, drainage.
Get enough organic matter into the clay and then mulch.

This post was edited by kimmsr on Sat, Aug 16, 14 at 6:49

    Bookmark   August 15, 2014 at 7:26AM
Sign Up to comment
More Discussions
Planting in area covered with "playground" wood chips
I need some advice... I recently had a small playhouse...
Questions about gritty mix
Hi folks, I am a long time gardener but new to the...
hsw (zone 6, Boston area)
soil testing question
I posted this in the tropical fruits forum but I'm...
rescuing a defunct flower bed
We bought our house a year ago and now want to replant...
Need advice on watering succulents with new soil
I recently began using soil-less soil, as has been...
Sponsored Products
Hand-hooked Lynndyl Indoor/Outdoor Medallion Rug (5' x 8')
Alfa Pizza and Brace Pizza Oven
Galeana Three-Light Chandelier
$347.80 | Bellacor
Set of White Porcelain Foo Dogs
$199.00 | FRONTGATE
Fish Candleholder
$16.99 | zulily
Delancey Desert Clay Four-Light Fluorescent Pendant with Satin Nickel Canopy
$614.40 | Bellacor
People viewed this after searching for:
© 2015 Houzz Inc. Houzz® The new way to design your home™