Planting in Woodchips

As I mentioned previously, I received 2 dumptruck loads of free wood chips from a company that was trimming trees around my neighborhod. I spread those chips in the new raised annual beds. That was in December, and now that it is January I figure if I want to plant in March I will have to amend the chips heavily with nitrogen to speed the decomposition process.

As an experiment I have been adding approximately two 5 gallon buckets of kitchen scraps and one 5 gallon bucket of urine soaked wood chips to one 4×4 area weekly for the past month, in another 4×4 area I added 2.75 lbs of bloodmeal about 2 weeks ago, in another 4×4 area I added 7 40 lb bags of composted manure (the type you buy at Home Depot for about $1.50), and in another 4×4 area I will be adding pure nitrogen. I covered each area with dry leaves to slow denitrification of the “soil” to the atmosphere.

  I have about 500 sq ft of wood chip beds to convert to soil by March. I will plant in approximately 6 weeks.  This first picture is the kitchen scrap/urine soaked wood chip amended area. The chips under the leaves is nice and moist but still pretty chunky after a few weeks.

The manure amended area is less chunky and more crumbly, but probably because the manure itself is crumbly and I added a pretty large volume of it.

Finally the blood meal area seems to be decomposing very rapidly although still chunky. When I pulled back the leaves there was just the faintest curl of steam rising from it.

Anyway, I am considering using pure nitrogen from the garden center since it is cheaper than bloodmeal and essentially the same thing. I am treating the wood chips similarly to the way one would in a strawbale garden, conditioning  it with moisture and fertilizer. The only difference is I will be conditioning over 6 weeks instead of 2. The increased time hopefully offset the increased chunkies of material. The straw breaks down much faster than wood chip I assume. Although these woodchips are breaking down relatively quickly since they were mixed in with lots of leaves and we’ve had lots of rain and warm weather (upper 70s and 80s in midwinter). 

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