Filling containers with wood chips


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I have several raised beds and this year I am also going to plant in 10 gal. and bigger containers and want to know if I can bottom fill with wood chips to save on so much soil and if so about how much. Thanks Dean
 
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Greetings, welcome to the Forums.

Overall, I don't recommend this. Yes, soil can contain uncomposted organic matter, but in a container or even a raised bed there could be unexpected issues with drainage or rot that would be difficult to fix after planting. Instead, fully incorporate fine wood chips (less than half an inch in size) as soil amendment into the planting mix Do this throughout the soil column, but be critical of the resulting soil qualities. Be certain that it will still allow proper levels of both drainage and moisture retention. Also mulch with a thin layer of wood chips on top of the soil.

If you have room for a large compost pile, use wood chips there to create compost for your soil. Calculate the costs. You might save more money by not buying compost, even if you lose some planting space for a compost pile. Also, treat your garden paths as linear, cold compost piles that you can walk. Mulch them thickly with wood chips. There are many areas in a garden to incorporate more wood chips, but the bottom of a planted container or raised bed is not the best option.
 

Meadowlark

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Yes, absolutely you can. Read up on Hugelkultur which is an ancient form of composting that utilizes woody waste as the carbon substrata, to retain soil moisture and soil fertility.

Many people are now successfully using the principles of Hugelkultur in their container gardens.
 
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I disagree. Hugelkultur methods applied to a ten gallon container would be 'iffy' at best. Drainage could be easily compromised and the net space for root development would be curtailed.
 

Meadowlark

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Here's an interesting video on using hugelkultur techniques in container gardening. It's not only interesting but the presenter is "easy" to watch:


Her primary stated purpose was to save money on soil (just like the OP) and use available wastes to be productive. Read some of the comments on the vid, also. Form your own opinion.

Drainage is simply not an issue as she demonstrates.

Just for fun, I'm going to do a little experiment on hugelkultur container gardening this growing season. I'm thinking I'll do two containers one with an identical tomato plant to another in my regular garden and the second container with an identical cucumber plant to another in my regular garden. The weights of produce will be compared at the end of the growing season.

Stay tuned. Results on the way for anyone interested.
 
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I am interested in the consumption of nutrients, esp nitrogen, by the biocomposters in the soil. Specifically I am curious about surface area of wood. I am not a fan of a lot of uncomposted wood in soil, especially trunk wood chips or sawdust of same. There is not a natural process for it and if the soil has insufficient oxygen, another contested nutrient , then the soil will act as a preservative.
 
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I'm going to use some well-aged cypress limbs in my new hugelkulture experiment. I do not expect any problem at all with N2 depletion in the hugelkultur container, none.... just like I don't expect any problem at all with drainage or drainage compromise. My guess, if there is any problem, it will be micronutrient availability due to lack of soil depth in the container.... but that's why it's called an experiment. Both the control plant and the hugelkulture plant will receive identical moisture, identical sun light, and identical environments. Going to be fun...any predictions?

Bottom layer will be short pieces of old cypress limbs, next layer will be composted tree mulch free from the power company, and top layer will be my garden soil exactly like the "control" plant's soil in my garden. They will sit in close proximity through the growing season to insure identical environments. All produce will be weighed, and weights compared at the end.
 
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I've done one similar experiment on somebody's suggestion and it didn't turn out well. Somebody once swore you could grow tomato plants in coffee grounds in a container. I was doubtful but I gave it a try. I actually went down to 50% coffee grounds blended with 50% potting soil. The tomato seeds germinated but they did not grow well and the soil-grounds mixture drained poorly. I recall when I dumped the pot out afterward that soil ball stayed as a solid clump on my compost pile for months afterwards.

As for what was shown in the video. Is there a follow-up video? Even if some tatty grass for nibbling cats did grow in that mess she tossed in the container, one shouldn't consider that as full proof of concept. She even says that she's planting 'cat grass' so she doesn't have to worry about some of the issues she mentions.
 
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Meadowlark

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Not similar at all. Hugelkultur has been used successfully for centuries.

Container gardening is always a risky proposition compared to in ground culture.... but the OP asked about it and although I haven't tried it, in principle it should work. Thus, the experiment.

Using proven hugelkulture techniques in container garden is a way to possibly lower those inherent risks ...at least that is what I want to find out for myself, not from someone who has never tried it.
 
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I'm quite familiar wth Hugelkultur. I'm not certain how familiar you are with containers. Soil in containers drains best as a uniform column, without soil discontinuities. Adding layers of solid objects in a container is not just a discontinuity, it's a likely obstruction.

If you prioritize drainage, container gardening is not 'risky'. If you throw all manner of uncomposted scraps/leaves/cardboard etc. at the bottom of a container, it's a disaster waiting to happen.
 

Meadowlark

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LOL, I will find out for myself. My hands- on experience with containers is exactly opposite what you say. Adding rocks/gravel to the bottom of containers is something I have done for decades, and it facilitates drainage not obstructs it. With Hugelkultur, I'll be adding old wood to the bottom rather than rocks.

To the Op, my recommendation stands.
 
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Rocks and gravel aren't recommended for the bottom of containers either. A uniform soil column is what you will find in commercial container plants, and there is a reason for that.
 

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Again, my experience does not agree with you, period!
 

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I don't worry about you, believe me. However, I'm so glad you found that quote "lovely".

Now, on to the experiment.
 
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Yeah so I am fired up about overplanting since ukraine and russia are destroying the grain crops market and a loaf of bread will be $10 usd soon. I will be using vermiculite into which I will add this and that, and then tossing it all into 7 gallon grow bags. Even the vermiculite compresses and settles by the end of season.
 

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Yeah so I am fired up about overplanting since ukraine and russia are destroying the grain crops market and a loaf of bread will be $10 usd soon. I will be using vermiculite into which I will add this and that, and then tossing it all into 7 gallon grow bags. Even the vermiculite compresses and settles by the end of season.
I have always had a large garden(my parents had large gardens and their patents lived off the land) and have forever experimented with ways to make it more productive (even though we can't possibly eat everything we grow).

Sometimes I get positive results sometimes not, but I ALWAYS learn from them. Soon I'll be reporting on my alfalfa experiment which I no longer consider an experiment (over 200% improvement in soil N2).

As I'm not as young as I used to be, the prospect of having to give up gardening is one I have always feared. Containers and possibly raised beds have significant interest to me.

Hugelkultur in containers has a lot of good things going for it. If it works, i.e. even produces half of what I could get from an equivalent plant in the ground, it could open up an incredible dimension to me. I could garden as long as I had some even limited mobility and in significantly reduced space (currently ranching 200 acres).

The prospect of having to give up gardening some day is one I have always feared. This experiment will be most interesting to me, notwithstanding the negative predictions. The current crazy state of the World should certainly motivate everyone to learn all they can about growing your own food in whatever space you have and in whatever your physical condition.
 
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I've tried Hugelkultur, but in larger raised beds (4' x 4' x 24"), and it works beautifully. With that said, have not
tried this in smaller containers. Would be interested to know how well this works.
 
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Meadowlark

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I've tried Hugelkultur, but in larger raised beds (4' x 4' x 24"), and it works beautifully. With that said, have not
tried this in smaller containers. Would be interested to know how well this works.
Stay tuned. Thanks.
 

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