Woodchip question


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I need to loosen my soil for next year, currently having some drainage problems and developing a bit of compaction.

Doing some research indicates that I probably don't have enough chunky organic material. It seems like woodchips would be just the ticket and I'm planning on tilling some in after the final harvest.

But, the question is, fresh or composted (mulch) ?I can get either.

2 thoughts, fresh added in fall might be broken down enough by spring

Mulch added in fall might be too broken down by spring.

I'll have to verify if the supplier does any chemical treatment to the mulch but I don't think they do.
 
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Adding organic matter to the soil is a great benefit and there there are many different methods and materials to achieve this.
Here is what I might do.

In fall I would gather leaves and other free sources of organic matter. I would surface mulch the vegetable bed but I might save my labor by not turning it under. In Spring, before planting I would add additional organic matter: compost is ideal, but manure, coffee grounds, commercial soil amendment made from bark and wood fines, and other uncomposted material is also be beneficial as long as it is doesn't overwhelm the the humic and mineral components of the soil. In a warm humid weather it will soon breakdown in place. Now turn it all into your beds and plant. I would also surface mulch with fine bark or something similar, keeping it thin when adjacent to plant stems.
 
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I do leaves in fall and grass clippings in spring, both get tilled in before planting. But, both break down into smaller particles fairly quickly and I think that's contributing to my situation. I had done manure prior but had the same result.

I seem to have rich soil, but not loamy. That's why I'm thinking about woodchips, they don't pack down as easily.
 
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I don't know how true it is but the wisdom used to be that the bacteria breaking down raw wood chips would leave you short of nitrogen, and I wouldn't expect the mulch version to break down that quickly. I have heavy clay soil and burning the clay, then breaking it up produces something much better than sand for helping drainage, it sinters which leaves tiny spaces in it. I will sometimes spread half rotted compost over a piece of ground and leave it for a good while before raking it off and using the ground, it suppresses weeds and leaves behind a good bit of rotted organic stuff which worms will pull down creating pockets. Try and make sure you work from the edges as much as possible, any walking on it doesn't help. A good plank or similar to spread the weight when you do have to go on it to do things like planting out is a good idea. Some things like it a bit firm mind, do you get good parsnips?

PS, tilling in with a rotary tiller can create a compacted layer where the blade goes flat across the bottom of the trench, bad for drainage. Turning it with an old fashioned fork is good exercise if you don't try and lift too much in one go, and it uses no petrol, no carbon footprint, and does not leave you with ringing ears at the end of the day.
 
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Funny you mentioned Clay soil, that's what I started with. I've added sand and manure for years which helped tremendously but, I still have what seems to be a compaction problem. I don't mean just in my footpaths which is expected. Normally I mound up my soil in rows for planting and scrape down to clay for walking, but even so, my soil still packs down just from rain.

Your comments about fresh chips vs mulch is more along the lines of the information I'm after. So you think mulch would be the better way to go and that it won't break down too much over winter?
 
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You gotta be very careful when adding sand to clay soil, because it can actually worsen the soil by making it more dense. I've never worked with clay soil, but have watched a bunch of videos out of curiosity.

 
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Your comments about fresh chips vs mulch is more along the lines of the information I'm after. So you think mulch would be the better way to go and that it won't break down too much over winter?
Decomposition will greatly slow down in Winter but it won't completely stop. If you have organic matter you can put it in on the soil at anytime, but if you are going to buy organic matter, I would wait until Spring.

Organic matter is always decomposing in soil. The amount that remains year-to-year (without addition) is dependent on climate and vegetation. Basically we add more organic matter to give our gardens a boost, especially during the growing season. While the added organic matter is still present, it will improve drainage in heavy soil, water retention in light soil, and will feed the microbiota in all soils. Even after most of the added organic matter has turned into CO2, there will still be a nutrient remnant that will enrich the soil.

Organic mulches will also eventually work into the soil, but while on the surface they will help conserve water, prevent erosion, and suppress weeds. This is one of several reasons I'm against plastic weed cloth. It acts as barrier preventing organic mulch from being fully incorporated into the soil below. By the way, the word 'mulch' does not refer any particular material, it refers to covering the soil surface with any such material, be it wood chips, bark, leaf mold, rocks, pebbles, etc.

Adding organic matter year after year will slowly improve our soils, but erosion, crop harvesting, and other removal of plant matter will work against this. That is why it is great to compost on-site as much garden waste as one can. It is best to do this before buying it by the bagful or truck load, though of course, most avid gardeners will do both sooner or later.

I know, this a long post, and you may already know much of this, but I thought it would be helpful to set it down for other readers as well.
 
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I agree with you Roadrunner, sand is heavy, hard stuff. It is broken up fine, but in the first place it was melted to liquid rock, poor quality glass if you like. When clay sinters the whole thing does not melt, but the ends melt enough to fuse a little bit, so it is not solid.

Two things to look for, if you take a pot of soil and pour excess water into the top; firstly how long does the excess take to drain out of the bottom; secondly how much is retained, or how small is the excess if you like. Clay will work terribly in both ways, less is retained, but it takes a heck of a long time to work its way through. Leaf mould is the other end of the scale, it holds lots of water, but what it can't hold drains out quickly. Was a time when we would have said "Add peat, it is leaf mould really", but that is not very PC now peat bogs are a vanishing resource, but you can gather as many leaves as possible in Autumn (Fall), stick them in black plastic bags (not too dry) and leave piled up somewhere sunny so they get nice and warm. It takes a year minimum, two is better, but once you have the thing going it is a rolling process with some coming out every year, and it's free if you can blag the bags.
 
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... By the way, the word 'mulch' does not refer any particular material, it refers to covering the soil surface with any such material, be it wood chips, bark, leaf mold, rocks, pebbles, etc...
Marck brings up a good point. Much of my mulch when I started gardening simply came from collecting bags of leaves from around the neighborhood, from people that put them out for city pick-up (people don't know the good stuff they're throwing away).

I still do this, but I don't have to do it as much, since I grow so many plants, that I chop and drop them as a mulch, AKA Biomass. I even allow some weedy trees to grow, so I can chop and drop, a good example of this is the highly invasive Chinaberry tree, which I find growing all over the place, because the birds crap the seeds all over.

I've also found that my soils are extremely healthy, because I'm basically filling the void of having no herbivores in my yard, so my chopping down of excess foliage removes excess stress on my soils (by sucking up too much water/nutrients) and at the same time feeds the soils with the biomass.

P.S. When pick up yard waste I stay away from heavily manicured lawns, since I don't know what x-icides were used and I also stay away from trashy yards/neighborhoods...unless you want to throw away others trash that will be mixed in with their yard waste.
 
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I have a friend who leaves dandelions at the edge of his veg. plot. He chops the leaves off every time he hoes, but the tap root stays there pulling nutrients up from the lower levels.
Yes I agree, properly managing ones 'volunteer seedlings' has many benefits. Eradicating them all as weeds is a mistake. Such plants add biomass, as well as food & habitat for pollinators and other insects, the majority being beneficial. Their roots not only draw up nutrients, but also loosen heavy soils and enrich sandy ones. Most add beauty as well, call them semi-wild flowers.

Of course, there are some that are much more trouble than they are worth, and even the good ones are better when their fecundity is somewhat reduced. In other words, Planned Planthood.
 
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I need to loosen my soil for next year, currently having some drainage problems and developing a bit of compaction.

Doing some research indicates that I probably don't have enough chunky organic material. It seems like woodchips would be just the ticket and I'm planning on tilling some in after the final harvest.

But, the question is, fresh or composted (mulch) ?I can get either.

2 thoughts, fresh added in fall might be broken down enough by spring

Mulch added in fall might be too broken down by spring.

I'll have to verify if the supplier does any chemical treatment to the mulch but I don't think they do.
 
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Yes I agree, properly managing ones 'volunteer seedlings' has many benefits. Eradicating them all as weeds is a mistake. Such plants add biomass, as well as food & habitat for pollinators and other insects, the majority being beneficial. Their roots not only draw up nutrients, but also loosen heavy soils and enrich sandy ones. Most add beauty as well, call them semi-wild flowers.

Of course, there are some that are much more trouble than they are worth, and even the good ones are better when their fecundity is somewhat reduced. In other words, Planned Planthood.
A slight aside, I was reading about the history of weeds, in Britain most of the country was covered in forest before the humans cut it down for agriculture, which meant that most of the plants that grow as weeds in our gardens were confined to confined to shallow, marginal soils between rock outcrops and forest, we created the conditions in which they could proliferate, before that they were pretty rare wildflowers.
 
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Yes I agree, properly managing ones 'volunteer seedlings' has many benefits. Eradicating them all as weeds is a mistake. Such plants add biomass, as well as food & habitat for pollinators and other insects, the majority being beneficial. Their roots not only draw up nutrients, but also loosen heavy soils and enrich sandy ones. Most add beauty as well, call them semi-wild flowers.

Of course, there are some that are much more trouble than they are worth, and even the good ones are better when their fecundity is somewhat reduced. In other

Watched by this guy how he delt with compaction.
I believe that is called "The Youngback Method".
 
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I noted that the guy with the broadfork took care to step off it to the sides, even though the soil he was he was avoiding stepping on was about to treated for compaction. Give yourself narrow enough beds that you don't have to be on them to work them, and avoid machines like rotorvators, they are quite heavy and you can do most of the jobs they do with hand tools. Last time I used one was when we moved house and the garden was completely overgrown with weeds 120 foot by 40 foot, I rotorvated the lot and sowed with grass which I left for six months while we did the house up, then dug beds out of it by hand.
I have also spread partly rotted compost over a piece of ground I am not going to use for a bit, it keeps it damp, encourages insects and worms and adds quite a bit to the soil, then when I am ready to plant there I simply rake it off and stick it back in the compost heap and the ground is in reasonable condition.
 
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I use a ton of woodchips around my gardens and yard. Woodchips and fall leafs are the work horses in my garden. These are the only reason I have black soil and not beach sand in my garden.

BUT

NEVER rototill woodchips into the soil. This will bind the nitrogen and make it unavailable to plants for 3 to 5 years. If you leave the woodchips or leaf litter on the soil surface it will break down and compost in place and worm and insect activity will carry it around in the soil structure.

I'll do a mic drop and say:
Rototilling is one of the worst things you can do to a garden.
 
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I use a ton of woodchips around my gardens and yard. Woodchips and fall leafs are the work horses in my garden. These are the only reason I have black soil and not beach sand in my garden.

BUT

NEVER rototill woodchips into the soil. This will bind the nitrogen and make it unavailable to plants for 3 to 5 years. If you leave the woodchips or leaf litter on the soil surface it will break down and compost in place and worm and insect activity will carry it around in the soil structure.

I'll do a mic drop and say:
Rototilling is one of the worst things you can do to a garden.
The Woodchip Clan! Yeah is hard to outsmart Mother. That is how she has done it for quite a number of years. The old woman is probably lazy but I tell you there is very little labor in doing it that way.
 

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