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MAYTime Composting News

February, 2015

Wood Chips – a Garden Miracle?

This past year, friends sent me two videos that advocate creating a garden using ONLY a thick layer of wood chips. One video is called “Back To Eden” (http://www.backtoedenfilm.com/), and the other bears the ponderous title,  “Supersize Your Vegetables With Wood Chips & Rock Dust In Your Garden” (This one can be found on Youtube).

Both videos are very interesting, and worth watching. Both the landowners started with very marginal soil. Both added LOTS of wood chips.  Both had miraculous gardens, with amazing results. AND…

Both videos can be VERY misleading.  Watch and listen to them with care and attention.

In “Back to Eden”, the narrator keeps talking about wood chips, wood chips, and wood chips, as if that’s all you need. If you watch and listen carefully, however, you will note that he also brought in MASSIVE amounts of manure and compost – sources of nitrogen, which is not plentiful in wood chips. In the last part of this video (make sure and watch it all the way through!), one of the Back to Eden followers talks about the massive failure they had when they used JUST wood chips. After they brought in manures and compost as well, they started having success.

The “SuperSize…” video can be equally misleading. For eight minutes, the narrator keeps repeating “grown in woodchips” “planted right in woodchips” etc. Finally, nine minutes in, he shows you that the plants are actually planted in the SOIL BENEATH the woodchips, and says THREE TIMES, “DON’T mix chips into the soil or they will suck out nitrogen”. Oh, and by the way, it took three to five years for the chips to break down and start making nice soil. Nothing said about how things grew for the first few years.

The “SuperSize” gardeners also inoculated the wood chips with significant amounts of mushroom spores to speed the breakdown. I must admit, however, that some vegetables in this second garden WERE planted in VERY well decayed soil made by the breakdown of woodchips. And doing great.

It is true that in both cases, gardens covered with a thick layer of wood chips produced AMAZING results - something I would NOT have expected. Until I saw these videos, I would have steered people away from using wood chips as a garden mulch. Conventional wisdom has long said that wood chips will tie up Nitrogen in the soil as they decay.

Now I am very open to the idea, and I believe the processes that happen in the soil are far more complex than we realize. I hope to explore this topic – especially the role of fungal activity in soil – in other newsletters this year.

Good gardening to you this year!


A Fungal Preview

I couldn't resist sharing one tidbit I learned about the beneficial activity of fungi in the soil.  Some years back, scientists found a grove of Hemlock trees growing under the dense canopy of old-growth forest in the Northwest. They found this odd, and calculated – and demonstrated – that there was not enough sunlight available there for the Hemlock trees to do photosynthesis, and therefore they could not survive there. Yet they did. Through the use of radioisotope marking, they discovered that hardwood trees hundreds of feet away (in a sunnier area) were sending nutrients into the underground network of fungal mycelia, and these nutrients were being carried to the hemlock grove, and keeping it alive. (Reported by Paul Stamets in a video called “The Future is Fungi – How to Save the Planet” (On Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cwLviP7KaAc)).

 


2015 Pricing

Last year I announce that compost prices would go up in 2015. NOT SO!

Thanks to lower fuel prices, I have been able to hold the line on pricing, so compost is still $65 per yard. Topsoil Mix (with 50% compost) is $60 per yard.

 


Worm Composting for the Home and Small Farm

Saturday March 14, 1:00 - 4:00 pm.

Learn everything you need to know about composting with redworms at home – or on your farm. Turn your “waste” into a valuable garden resource. Worm Composting is especially useful for kitchen scraps.
 
This is a “Hands-On” Workshop: You will assemble and take home a  complete worm composting setup including  worms.
 
Topics We Will Cover…

  • Care and Feeding of Redworms
  • Bedding Materials
  • Temperature, Moisture, and Other Environmental Factors
  • Potential Problems, and Remedies
  • Alternate Worm Bin Designs and Methods
  • Harvesting Castings – and Worms
  • Using Castings for your House Plants and Your Gardens
  • Research on Worm Compost Benefits

 
Fee is $45. Workshop is limited to 10 participants. Sign up by emailing mark@maytimecomposting.com, or call 828-231-9352.



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Past Newsletters:

September, 2014

May, 2014

January, 2014

November, 2013

October, 2013

August, 2013

Between 60 and 80% of everything we send to landfills is compostable.
When this material decays, it produces methane - a greenhouse gas.
You can help change this. Join the Composting Circle.

 

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