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Thinking about the pros and cons of wood chip mulching for your annual vegetable garden this year?  Here are 5 things you should know before you start spreading those chips. I’m not much into writing about controversial topics. Honestly, any time I’ve ever even touched on controversial topics of any kind and the response usually unnerves me, robs me of peace, and makes me distracted to the point where I’m not doing my home duties properly. So I steer clear. Easy enough?

You’d think so, but apparently a topic so innocuous as mulch is a hot button topic in the gardening community. Who knew?

Well I do now, that’s for sure! And I can’t help but  press it again.

Despite many glowing (short-term) trial reports after mulching your annual vegetable gardens in wood mulch, many folks are having experiences quite the opposite even though they follow all the rules for wood chip mulching.

And now, while studying up on the subject of permaculture, I’ve learned another tidbit that has added just one more reason to the case I’ve built about why using free wood chip mulch in an annual garden (as is commonly promoted) might not be a good idea. It’s point #5 and it’s pretty important!

Here are 5 things I think you should consider before putting wood mulch on your garden this year:

{Wood Chip Mulch Can Mess With Your Garden Acidity}

Many people who are flagging down tree services don’t know what types of trees are chipped up and needing dumped and some trees are anything but ph neutral. You need to be aware that some mulches can have an adverse affect on soil acidity.  See also: “Do Conifers Make Soil More Acid?


{Long Term Use Of Wood Chip Mulch May Increase The Fungal Dominance In Your Soil Food Web}

What’s the big deal about that? Annual vegetables prefer and do best in bacterially dominated soil. Your vegetables might do really well the first few years, but once that fungal dominance is established, you’ll probably begin to notice a decline.  This is the whole reason I started to rethink mulch gardening in the first place. If you find yourself in this position down the road, the good news is that it’s a pretty simple fix (theoretically, since I’ve never tried it… and theoretically you should have a real decent garden that year too… scraping the uncomposted wood mulch entirely off and tilling the soil should completely reestablish bacterial dominance. But wow, is that a lot of work! )


{Wood Chip Mulch Requires That You Use a LOT of Composted Manure To Balance The C:N Ratio}

In order to offset the high carbon ratio in wood chips, you need what I see as unfathomable amounts of composted manure. Vegetables need to have the delicate balance of their Carbon to Nitrogen ratio (C:N) preserved at 30:1 or lower. Fresh wood chips have over 3 times that much carbon! If you’re putting that much composted manure on your garden anyway, just skip the work of the wood chip mulch altogether (and the composting of the chips to get it even close to a carbon level that is workable). A nice layer of compost will give you big beautiful veggies AND suppress weed growth.

In mulches with a C:N ratio greater than 30:1, not enough nitrogen is present in the mulch to support microbial growth, so microbes scavenge what they need from surrounding soil, outcompeting plants in the process. In mulches with a C:N ratio less than 30:1, the amount of nitrogen in the mulch exceeds microbial requirements, leaving more for plants. –Source


{There Is NO One Sized Fits All Approach To Gardening}

We need to be talking more about micro-climates instead of zones, testing our soils and replacing depleted nutrients to improve the nutrient density of our vegetables. Wood chip mulching is being billed as the solution to your garden problems. But the real problem is that what works for one plot, even short term, might not work on your neighbors garden AT ALL.

You know, it’s ok if someone chooses to garden in a different style than you have chosen. I’ll NEVER attack any particular organic gardening method (Ahem. “Back to Eden”) so much as I’m sharing why we’ve chosen not use wood chip mulch on our garden after I jumped on a bandwagon when I heard about it in the beginning. My goal in sharing is to help those considering wood chip mulching to at least make an educated decision.


{Some Trees Are POISONOUS To Other Plants}

Here’s your new word for the day: Allelopathy

Allelopathy is “the suppression of growth of one plant species by another due to the release of toxic substances” and so unless you are 100% certain what trees are in your wood mulch, you might inadvertently kill your tomatoes. Where we live there are black walnut trees everywhere (I plan on going foraging in the fall) and should the tree trimming service have that in the mix, my tomatoes are toast! 

Black Walnut Toxicity to Plants, Humans and Horses

Sawdust mulch, fresh sawdust or chips from street tree prunings from black walnut are not suggested for plants sensitive to juglone, such as blueberry or other plants that are sensitive to juglone. However, composting of bark for a minimum of six months provides a safe mulch even for plants sensitive to juglone.

Juglone can affect blackberry, blueberry, apple, cabbage, peppers, tomatoes, eggplant, potatoes, & certain cole crops in particular.

A few of the other trees that can have an allelopathic affect on plants include hickory, pine, sassafras, and oak (which is known to discourage herbs & grasses in particular (cover crops anyone?)

Potential Allelopathy in Different Tree Species


Here are some more links you might want to check out:

10 Commandments of Mulch

Berries & Grapes:Bacterial or Fungal? Some perennial plants (and especially orchard trees) LOVE wood mulch. It might surprise you, but I will be using wood mulch on our homestead! Here is some discussion about different fruiting plants and their preferences. There is also some information in that post about which vegetables favor bacterial or fungal soil.

A Peek Into Our Soil Food Web In which I show how our hay mulched garden regressed after only half a year with wood chip mulch. And to be completely honest, I’d take my soil looking like that wood chip mulched section now over the lifeless, heavy clay brick-like soil we’ve got going on at our new home! Repairing this isn’t going to be easy, but I’m up for the challenge and will be doing it with soil amendments, hay mulching, no-tilling, and radish cover cropping.

Toxic mulch: When wood chips go bad

The problem, sometimes referred to as “sour mulch” or “toxic mulch,” occurs when mulch is left in large piles and undergoes anaerobic conditions. This results in the production of acids and other compounds that can volatilize when the mulch is placed in beds, especially during hot weather. These vapors can quickly damage annuals and other sensitive plants.


Here are some gardening resources you might find useful:

The take home message is that if you do decide you want to experiment with wood chip mulch in your annual vegetable garden, know what trees are in the mix; let it break down to compost as far as possible; haul in just as much, if not more, composted manure to use alongside your chips; and respect other gardeners choices if they refrain from joining you.

Thinking about the pros and cons of wood chip mulching for your annual vegetable garden this year?  Here are 5 things you should know before you start spreading those chips.

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  • Scott M Terry

    Great information, Quinn. Keep up what your doing and keep sharing with us!

    • Thanks Scott! 🙂

  • Dr. Jen

    Thank-you for putting this information together. I have been trying to communicate it to others, but you say it so much nicer and even have pictures!

  • Heather R

    I have to comment that while I agree with everything you say, I live in an area that is dry, so I need to mulch heavily to keep the moisture in, and it is so windy that they only mulch that will stay down is wood chips. I tried straw one year, and it blew away in 24 hours. FWIW, I got the wood chips last fall, spread them on my garden bed, and let them sit over the winter to mellow some.

    • MelissaZ

      I wonder if layering would work- put a decent layer of straw or grass down and then a thinner layer of wood mulch on top? The grass/straw would be closer to the plants & maybe the wood wouldn’t have as much of an affect.

      • I’m not sure what the point would be since the hay/straw/grass would have the same impact you’re looking for (weed suppression, moisture retention) without any potentially negative side effects.

        • Marie Noybn

          i think her point was the wood would keep the straw from blowing away in 24 hours re the op’s experience 😉

          • Ok, I see that now. Sometimes I’ll answer comments from a directly on Disqus and I can’t see if the comment is stand alone or part of a thread. So in context now, I sound like a buffoon. Oops. 🙂

            So then my thought about straw and then a little wood chips would be that just about no matter how thick you lay down the straw, it’s still going to decompose faster than the wood chips. So what do you do then? You could scrape them off, reapply the straw and then put the chips back down (that’s an awful lot of work). And if you put more straw on top of the chips, followed by more chips, well even the BTE folks will admit that mixing the wood chips in is bad, bad news. I still think that a thicker top dressing of compost would be a better mulch than wood chips even if it’s on top of straw.

          • Pam Baker

            Mulch and controversy are two words I never would of thought of in the same sentence. Heh.
            A few years ago…five to be exact, I prepared a new veg garden here in southern VT. I had access to free wood chips, actually, sawdust. I knew where the trees came from and put them in my footpaths between rows. Then a neighbor came over and stood looking at my nice neat rows and sawdust paths and proclaimed that I had made a big mistake. He tut-tutted and muttered to himself and shook his head, then wandered off.
            He didn’t have a conversation with me. The next spring I tilled it all in with added compost, leaves and straw. Had two good gardens, that first year and the next. Didn’t add anything after the second year and didn’t have such a good crop the following year. Now I add anything I can reasonably get my hands on. Doing okay so far.
            Have another good blogging friend who experienced the same kind of whiplash you describe. He is The Deliberate Agrarian.
            People can be trolls sometimes.
            Thanks for sharing your expwriences with us.

    • Perhaps try a layer of compost? It wouldn’t blow away, would suppress weeds, and provide fertility.

  • Ami

    Interesting conversation! I’m glad wood chip mulching isn’t definitely the best way to go because it would be very inconvenient. I am blessed to have next door neighbors who delivered horse manure to may garden all winter long. Add to that my newspaper & straw mulch in the spring/tomato garden and grass clippings in the Three Sisters garden and I have a very easy mulching system set up. I’m still ignorant about the tilling debate, and so we till at planting time.
    I’ve learned to garden confidently by intuition, inclination, and inheritance, blaming my tendencies on my grandmothers’ legacies. Wood chip mulching the veggie gardens never fit into that mindset, while I am compelled beyond reason to put down the straw or grass. Does anyone else go by that when gardening? The more I garden by instinct the better my garden does and the more relaxed I am.

  • Brandonjs

    Since I’m already committed to the wood chip method and in the process of dressing the top of the chips with store bought compost manure, would adding blood meal help? What about adding grass clippings on top chips? Thanks!

    • It’s my understanding that burying the wood chips would be detrimental. And that’s straight from the horses mouth so to speak.. if you check out some of my other articles about wood chips in the Mulch Gardening category above and read through the comments they all seem to say that where folks go wrong is by mixing the wood chips in (even though if you read the gardener’s word who had the bad experience she did NOT mix them in). As to the blood meal, you could do some math with your product and figure out how much you’d need to put down to compensate and correct the C:N ratio, but I imagine it would be very cost prohibitive.

    • Bodha

      you should look at the back to eden garden tour video on youtube. I’m not going to say he has all the answers, but it is interesting to see someone gardening with wood mulch. His approach appears to be wood mulch every few years and a lot of chicken manure from his chickens tossed on top. One particular aspect that I think makes a big difference is he mulches in the fall. That gives the wood chips several months to break down.

      As for the reasoning for wood chips or leaf mulch its pretty simple. Plants grow in the woods without someone fertilizing them. They get everything they need from leafs, fallen limbs/trees, and from wildlife droppings. I can buy into the logic behind that, but the ratios that trees prefer vs vegetable plants are likely different. If you do go the wood chip route you will likely need strong chicken manure to keep the ratios in balance. I will say the results that I’ve seen from around the web look promising for several reasons (1. no tilling, 2. expensive fertilizers. 3. limited need for watering in many areas).

      If you do watch the garden of eden fellow please keep in mind that he is gardening in Washington state in what is clearly a very rainy area. I suspect that has a big factor in why he gets away with no watering. I also suspect his underlying soil is very good to begin with.

      As others will always point out local conditions usually lead you to the best path. All you really need is a decent mix of Carbon to Nitrogen in the soil, a decent amount of water, warm soil, and decent amounts of sun. What it takes to reach all of those is the challenge. (this coming from a guy who has had a garden on a deck in containers, and a garden in the ground, and grew up helping my dad garden in the corner of a big field).

      • Michael Bæk

        I seem to remember that his soil was compacted clay with rocks to begin with.

  • Shannon

    I’ve seen debate on this all over the web and I find it interesting, if nothing else. Some folks give up after a bad first year. Some folks put all of their eggs in one basket after a tremendous first year. A lot of people on both sides want to tell everyone else why they’re wrong.

    We’re seeing improvements to our soil through wood chip gardening. I don’t know that it’s so necessary for those with decent soil to begin with. In fact, I think folks might be disappointed if they started out with decent soil and don’t see it through for several years.

    We live in a drought area where cattle have overgrazed and we have only subsoil, no topsoil. The wood chip mulch is readily available at a doable price and has shown (slowly) that is aiding our agrarian efforts since we first started using it 2.5 years ago.

    When you’re full-time homesteaders with very little income, I think you should do what you can with what you have and not worry too much about why someone else with completely different circumstances thinks what you’re doing is wrong.

    But then again, this whole discussion could only be controversial in an affluent society such as our own. 🙂

    • I think that’s why I write against wood chip mulch more often than in favor of it (because I am in favor of it in certain applications). I hate the one-sized-fits-all mentality. And without chewing into my precious internet data to watch it again, I can’t recall if the BTE movie touts itself as that or if it’s others using the method doing so. Either way, it’s being said and like you pointed out- do what you can and not worry about what the other folks with different situations are doing. We do need to be paying more attention to our micro-climates and what our own soils needs are. With you being in TX and me in soaking wet & soggy OH, it’s silly to think we could or should ever garden the same. Here our wood chip mulch would be mostly black walnut, white pine, and oak so I’ll be steering clear. But that’s ok, cause all the Amish farmers around here are already giving us funny looks when we talk about hay mulch and no-till gardens anyway so I’m getting it from both sides 😉

      • Marie Noybn

        Oh see, THAT is helpful to know. i found your blog and have been reading through it, wondering where you are and if your situation applies to me, (cause reading an about page would be too much like work LOL) then i see this little tidbit and im like, Whoop, there it is!! Girl is from soaking wet and soggy OH, aka MY ToWN lol. (i dont know why the shift key on my brand new computer is messing up, pPout;;

  • Ashley

    Darn! I just laid down wood chips yesterday to help keep my soil moist and save it from getting pounded with each heavy rain. I won’t till it in, now that I know, at the end of the season, but I’ll scrap it up and reuse it in my flower gardens. Thanks for the info!

    • Jaime Thiessen

      Am I correct that tree mulch should never be tilled in anyway?

  • lori

    Where did you get your stats that state you have to add enormous amounts of manure to offset the woodchips? Woodchips that are not worked into the soil, but stay ON TOP of the soil don’t throw off the numbers like you stated above. If you are digging chips and sawdust into the actual soil then yes, they would take your nitrogen but just sitting on top of the soil does not.

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  • The Snarky Gardener

    Interesting. I hadn’t heard of the wood mulch method before. I’m more of a leaf mulch, no till except with a Broadfork type of gardener here in Ohio. One more thing to think about – some trees have been sprayed with weed killers that don’t break down well (like Imprelis). You are always taking a chance when using outside resources.

    • Good point! Thanks for sharing!!

    • Michael Bæk

      Diseases from the chipped trees could be an issue too.

  • 4everHIS

    Question: I am currently using the BTE method and honestly, I really like it. We used some very “well seasoned” mulch last year and plan to do the same this year. Could the age of the mulch have anything to do with how well it acclimates to the garden soil? By the time we used our mulch I would say that it was a good 2+ years old. Even your excerpt about the Black Walnut mulch said that it would be safe after 6 months. Don’t get me wrong, I am perfectly okay with the fact that the BTE system doesn’t work for everyone and am not trying to be controversial at all (I don’t like controversy either:)) I am just curious if the age of the mulch is something to be aware of when putting it on my little plot. Was the mulch that you used well aged?

    • It’s possible that having well aged mulch might be a better starting point. I never actually grew a BTE garden. I prepared one and then moved before planting it and in the interim between gardening again did enough research to discourage me from wanting to go through the extra work of laying it down (cause hay mulch is a TON easier both to move and to find for free) and then run the risk of it not working and having to take it all back off. We do use wood chips to mulch other things like perennial plants and fruit trees.

    • Michael Bæk

      Paul Gautschi, the guy from the Back to Eden film, lets his wood chips age before applying them to his garden.

      He also says that any kind of mulch will do. In my climate zone (Denmark, Scandinavia) I think the key is to let the material compost for a year before I use it. The required aging period probably depends on your climate zone.

  • wbliss

    I can tell this author is an idealist anti chemical fertilizer such as Miracle grow and any kind of technology such as GMO kind of guy. I have an awesome garden which I never till, the worms absolutely love it under my layer of wood chips, and I never have to weed. It is the lazy mans garden. If I have to toil hour after hour and day after day I might as well buy it at the grocery store. The worm population is huge. Their droppings are fertilizer. If I saw a plant looking a little pale I would fertilizer but this has been rare. I get more veggies than my family can eat so I let the neighbors pick. I do not have an overpopulation of fungus, again I have worms chewing and churning it all up underneath. I have a nice layer of very black rich soil developing underneath. It stays moist for much longer periods of time during dry spells. Ever been to a woods? As the wood chips get thin, due to composting and worm action, I lay down a layer of cheap brown paper and then put a new layer of wood chips on top. The paper keeps the occasional hardy weed from poking up through. No I am not a stupid guy with no education. I have a BSSED in Biology with a Chemistry supporting. I presently develop human diagnostic tests.

    • Loreen

      How do you keep bugs out of the wood mulch? If I don’t keep the wood chips, shavings and debris picked up it gets full of earwigs. We don’t use any chemicals in our yard (except those left by critters) and saucers with beer for slugs.

  • Rhonie Briley

    Quinn, after reading your article here, I do not understand why you are so against using wood chips? I see many of your readers are doing exactly what was explained in the “Back to Eden” film – even though they fail to realize it. Paul Gautschi explains many times in his videos, and actually you see in his later ones, that he does not use wood chips in his high yielding beds. Matter of fact he uses nothing more than compost on them. However, these gardens were started with wood chips. He further explains that you can use any ground covering that is available to you in your area that is abundant. You cannot deny his success, and seeing other growers, even in your comment section, that his way works. Maybe I can explain his method of gardening to all of you in simple terms that you all can understand.
    Go out to your yard, cover a space in your garden area with a piece of wood, before you start it for the season. Check underneath that piece of wood, a week, or up to a month later. When you pick it up you will see nice, moist black soil in abundance along with a lot of worms. In many, if not most areas, you will be able to dig that soil with your hands. Now plant a vegetable in that soil, and cover it with any porous natural material. – You have just planted a “Back to Eden Garden” in your garden. It is that simple!
    The sole reason for using wood chips is that they appear to be the best to keep a sustainable garden with because you are keeping the soil moist and retaining the natural nutrients in the soil, while at the same time adding more nutrients for your plants. At the end of the growing season, you just place more wood chips on top of your garden, and next year you do not have to till or disrupt the soil, you pull them back and plant under them. After 5 years or so doing this, nothing more than compost is needed to keep your garden growing.
    Now in closing the truth is that are doing nothing more than starting a flat compost pile to grow your plants in. When you till the soil, all you are doing is throwing your soil up in the air which in turn means you have to replace the nutrients in the soil to keep your plants growing. If you want to get really technical, in which you don’t need to, you can adjust the ph of your garden or farm with what is added to the compost.
    Another thing very important to mention Paul tells you in his films and videos. — Do not use compost from animal waste from animals fed with GMO feeds.

    • Two comments on an old post within the hour. Clearly a wood-chip-mulch lover shared my post again 🙂

      Let me point out that I am an AVID mulch gardener. I was mulch gardening before BTE so I’m thoroughly acquainted with the myriad of benefits. I’m not at all against using wood chips either. I just got 5 loads delivered this fall and plan to use them in my orchards, perennial beds, and bramble berries. I DO have some legitimate concerns about using wood chip mulch in *annual* vegetable gardens. (http://www.reformationacres.com/2013/03/rethinking-mulch-gardening.html)

      I’ve got no bone to pick with Paul either, though since so many of his fans are sharing that he actually doesn’t use wood chips in his garden anymore I think his feature video (*the* BTE video not youtube) should be updated to reflect that for the sake of complete honest disclosure. I don’t know if it’s here or in another post or in comments somewhere, but I do say that I believe compost to be the most ideal mulch, just like Paul has discovered for himself.

      If it is only mulching & not wood chip mulching that he promotes then his idea is no new thing under the sun. Ruth Stout was deep mulching her garden’s in the 70’s but doesn’t get the credit for the concept in any BTE circles. (Technically, she was more back to Eden since she liked to do her gardening in the nude 😉 )

      As to why so many of my “readers” have found this method to be so successful is that they aren’t really my readers. Like you, they’ll probably never come back again. For some reason, BTE followers are very devoted, defend the method passionately, and are the only ones to share their experiences. Hay mulch gardeners are more live & let live and don’t seem to care so much about which method another gardener uses. Frankly, I only shared this and my other wood chip posts because I said I was going to use the method and wanted to be honest about why I decided to go a different, time-tested, proven route.

      I apologize that my post has upset you. Garden blessings to you, Quinn

      • Rhonie Briley

        No, your post did not upset me at all. No apology needed or warranted. I see so many people gardening with poor results after spending a lot of money on them. At the same time, many do not garden because they way over complicate it or believe it takes too much time and money to do so to make it worthwhile.
        Yes, I also know that Paul no longer uses wood chips, but at the same time, is years progress, I think it may be essential for it to be done again at some time.
        Now in saying the above, the wood chips are nothing more than laying a piece of wood on the ground to hold in the moisture to protect the underlying soil, while providing nutrients while they decay.
        What I am trying to convey is not to scare people away from growing their own food, when people should be encouraged to do so. This is the reason (IMO) that BTE followers are so devoted and lash out at people trying to over complicate something that is easy and cheap to do.
        My intentions are not to disagree or criticize your opinions. I just want to make clear what I feel BTE is trying to convey.
        I think a reasonable thinking person will agree, that most likely they will not get is good results that BTE shows, but at the same time, they will be able to grow enough food using the BTE method that they will produce enough food to sustain them and their family. I will also say this, that most will be more than satisfied with the results.

      • Sunshine2

        He still uses wood chips, but only when needed, which is almost never now as his soil holds water and is very aerated, so he only needs to add chicken compost. Just note that he has lots of wood chips at the bottom of his chicken run anyway and the resulting compost is what he adds.

        Also for clarity, as I am not quite sure how familiar you really are with the movie, all Paul really says is that the earth needs to be covered. He started with leaves, but the blew away. He finally settled on wood chips because he liked how it absorbed the water and released it slowly and didn’t blow away. Over time he realized that the wood chips resulted in soil that held water very well.

        He really is a very unassuming and giving man that just shared the exceptional results he got with the world. He is inspiring a great many people that it is not hard to start their own successful gardens which is a really good thing, isn’t it?

        To me, the proof of the pudding is in the eating. I look at his fruit and veggies and hear how delicious every single person say it is and I don’t need anything else.

  • Jenny

    What if you WANT the fungus? I inoculate my wood chips with mushroom spawn as a way of increasing diversity. I don’t do this in all of the beds, but some (mainly perennial beds). Do you have any info/ comments on that? And what, specifically does the excess fungus do that is detrimental? I am curious because right now mycoremdiation is a very hot trend. I recently heard Trapped Vitter, the author of Organic Mushroom Farming and Mycoremediation speak and it was fascinating. I am curious if perhaps mushroom farming in wood chip mulch is ok for perennial beds. Thanks for any insights. 🙂

    • It sounds like you are totally on the right track Jenny. I DO want fungus too! I want fungus on my raspberries, I want fungus in my orchard, I want fungus in my perennial beds. I DON’T want fungus in large quantities in my annual vegetable garden. Annual vegetables thrive best in a bacterially dominated soil. Fungus isn’t the enemy, there’s going to be some, especially in the no-till garden, you just want the balance to be in favor of the bacteria. I wrote about the scientific & natural, creation-based reasons why here: http://www.reformationacres.com/2013/03/rethinking-mulch-gardening.html and here: http://www.reformationacres.com/2013/09/berries-grapes-bacterial-or-fungal.html
      Take care & have fun growing mushrooms! That sounds so exciting, I’d love to try it some time! 😀

  • JohnnyBowe

    For what it’s worth? Through the winter I empty the ash from the wood stove and strow it over the garden plots. In very late winter/early spring I spread the manure from my chickens (usually about a dozen) over the plots (1,500 sq ft?) As soon as the ground is workable I till it all in and, after planting, I mulch with a heavy layer of wood chips. Only hard wood! Beautiful garden, earthworms galore and, if I can brag, the local Master Gardener folks toured my gardens and asked for advice. 🙂

  • Grapplingvine

    I’m about 2 years into using the BTE gardening method. I’ve put wood chips in my veggie garden and in all of my ornamental planting beds. The wood chips do reduce the need for watering, they are a free/cheap source of mulch, and they make weeding easier. But I’m not very happy with the abundance of mushrooms/fungi I am seeing in the wood chips.

    Last year there were only a few mushrooms, but this year they’re everywhere. So I’m going to rake some the chips off of my ornamental beds (which will be several yards worth of material) and replace it with shredded bark mulch instead. I’ll probably leave the wood chips in the veggie garden area for now.

    According to Penn State University, artillery fungus (aka: spore launchers) can grow in wood chips and a way to suppress it is to mix your mulch (chips) with 40% mushroom compost. So I might try that. If that works, I’d like to inoculate the mulch with wine cap (or other edible) mushroom spores so that if I have to have mushrooms, at least they will be edible.

    I’d be surprised if Paul Gautschi (father of BTE gardening method) has had to deal with the problem of fungus in his wood chips. He lives in Sequim, WA which is in the rain shadow of the Hoh Rain Forest, so they only receive about 16 inches of rainfall a year there (similar to what Los Angeles receives).

  • Heidi_Heidelberg

    Could I ask a question? You seem so knowledgeable and I am new to plants. I have found myself in a predicament where I’m being forced to plant some pre-purchased bushes in 100 degree heat in the middle of summer. About the dirt… everyone in my area recommends cotton bur – I read somewhere it’s 1-0-1 … I’ve read nitrogen increases growth and water needs. I will be watering a lot but I wonder .. will this nitrogen be too strong with heat like this? Here’s another question… I’m having trouble finding compost. I would prefer a compost that’s without wood but all I can find is compost with wood in it. Would it be better for me to plant the bushes with just a mix of peat moss instead of wooden compost? I was able to find a good deal on a horse manure/compost mix with leaves and wood from a farm, but, I understand horse manure is low in nitrogen -(nitrogen -.7) and I’m worried that the wood will take the remainder. So, would it be better to just mix with peat moss? And should I be worried about the nitrogen in manure or cotton bur with this kind of heat? Any suggestions appreciated!

  • Interesting article, great comments. I subscribed. Two months ago I built my first planting beds, two 10Lx4wx2d and an herb bed. I bought garden soil from a local soil seller and planted some vegetables from Lowe’s in one, seeds for green beans in the other. The plants and sprouted seeds all look outstanding. In fact, a had a yellow bell pepper plant that some animal ate every leaf from except two leaves, and the plant survived and budded new leaves where the original ones were eaten. It looks better now than it did before the leaves were chewed off. I suspect a squirrel or a bird not a deer, as my dog is chained in the fenced enclosure and it is right beside the house. I also leave a bright light on out there at night, and only the single plant was eaten.

    But none of that is why I am commenting :).

    I just raked up the wood chips from my hen house (first chickens, too) and spread them over the soil in my planting beds an hour ago. There is a decent amount of chicken manure in the wood chips, and I need the chips for moisture retention. We live in south Texas and it does not rain from June 1st to October. Well water is the only water available unless one buys a truckload of it and stores it in a cistern.

    I understand the arguments against high-acid wood chips, and mine are pine. OMRI certified, but pine. Should I switch to straw, and should I work either of them into the soil?