Tilling Wood Chips Into Soil – Are They Worth It?

tilling wood chips into soil

If you are an organic gardener, following nature’s pattern will serve you admirably. When it comes to enhancing the soil’s fertility, nature depends on trees: leaves, seeds, and even fallen limbs. Embracing this idea to build your ground soil by utilizing a wood mulch such as wood chips is a plan of action that guarantees massive, long-lasting yields.

Research shows that your soil needs a high fiber diet of wood chips. After rotting, the wood chips continue as organic matter for an extended period, amplifying the soil’s capability of nutrient and wetness retention. This will lead to bigger, healthier, and better crops.

What Are Wood Chips?

They are small pieces of wood whose raw material is trees. Wood chips are a renewable source since you can always plant more trees. They have various wood residue chips, forest chips, short rotation forestry chips, and sawing residue chips.

How to Compost Wood Chips Faster

Depending on their size, the natural decomposition of wood chips is slow and takes many months. The process’s key ingredient is nitrogen, which bacteria and fungi use to break the chunks into composite elements.

To increase the rate of decomposition of wood chips, ensure that you have:

  • Rake
  • Pitchfork
  • Shovel
  • Organic greens
  • NPK granular fertilizer

Follow the steps, as indicated below:

  • Use the rake to gather the wood chips and form a pile. Position the stack so that it gets direct sunlight for not less than 6 hours each day.
  • Mix equal proportions of organic green materials. You can use vegetable scraps and chop them into small pieces to decompose faster.
  • Spread a handful of NPK granular fertilizer evenly on the pile. If the stack is huge, you can apply two handfuls. However, if you want to be 100% organic, use urine or fresh chicken manure, both of which contain high nitrogen levels.
  • Moisten the pile to dissolve the wood chips.
  • Ensure it is homogenous. Place the materials in a pile with the same length, width, and height to have maximum heat at the center.
  • Mix every two weeks. However, do not turn the pile during cold winters to avoid the heat formed from escaping.

For decomposition to be faster, make sure the wood chips you get are as small as possible. To achieve optimal decomposition, it is crucial to have a balance of organic greens and wood chips. The greens act as “fuel” and heats the process while speeding it.

Where to Get Wood Chips

There are many industries producing wood chips as waste from where you can easily obtain them. You can ask for waste wood chips from some of the following:

  • A carpenter
  • Local tree surgery in your area
  • A forest or park. Chips could be available as a result of cutting down drees or prune for land management.

Concerns on Wood Chips

Most people have concerns when it comes to tilling wood chips into soil. One of them is the diseases the wood might have been transferred into the ground and subsequently plants. You do not have to worry because researchers have not found any detrimental effects on plants’ wood chips over the years.

There is also a misconception that wood chips bind nitrogen in the decay process. Exhaustion of Nitrogen is only a short-term issue and only occurs when fresh wood chips are integrated into the soil. For this reason, use fresh chips as a surface mulch, and the depletion will only be at the soil surface. This is why fresh why wood chip mulches have efficiency in suppressing seed germination. Studies have indicated a lack of nitrogen draining problem for established wood plants using wood chips. You, therefore, have no reason to be concerned.

Also, there is a concern about wood chips affecting the soil PH value. Wood chips are acidic, but there is no evidence showing that they affect the soil’s PH. It isn’t easy to alter the PH without using chemicals. In the decomposing layer of the wood chips, there is a slight change in PH, but it has little to no effect on the soil beneath.

Benefits of Wood Chips

  • They provide nutrients to the soil in their break down process and enhance the ground’s organic matter. The organic matter is worked on by insects and earthworms that live in the soil resulting in healthier plants.
  • The use of wood chips produced locally is sustainable. It helps keep a good product out of the junk pile, which is ecologically sound.
  • Cooler soil during summer.
  • Water conservation as the need for irrigating is reduced.
  • They contain rooting hormones that release bound phosphorous reducing plant stress, vital to defense and immunity.
  • Wood chips in soil reduce erosion.
  • They reduce pests and diseases.

Do All Wood Chips Compost The Same Way?

Some wood chips contain rot-resisting properties, which makes them best suitable for construction. If you have them in your pile, select and pick them out. They still decompose but notably slower, while others can cripple the process by blocking helpful insects. Some of these woods include:

  • Cedar
  • Cypress
  • Oak
  • Redwood
  • Black Walnut
  • Osage Orange

If you have them, it will take longer to decompose, and it is wise to place the pile somewhere in the backyard where you will not mind having it for an extended period.

The Best Time to Prepare Your Wood Chip Compost

Moisture and heat are the most favorable conditions for decomposition. To get the fastest results, it is best to have your wood chips ready by early spring or late winter. You will have a 3 to an 8-month window of warmer weather, which will fasten the process.

Remember to ensure that your chips remain moist and to turn them now and then. Also, cease from piling them up against tree trunks. This can lead to possible snags with insects and fungal diseases due to the trunks’ persistent moisture. Instead, spread them evenly for them to rot in direct contact with tree trunks.

To reap the maximum gains from the wood chips, apply them at a depth of 4 to 6 inches.

Have you tilled wood chips into your soils? What were the results? Please share in the comments section below.