Wood Chips in Potting Soil – Good or Bad?

wood chips in soil - good or bad

wood chips in soil - good or bad

You must have heard this many times that things that come free have no worth at all. Well, there’s no truth in this statement. Things like dried leaves and barks might seem unnecessary to a lot of people around you; however, they mean so much to a gardener who is rooting to make mulch out of it. 

Lots of the gardeners do not throw the pile of wood chips away and stack them up for making mulch. Gardeners generally keep putting a new bunch of wood chips, barks and leaves to the same stack. This clearly shows what dried leaves and dried barks mean to a gardener. 

What gardeners usually do to make things remain organized is arrange the piles according to their collection time so that you can distinguish between the decomposed and undecomposed ones. This way, they can make their compost and mulch without paying a lot of money for purchasing it. 

Yes, this might be surprising for you that mulch and compost are expensive out there in the market even though it is made of waste and useless material. That is why if you start making your compost and mulch today, you might save yourself from paying a lot of money as a gardener.

Check now: Tilling Wood Chips Into Soil

Stages of wood chips and leaves before decomposition. 

wood chips in soil - good or bad

Once you put the pile of dried leaves and wood chips, barks, and twigs to get decomposed, you will easily be able to spot the dry leaves and their crush in a pile. However, after some time, you won’t be able to spot any dried leaves because all of the leaves have decomposed, which will let the bark decompose. Dried leaves are the first ones to get decomposed in this mix.

The initial stage of the wood chip before the decomposition is very hard and rough. It can be seen in pieces or proper shape before decomposition, and due to this, it can be bad for potting soil. 

How to collect wood chips for compost and mulch? 

All the communities have a free source where you can get wood chips and twigs as a waste product. However, it is also possible that you have a recycling plant nearby where you can get these waste products in a crush or grind form. Since the recycling plant has to invest a lot in the grinding machine and its time for grinding those wood chips, you will have to pay to some extent.

However, the charges are very optimum and are not as costly as the mulch and compost available in the market with expensive packaging. Another way of getting wood chips for free is to have your own garden’s wood chopped into small pieces or get it crushed.

Also, Check: Are Wood Chips good for your potting soil

What is the actual use of wood chips in Potting Soil?

Freshworks chips are mostly not used in the potting soil because they are too fresh and hard to be placed in potting soil; however, they can be used for many other purposes like mulch and spreading on the soil. Many theories explain that wood chips are good for soil even before they are decomposed completely. It is stated that they allow better water drainage in the soil and provide multiple nutrients to the soil. 

Although wood chips are completely organic and nourish the soil in one way, they also harm the soil by decreasing the oxygen supply inside the soil and also consuming the nitrogen of the soil for its decomposition. The soil becomes less fertile and rich when all of its nitrogen gets consumed because of the wood chips that are added.

What is the Difference Between Wood Chips in Potting Soil and Bark Mulch?

Most of the wood chips are taken from virgin Timber. These wood chips are available in an untreated white form that doesn’t have any bark and are available in softwood and hardwood forms. They are the most versatile form of options as you can use them for different purposes like making pathways, plant beds, borders, etc.

For making pathways, wood chips can be the most suitable thing. What can prevent the pathway from becoming too muddy in rainy seasons and prevent you from slipping away? You can easily spread wood chips on the pathway and top it up if the previous ones get muddy.

When it comes to making plant beds and borders, this can be the most organic product that you can use for making the bed. Many people go for wood chips rather than barks because barks are dark and thick; however, wood chips are light. One of the best parts about using wood chips as your plant bed is that they will decompose eventually and not create a mess.

Check What Others say about Wood Chips In Soil: Wood chips in soil – Good or bad?

Many people choose to use wood chips for creating the playing surface in their Garden. There can be the variable depth of wood chips for the playing surface as it depends upon the fall and the height of the fall from which the wood chips will protect you. Not only this, but wood chips are also used in poultry enclosures. It allows the chicken to have a clear feed and prevent muddy feet because of its dry and hard nature.

Both varieties of hardwood and softwood are suitable for chicken runs; however, the hardwood will take longer to break down and decompose, but the softwood is easier to decompose and more effective as well.

However, when it comes to bark mulch, then you may notice that mulches are usually made from bark and dark color word. It is a product that contains variable sizes of chipped strips of bark and some white wood. It sometimes includes pine needles as well. The most common use of bark is to suppress weed growth and reduce the amount of water required by the soil. It acts as a blanket and creates insulation for the soil, which protects the roots from frosting.

This works well in the season when there are chances of high-temperature heat waves. Moreover, the appearance and the dark color make it a very popular product for mulching. Many gardeners are fans of bark mulch and prefer the natural appearance that it gives. Bark mulch can also be used on paths and prevent the thick and muddy nature of the soil because it lets the excessive water absorb, and the thick pieces allow drainage of water easily.

Method to Decompose Wood Chips in Potting Soil Faster

The process of decomposition of wood chips and barks into their complete decomposed form is very slow naturally. This process also depends upon different sizes of wood chips, and it might take months or half a year to complete as well. However, due to the small size of chips, they get decomposed very fast as compared to the decomposition of whole logs, which are quite bigger.

The key ingredient for the proper decomposition of wood chips is nitrogen, and it escalates the process as well. The role of nitrogen starts when different bacterias and fungi use it for breaking down the wood chips into their composite form. Scientifically the wood chips are the carbon, and the added nitrogen comes from coffee grounds that you can add to your wood chips so that the process escalates.

Once you achieve a good balance of carbon and nitrogen, the pile of wood chips gets heated up, and this heat will break down the chips converting them into compost. A good balance of carbon and nitrogen also makes the process faster as compared to the natural one. There are a few things that you must have so that you can make your decomposition process of wood chips faster. 

One of the most important things that you must have before you start the process is a shovel, a pitchfork, rake, organic greens, NPK granular fertilizer

Now the use of these instruments will start, and first of all, you will have to pick up a rake. By using this rake, you must gather all the wood and chips into a pile and settle the pile in a way that it gets exposed to complete sunlight for about 6 hours a day. Most importantly, you must not make your wood chip pile near your compost and make a new pile away from the compost. 

Now to speed up the process, you must also add organic green matter to your wood chip which will significantly accelerate the decomposition. Almost about half of the pile should be organic green matter because the green should be equal to the wood part. Other than the vegetable and green material, you might also need animal manure which plays an important role in the acceleration of the decomposition process.

Make sure that you add finely cut and chopped pieces of wood material because it impacts a lot on the decomposition process. Once you have created a balanced pile with half green and organic material and half wood chips, you might now add a handful of NPK granular fertilizer. After adding the fertilizer, you might spread it evenly over the pile for equal and complete distribution to all parts of the wood chips.

If the pile seems bigger, then you must use two handfuls of npk fertilizer. The preferred fertilizer is the one that has equal quantities of Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and potassium. However, if you want to go for 100% organic fertilizer, then urine or fresh chicken manure can be a very good substitute. Both of these sources have a sufficient quantity of Nitrogen in them.

Although this is not necessary, if you keep on moistening the plant, then it can speed up the decomposition process as well. By moistening the soil, you can help the wood chips to absorb the fertilizer and soak it better.

You must make sure that you have created a homogenous pile where the center area gets heated up. It can be a good idea If You Mix all the ingredients in a container. However, you can also go for a pile, but you must make sure that it has a similar length, width, and height because it will make the center point heat up sufficiently. A pile with a size of about 3 to 5 cubic feet is most preferred because it works well.

Once you are done making up your pile, you must make sure that you mix this pile every two weeks. To mix evenly, you must turn all the materials from the middle to the upside or from the center to the outside so that all of the material gets equal exposure. It requires about three months to decompose all the wood chips and green material into the finely decomposed form. 

It is a fact that wood chips tend to decompose faster in summer because of higher temperatures. The heat will accumulate in the middle of the pile and will cause decomposition to get accelerated and make compost faster in summer. However, it is the opposite in winters, as turning up the pile frequently will cause the heat built up inside to escape. This escape of heat will slow the decomposition process significantly.

The best part of the year when you can start your decomposition process is summer. The humidity level is also elevated, and the temperature is also high, which will facilitate the decomposition process a lot. Even if the air outside is not humid, you must keep on adding water to your pile so that it remains moist and fertilizers keep on reacting with the wood chips, and it decomposes completely.

Summing up: 

Using wood chips in potting soil can be a great idea, but only when you use already decomposed wood chips. However, in undecomposed wood chips, the soil may lose some of its nitrogen to decompose those fresh wood chips by itself.