I broke a gardening taboo by using fresh from the trimmers truck, wood chip mulch in my vegetable garden. The conventional wisdom is that this will rob the soil of nitrogen and the plants will suffer. My twenty years of experience says otherwise and Dr. Linda Chalker-Scott, Associate Professor and Extension Urban Horticulturist at WSU Puyallup Research and Extension Center seems to agree, except in shallow rooted annual and vegetable beds. I routinely mulched bedding plants and all kinds of shallow rooted perennials with fresh wood chips and never had any problems.
For a client I would layer bagged compost or cow manure under the wood chips and add a light fertilizer application on top. In my own garden it was pure wood chips with no additions. The results were always exceptional.
Now I am not an extremist here. I want some produce from the roadside vegetable garden. I topped dressed each planting hole with some cow manure and did a very light, one quarter rate balanced fertilizer application.
Since it has warmed up, the vegetable plants are looking very nice.
The squash, melon and cucumber vines are beginning to vine. I have been warned of the dreaded Squash Vine Borer that is known to inhabit these parts. I don't want to do a preventative pesticide spray.
Instead I am doing a preventative root initiation along the stem procedure. If a stem borer should get into any of the vines a secondary root system may help them survive an attack.
The peppers have been the slowest to show signs of growth. They must like it hot. The crowns are full of flower buds and one pepper has even set. Still, they are looking not much bigger than when they were planted out. I don't think the problem is a lack of nitrogen.
What is going on under that mulch?
Expand the picture and you will see lots of small round pellets. The mulch has created the conditions for an on site fertilizer factory.
Free worm castings are piling up in the soil/mulch interface. Worm shit is good stuff!
And no that is not one of my crops. It was just a good link with info on the nitrogen content of worm poop that is being added to the soil on a regular basis that is readily available to the vegetables.
The tomatoes are looking good and have a nice deep green color.
Surrounded by fresh from the trimmers truck, wood chip mulch.
I hope they are all happy because the diagnosed low for tomorrow morning is now down to 45 degrees. Oh My! I already know they don't like the 40's.
Update 2010: The vegetable garden continues with wood chips as a mulch. Two years later, The Vegetable Garden in June 2010.
Refreshing the wood chips in 2010 begins.
Creating A Vegetable Garden From A Pile Of Wood Chips