A sunny cold day of melt was a perfect time to go fetch some wood chips. While the cozy cabin de-ices and dries out, I could turn my attention to thoughts of a bountiful vegetable garden.
There is a place down by the Pigeon River where the tree trimmers dump their chips. They always disappear eventually. There are enough smart gardeners in these parts to use up this steady supply. I could use this entire pile.
The river below the bridge is running pretty full with all the rain and snow there has been of late.
On a hill across the highway, an old farm house still stands.
Instead of loading the bed of the truck with chips, I used saved plastic bags of cypress mulch. These are way tougher than most plastic garbage bags and save me the process of having to unload the wood chips into the wheelbarrow to get them to where they need to go. I wonder if anyone makes and sells tough reusable plastic bags like this? I always saved my 3 cubic feet Sunshine Mix potting soil bags for chores like this in Hawaii. There are plenty of occasions, particularly with steep terrain, where a wheelbarrow just isn't practical and carrying bags is much easier.
The gold standard of mulch in my opinion is fresh from the trimmer's truck wood chips. It does amazing things for the soil and the plants that will grow in it. If you need more convincing there is an article on arborist wood chips by Dr. Linda Chalker-Scott at Sustainable Gardening. I have been doing what she recommends in this article for twenty years with excellent results. I even ignore her advice about not using it in vegetable gardens or annual beds and have seen no ill effects.
The vegetable garden is getting a new layer of wood chips for the upcoming growing season. Two trips to the river got almost a third of the vegetable garden covered. I need more bags. It would take fewer trips.
The mulch will act as an insulating blanket and moderate the soil's temperature swings. That means as much as it will keep the soil warmer later in the season and cooler during the summer, the mulch can keep the soil cooler in the spring when it is time to plant. I will rake an opening in the mulch when I am ready to sow seed. If we have a cool or cold spring I may do that a few days before I sow the seed to help warm the soil a bit.
You can see the scenic highway is the de facto melt line on the north facing side of this mountain. Location becomes an even more crucial consideration for planting of all kinds up here in these mountains.