Wednesday, September 8, 2010

More Woodchips In The Vegetable Garden

I drive by the local wood chip dumping site every time I go to town. Now that the vegetable garden is winding down for the season and in an attempt to revitalize my multi-tasking abilities, I will now be prepared to stop and bag chips on my way home.

I attempted to work for money today. The rains came after just a couple hours, so I attempted to get the safety inspection on my truck, knowing full well it would fail. The idea being to find out why that annoying "check engine" light was back on again. Fingers crossed and $179 later, the problem is solved and I will go back next week to pass inspection so I can send the state of North Carolina some more money that I did not earn today.

Now I just need to get a solution that works for the annoying "you have no paging file or the paging file is too small" and "your virtual memory is too low" lights that keep flashing across my computer screen. I have tried everything I can find on the web and nothing yet will make that annoyance go away.

But I have a truck load of fresh wood chips for the vegetable garden and the "check engine" light is off.

Last winter I did not give the vegetable garden a new full layer of wood chips. There was some spot mulching and the annexes were mulched, otherwise the two years in a row of wood chips were still thick enough for weed suppression for this year's garden. Decomposition happens and it is time to refresh the wood chips.

Building and improving a healthy soil is the other goal of adding wood chips as a mulch to the garden. I should make it clear that the wood chips stay on top and are not tilled in to the soil. After ragweed during hay fever season, wood chips in the vegetable garden is the second largest inquiry that brings people to Outside Clyde. I don't want to give anyone bad information about the use of wood chips as a mulch.

My vegetable garden is no till. Why should I bother? Between the soil microbes, earthworms, water and gravity, the nutrients released from the wood chips as they decompose go into the soil and plant root zones where they are needed. Tilling them in would only slow decomposition and mess with the soil structure. Harvesting my rotating potato crop each season with a digging fork is all the tilling the garden ever gets.

The definitive paper on wood chip mulch - definitive because I like what it says even though I completely ignore what she says about vegetable gardens - is by Dr. Linda Chalker-Scott.

At the recent organic vegetable production workshop I asked Dr. Jeanine Davis about doing studies on wood chips for the home vegetable garden, saying that on a farm scale it may not be practical and recent research refuted the nitrogen stealing myth. Now if I heard this right, she said she had researched wood chips on her woodland medicinals and that it did take nitrogen from the soil. She added the nitrogen loss was minimal and easily overcome.

For me in the roadside vegetable garden that means a nice dose of manure at planting time and a very light fertilizer application when the warm kicks in. No problem.

It's early September and there is still plenty going on in the roadside vegetable garden. I have until mid March when the first greens, sugar snap peas and potatoes get planted to finish adding a fresh layer of wood chips. Let's see September to mid March. That's six months. Good Lord Almighty, six months until I can start the roadside vegetable garden all over again!

Addendum: For the wood chips in the vegetable garden web seekers, the previous post and more discussion is here.


Lola said...

Hooray for the wood chips. They help control weeds & unwanted vegetation the natural way. Also they are deteriorating adding nutrients to the soil. Kudos for them. Wish there was some of that good stuff around here.Garden looks good & hopefully you will get some Fall veggies.
Hope all is alright with you.

Siria said...

Hi Christopher! Looks like you are set with wood chips for a while. You should get one of the tree companies to just "dump" some on your property. Might be easier than transporting them from the wood chip pile on 209. Don't forget to save me some of your sunflower seeds. (please!)

Have a great time at the West Asheville garden stroll this weekend. I'm sure that has been keeping you busy lately. Looking forward to your future posts on the gardens!