A Guide to Tilling Wood Chips Into Soil

Gardeners are aware that that mulch is helpful to healthy plant growth. With the right mulch, your plants will experience a host of amazing benefits, including less weeding, cooler soil during the hotter weather, water conversation, as well as slow placement of organic matter. As a result, your plants will thrive!

There are so many different materials one can use as mulch, with many people tilling wood chips into soil as one effective method. But is wood chips a good material to use for mulching your soil, or to at least positively affect your plant’s growth and/or soil quality?

Read on to find out!

tilling wood chips into soil

Tilling Wood Chips Into Soil

Wood chips are small pieces of wood coming from trees, a renewable source. There are different kinds of wood residue chips, such as sawing residue chips, forest chips, short rotation forestry chips, and more.

Is it possible to use wood chips and till them into the soil, though?

Yes, it is possible and offers a host of benefits, such as:

  • Provides nutrients to the soil during the breakdown process, enhancing the soil’s organic matter. This organic matter will then be worked on by beneficial earthworms and insects to help keep plants healthy.
  • Wood chips are sustainable and keep them out of the junk piles, making them ecologically friendly.
  • You can experience cooler soil during the hot summer seasons.
  • Water conversation so you won’t have to irrigate too often.
  • Wood chips have rooting hormones that can release bound phosphorous, which would reduce plant stress and improve defense and immunity.
  • They can reduce erosion, as well as pests and diseases.

The Concerns to Take Note Of

With this in mind, you also have to look into the concerns about wood chips. Gardeners have decided against using wood chips for various reasons as well, which is important to take note of.

One concern is how the wood chips may carry disease that would transfer to the soil, then the plants. However, researchers haven’t found any negative effects on plants when wood chips are tilled into the soil.

Another concern is that wood chips would bind nitrogen during the decay process. That said, nitrogen exhaustion is only a short-term problem and would only happen when you use fresh wood chips. This is why you should only use fresh wood chips should be used only as surface mulch so its depletion only occurs at the soil’s surface.

That’s why fresh wood chip mulches are efficient in suppressing seed germination. Studies show a lack of nitrogen draining issues for established wood plants that use wood chips, so you don’t have to worry about using wood chips for your soil.

One last concern about wood chips is how they can affect the soil’s pH value. Wood chips are acidic, yes, but there isn’t any evidence that shows how they actually affect the soil’s pH values. Remember, it’s not easy to alter the soil’s pH levels without utilizing any chemicals.

Maybe as wood chips decompose, there MIGHT be a slight change in pH levels, but nothing significant. The most it would do is to have just a small effect on the soil underneath!

Using Wood Chips as Compost

Are you interested in using wood chips as compost and till them into the soil? Take note that the natural decomposition of wood chips is quite slow, taking months at a time, depending on the size. The key ingredient of the process is nitrogen, which bacteria and fungi will use to help break down the wood chips’ chunks into composite elements.

It is best to prepare the wood chip compost for tilling into the soil during times when it is hot and moist. Have the wood chips ready by late winter or early spring so you have a 3-8 month window for warmer weather, quickening the process. The wood chips need to stay moist, turning them now and then.

Avoid piling your wood chips up against tree trunks, as it can result in snags with fungal diseases or insects because of the persistent moisture or trunks. It’s best to spread your wood chips evenly so they rot in direct contact with the trunks. When it’s ready to till into the soil, do so at a depth of 4-6 inches for maximum benefit.

Take note that wood chips would have rot-resisting properties, so they are best suited for construction. These are not best for the soil, as they would decompose way slower. There are also a few wood varieties that hurt the decomposition process by blocking the helpful insects.

Composting Wood Chips Faster

If you want to compost wood chips even faster when tilling them into the soil, you’ll need a rake, shovel, pitchfork, NPK granular fertilizer, and organic greens. Follow these steps once you have everything prepared:

  • Use a rake and gather the wood chips, forming a pile. Position your stack so it receives direct sunlight for at least 6 hours a day
  • Mix equal proportions of your organic greens. You may use vegetable scraps chopped into small pieces for faster decomposition
  • Spread a handful of fertilizer evenly on your pile. If the stack is big, then apply two handfuls. Just make sure that you choose a fertilizer that is 100% organic and had high nitrogen levels, such as chicken manure or urine
  • Moisten your pile, dissolving the wood chips. Make sure it stays homogenous as well, placing the materials in a pile that has the same measurements for maximum heat in the middle
  • Mix this compost every two weeks except when it is wintertime, as this makes the heat escape
  • Once ready, you can use it and till it into the soil!

Furthermore, you can make the decomposition faster by ensuring that you get wood chips as small as possible. Furthermore, you will need a balanced amount of wood chips and organic greens. The greens will be used as fuel, heating the process s it speeds the decomposition.

What Wood to Avoid

Avoid using black walnut, cedar, cypress, oak, osage orange, or redwood wood varieties. Pick them out if you have any on your pile, as they take long to decompose.

You can get wood chips from your local carpenter, local tree surgeries, a park, or a forest. There are a lot of industries that produce wood chips from waste, so you can get them from them.

Wrapping It Up

When wanting to enhance soil fertility, nature will depend on trees, such as seeds, leaves, and fallen limbs! By using wood chips for your soil and plants, you can improve your plants’ yields thanks to the organic matter of wood after decomposing. While it does take time to decompose, you can follow the right tips to make the process quick and efficient.

I hope that you found great insight when it comes to tilling wood chips into soil. If you are interested in using wood chips for your garden, make sure you keep this information in mind as you till your soil with this material. Good luck and happy gardening!

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