Work Wonders With Wood Waste

If you're looking for a way to improve poor soil, adding wood waste could be the answer.

| July/August 1979

  • 058 wood waste 03 weed control.jpg
    A solid "blanket" of wood waste mulch will keep weeds down.
    PHOTO: ALDEN STAHR
  • 058 wood waste 01 berry patch.jpg
    The wood chips spread between the rows of this berry patch will also help the soil stay cool and moist.
    ALDEN STAHR
  • 058 wood waste 02 wood chips and horse manure.jpg
    "Tree trimmin's"do borrow nitrogen from the soil, but you can solve this problem by combining wood bits with some nitrogen-heavy horse manure.
    ALDEN STAHR
  • 058 wood waste 04 manure spreader.jpg
    If you have a lot of territory to cover, consider using a manure spreader to strew the soil helper on your fields.
    ALDEN STAHR
  • 058 wood waste 05 piling chips.jpg
    This truck is NOT unloading wood waste at the world's most heavily mulched garden. It's stacking bark chips for "aging" at a wood-wise sawmill!
    ALDEN STAHR

  • 058 wood waste 03 weed control.jpg
  • 058 wood waste 01 berry patch.jpg
  • 058 wood waste 02 wood chips and horse manure.jpg
  • 058 wood waste 04 manure spreader.jpg
  • 058 wood waste 05 piling chips.jpg

Ah, summertime! Your tomatoes are blooming and your corn stalks are high! The veggies on your dinner table have that just-plucked crispness you can't get any other time of year. In short, the entire garden is busting its britches with delicious bounty!

Well, at least that's what's supposed to be happening. But maybe your harvest isn't turning out to be a cupboard stuffer after all. Perhaps that patch of "cropping" ground—the spot that looked so good when you cleared it—is really composed of such heavy clay that your seeds would need jackhammers to sprout. Or possibly your tilled soil is so sandy and light that water rushes by your vegetables before the parched plants can even "stick out their tongues." On the other hand, maybe your ground is very fertile. So much so that you can't find the victuals for the weeds!

My friend, if you've run into a passel of problems like these and want to remedy the situation, let me suggest that you enlist the aid of the soil's best friend: "wood waste."

What's So Good About Wood?

I know from my own experience that ground-up leaves, bark chips, sawdust—indeed, all wood pieces and products—are ideal conditioners for almost any kind of earth. For instance, my first homestead had a heavy clay soil that became downright gluey after a rainfall but turned (magically) into ancient Sumerian writing tablets as soon as the sun came out. Several repeated applications of sawdust—both tilled in and laid on as mulch—loosened up that ol' clay, aerated the soil, added healthy humus, and supercharged my sunflowers!



A few years later I moved to Florida and was faced with ground so sandy the grains'd slip between the fingers of a closed hand. I "planted" wood chips to handle that problem. The long-lasting "timber trifles" helped the dirt retain moisture and—used as mulch—fended off the hot southern sun. (In fact, testing proved chip-covered soil to be as much as 20° cooler than was its well-baked exposed surface! )

The truth is, I'd be hard pressed to say enough good things about waste wood. The tree products make excellent soil conditioners (which encourage the activities of beneficial micro-organisms) and fine sun-shedding, water-holding, weed-stopping, earthworm-luring, and garden-pleasing mulches. (One caution, though: Wood wastes—or any other crop "blanket"—should not be applied around heat loving plants too early in the season or the insulating fragments will actually retard growth.)





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