Organic Gardening 101: Building Up Your Soil with Wood Chips
We have some big plans for our yard and lots of projects on our to-do list, but the foundation for all of them is pretty much the same – fix our soil.
If you've been following me on Instagram, then you've already seen what we're dealing with. We have lots of sandy dirt toward the far side. When it rains the water washes parts of it away, exposing rocks and stones. Basically, it's like a rocky beach.
Closer to the house we're practically at the opposite end – hard clay. Some areas have moss while others are bare spots.
It's a mess, but we're excited about the challenge.
Know Your Soil
Over the last few months, I've been checking out dozens of garden books and have been researching online and with my green-thumbed buddies to come up with a plan that would work land, be manageable, and budget-friendly.
One of the first things I found out was that soil is much more than dirt. In general, all soil is a mix of silt, sand, and clay.
When you hear people talking about their soil being clay, sand, and silt, they're giving you information about the soil texture and the particles.
Sandy soils tend to have water wash through it easily. Clay typically prevents water from draining efficiently.
Not sure what you have? Start with your hands and eyes. Get some of the soil and see how it feels. You can do a few do it yourself tests to get an idea of what you're dealing with.
You can also do a soil test with a home kit. You can purchase one at your local hardware or garden store. They can give you a ballpark figure about the macro-nutrients Nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P) and potassium (K).
If you want a more detailed analysis, you get your soil tested by your state's cooperative extension. If you have to pay, it's usually a small amount (in North Carolina it's $4 during their busy season).
You can get really deep with soil. Looking for a good resource? I like NC State's Permaculture class. They have a previous semester's worth of video and lots of handy information you can watch at any time.
Our Plan to Fix Our Soil with Wood Chips
We've started a compost pile soon after we moved in. We knew that it would be an asset in the long run. We hope to use it when we start getting ready for the spring planting.
Right now, though, our energy and time has been incorporating wood chips. After researching possible solutions we gravitated towards them for a few reasons.
Wood Chips Would Simplify Our Gardening
Covering is much easier than tilling our yard and from what I've been reading, the microorganisms and critters in the soil would have an easier time with wood chips.
We also have huge dips in our yard, so we've been using the wood chips to smooth things out.
Getting Woodchips for Free
While grabbing bags of mulch can quickly add up (as we found out earlier in the year!), you may be able to grab some much cheaper – as in free!
When we were searching for the best deal on getting our sick trees cut down, I noticed that many of the companies asked if I'd be interested in mulch from their projects.
After you have your trees cut down, it's chipped into mulch. You can keep it on your property (which is what we do) or it gets hauled away, which costs the company money. Here's the cool part – you can sign up to get their mulch from a job (doesn't have to be yours) for free.
About a month or so after we removed the oaks, I got a call asking if I'd be interested in mulch from a job in the area. A few hours later and we had a nice truckload of mulch in the front yard.
Using the prices we paid at Lowe's for our bags of mulch. We've estimated that we got just under $600 worth – that's a win in my book!
What I like about this particular load is that there is plenty of green leaves mixed in with the wood chips.
With the heat, I've seen it already breaking down in some awesome material so I've been using it in the garden spaces.
Wood Chips Smell Awesome
Okay, this more a more aesthetic advantage, but I love the smell of wood chips in the yard.
Thoughts on Fixing Soil with Wood Chips
Have you had to fix up your soil? What techniques did you use and why? How well did it work?
How many of you use mulch in your yard? Do you use it to cover weeds or part of your soil remediation?
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