nutrient dense grass

Wood Chip Mulch
Fertility for Trees and Landscape

The type of wood chip mulch purchased at the landscaping or garden supply center may be great for decor, but does very little to help with soil fertility.  In many cases, landscaped trees and bushes are languishing for nutrients and especially for organic matter.

Soils become compacted, and water runs off instead of being absorbed into the soil. In time, these trees, bushes and other plants may end up dying.  Why?

  1. Commercial wood chips have very few nutrients
  2. Commercial wood chips contain lignins that are hard for the soil to break down

What is the answer?  Just switch to ramial wood chip mulch. This mulch can help to turn poor, compacted soil into nutrient rich aerated soil.  Ramial chipped wood is wood chips made from small branches and twigs of hardwood trees and bushes.  These wood chips are easy to find, and they are usually given for free, (page 5) from municipality and utility companies who are constantly trimming back trees and bushes and chipping them.  In fact, you may be doing these companies a favor in giving them a place to dump their wood chips.

If you look at the index on the upper right side of this page, you will see the various pages of information I have on written on Ramial Chipped Wood (RCW).  My goal on this page is to show you how to use RCW to turn soils that may be poor and compacted into beautiful, nutrient dense soil that can help your trees, bushes, shrubs and other landscaping plants to thrive.  Here are three ways to use ramial wood chip mulch to build up the soil around trees and landscaping:

1. Incorporate ½ inch to 1 inch of RCW into 
the top 2 or 3 inches of the soil

2. Apply 1 inch of RCW over the top of the soil

3. Apply 4 inches of RCW over the top of the soil

Below I will describe in detail 
each of these 3 methods, but first:

Jump starting the process

Whichever of these 3 methods best fits your situation, applying some MyCorrPlus,  which contains liquid sea minerals before applying the chipped wood can really help to hasten the improvement of the soil. This soil conditioner helps to bind soil particles together, making millions of tiny air spaces in the soil.  This allows beneficial aerobic bacteria and other microbes to thrive, bringing health to the soil.

Trace minerals are very important to the health of plants, animals, and humans.  Since most trace minerals have long since leached out of the soil and been carried to the oceans, recycling these trace minerals back to the land is a great idea.  Microbes in the soil love them, and so do plants and trees.  Ramial wood chip mulch is loaded with many nutrients, just not some of the trace minerals.

Three ways to use RCW for trees and bushes

1. Incorporate RCW into the top soil

In the fall, spread out ½ inch to 1 inch of RCW, and then work it into the top 2 or 3 inches of the soil.  This will tie up nitrogen in these top inches of soil for a few months, but this nitrogen is used to start breaking down the wood chips, releasing their nutrients into the soil.  This method gives the quickest results. Each year after the initial application you can apply another ½ inch to 1 inch, and either work it into the soil, or leave it on top of the soil.

If you apply more than an inch layer of wood chips and work it into the soil, it can be problematic, since it can tie up the nitrogen for the next year or two.  It is best to apply no more than 1 inch of ramial wood chip mulch.  If you work the wood chips too far down into the soil, they will just sit there and not break down.  Why?  Because the fungi and bacteria needed to break them down need oxygen, and there’s very little oxygen farther down in the soil.

2. Apply 1 inch of RCW over the top of the soil

Sometimes there are feeder roots close to the surface.  It is actually best not to disturb the life in the top inches of the soil.  Second, sometimes a 4 inch application is just too bulky for the situation.  When either of these is true, it is usually better just to apply the RCW over the top of the soil.  Sure, it will take longer to break down and release nutrients to the soil, but this will still happen.

How about if your application won’t come into contact with the soil?  For instance, maybe the surface is covered with pebbles.  In this situation, once you have put down your RCW, you will need to collect some dirt from a forested area.  This will be used to inoculate your RCW with the fungi and bacteria needed to break it down and turn the lignin into humus. (page 5, humus) Just sprinkle a light coating of this dirt over every inch of RCW.  Fungi spread out quite slowly, so good coverage is important.

3. Apply 4 inches of RCW over the top of the soil

This is the preferred application of RCW, when the RCW isn't worked into the soil.  The upper layer of RCW will help to insulate the layer closer to the ground so that it doesn't dry out.  This helps to speed up the decomposition of the under layer.  Another 3 inches of RCW can be applied every 3 or 4 years to continue the soil building process.

Wood chip mulch can help greatly to restore poor soils to rich soils, as long as the right type of mulch is used.  RCW is also a great soil amendment to a vegetable garden. Please check out my other pages on Ramial Chipped Wood to learn more about this amazing soil amendment.  The index is in the upper right corner of this page.

For years now I have given my lawn and garden a boost by applying MyCorrPlus, which contains ocean trace minerals. This soil conditioner jump starts the soil building process by gluing together fine soil particles, building a crumbly friable soil structure, while the ocean trace minerals supply an incredible buffet of micronutrients which have long since leached out of our soils.

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