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Category: Gardening (page 2 of 22)

Where to find wood chips for your Back to Eden Garden

wood chips

The most common question I get when it comes to Back to Eden gardening is where to find wood chips. I thought I would put together a short post explaining what I’ve done over the past several years working with this style of gardening. If you have never heard of Back to Eden gardening, it comes from a documentary produced by Dana Richardson and Sara Zentz about the gardening methods of Paul Gautschi. I’ve written about it before here and here.

Where to Find Wood Chips?

1. Pray

If you ask Paul Gautschi this question, he will tell you to pray. Everything about Back to Eden gardening points back to God. And that starts with knowing God and seeking him for your provision. I always pray, like Paul suggests, and the Lord always provides more than I need. We can’t disconnect God from the process. In nature, we see God providing an abundance of food all the time. But when we disconnect from God and try to do things our own way, we end up “working hard to fail” as Paul puts it. This would be the same with the Back to Eden methods. If we’re just focused on the techniques and not reconnecting with God, we’re missing the whole point.

2. County Landfill

All those road crews and linemen have to put their tree trimmings somewhere and chances are if you live in a rural location, your county landfill will have an inexhaustible supply of woodchips free for the taking.

The main benefit of finding a huge mountain of woodchips (like the one pictured above), is that you can obtain partially-composted wood chips because they have been sitting in one place for a long time. This means the chips will be much finer, in the process of turning in to pure compost, and loaded with nutrients for your garden. It’s as the wood chips break down into soil that nitrogen and other nutrients are released into your garden. So the further along in the process the wood chips are when you get them, the faster you’ll see results in your own garden.

If you live in an urban locale, and your county does not provide free wood chips at the landfill, try calling around some of the neighboring counties, particularly rural ones. You might find a goldmine of free wood chips just one county away.

3. City Compost Site

Many cities now host compost sites for yard debris. City-dwellers can pick up free compost for their gardens during Spring and Summer months. Sometimes these sites will supply wood chips, also free. However, I’ve found that the wood chips usually do not last long so check frequently. I’ve left my contact info with the supervisor before and asked them to call me when wood chips arrive. And they did.

The drawback to compost sites is that the wood chips are almost always fresh-cut which means it will take longer to compost and start providing nutrients to your garden.

4. Tree-Care/Tree-Removal Companies

Tree-care companies will often maintain their own stash of wood chips. But unless you have an in with the owners, they will not be free. But they will probably be very cheap. In the past I’ve paid $20 per cubic yard, which will cover about 80 sq ft of garden.

Again, like the compost site, the wood chips may not be composted or might not be the best size. When I’ve purchased from tree-care companies in the past I’ve noticed the chips tend to be a lot bigger than ideal.

5. Chip your own

Something I’ve never done but always considered is chipping my own. We have a few acres of woods and there is plenty to chip. I also like the idea of having more control over how much and when.  But its a time-consuming process and it takes an incredible volume of wood to create a cover mulch, not to mention the expense of purchasing and maintaining equipment. Up to this point I’ve been able to find what I needed through the above options.

A Caution about Store-Bought Wood Chips

One thing I do not recommend is buying mulch at the store. It may be treated with anti-fungal chemicals to prevent decomposition and colored with dyes. Remember, most store-bought mulch is for aesthetics not gardening. It’s also way too expensive.


Minnesota May

Waterlogged garden

How does your garden grow?  Minnesota doesn’t seem to appreciate all the effort we put into Spring planting. Our Zone 4 official planting day is around May 15th each year. Last year saw a hard frost descend a few days following setting out my tender starts. This past week gave us daily 40-degree temps and nearly 8 inches of rain. This, after a hot, dry, 90-degree weekend.

Everything in our garden is waterlogged and stunted. My tomatoes and peppers barely survived and will take weeks to regain their composure.

Waterlogged tomatoes

Sweet corn appears to be rotting in the soil, and carrots, lettuce, and beets are mostly washed away. They never stood a chance. The biggest drawback to Back to Eden Gardening I’ve found is that under heavy rains the woodchips will fall down over rows you have just seeded, preventing sprouting. With average rainfalls of <1″ per week and temps in the mid-70’s this time of year, that is rarely a problem. But the last two years have seen abundant rains (8″ last week!) and 30-degree below normal temps. That combo just isn’t conducive to growing annuals.

Strawberries flowering

The crops that don’t seem to mind much are the perennials: raspberries, strawberries, blueberries, and asparagus. Except for the blueberries which lost most of their fruiting flowers during the strong winds, these have all fared well. Perennials are deep-rooted enough to withstand the harshest surface conditions (like Minnesota Winters).

I am researching hoop houses now to cover the entire garden. It may be too late this year, but with May being such an important–and unpredictable–month weather-wise, it would make a significant difference to create some shelter from the storm.

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