Mercola speaks enthusiastically about wood as a mulch. Just to be clear, wood-chip in the states is the same as shredded wood here in Australia. Wood chip is definitely not recommended by Slow Fast Soil.
Below is an extract. go here for full and original post.
By Dr. Mercola
If you’re passionate about your health, you ultimately will reach the conclusion that the quality of the food you eat in large part determines your health. You need nutrient-dense, non-GMO or non-glyphosate contaminated foods to stay healthy.
You can purchase organic from the store but this is typically shipped long- distance, and in many cases from a different country. You can purchase from local organic farmers but you still have logistical challenges and it may have been picked several days prior to your eating it.
After studying his technique more carefully, I realized that using wood chips is probably the single best way to optimize soil microbiology with very little effort.
You can actually use virtually any organic material for mulch but wood chips seem to be one of the best, as they are concentrated sources of carbon that serve to feed the complex soil ecology. Typically, carbon is one of the nutrients that is far too low in the soil.
Covering the ground with wood chips dramatically reduces water evaporation, thereby minimizing the need for watering. The wood chips also tend to absorb moisture from the air at night and release it back into the soil during the day when the plants need it.
Water shortage was in fact part of what inspired Paul when he first began. He’d moved from Los Angeles to Washington State where he built a house and planned an orchard. The problem was, his well didn’t produce enough water for irrigation.
“It was August ‘79… It didn’t rain the whole summer… And I’m saying, ‘God, how am I going to grow fruit trees for my family without water?’”
His answer lay in the woods behind his house. Those trees were all lush and green, and when he poked around, he realized they were surrounded by deep, dark, lush, fertile soil—courtesy of all the fallen leaves and twigs that had never been cleared away.
Whatever you’re growing, put it back. It’s that simple. If you’re raising corn, chop the stalks and put them back. If you’re raising grain, put the straw back.
Whatever you use, put it back… Any organic material lying on the ground will decompose, return to the soil, and the plants work out. It’s so commonsense simple.”
Now, some people use wood chips, but they put them into a compost pile. Composting must be created correctly, it takes a little practice to get the balance of nitrogen and carbon right while maintaining a proper temperature.
The chips and leaves gradually break down and are digested and redigested by a wide variety of bacteria, fungi, and nematodes in the soil. Once the carbon can’t be digested anymore, it forms humates that last in the soil and provide a host of benefits that I will describe below.
“My stance is that nature has been doing this [since] before human history. It’s really intelligent… I need to pay attention to what nature does and copy it. This whole idea of creating compost piles and mixing and turning is a waste of time. You lose all the compost in a place don’t want it. Put whatever you have where you want it. Get out of there. Leave it alone. It’s well without you.”
Wood Chips Effortlessly Create Lush Top Soil and Eliminate Need for Irrigation and
A few short months after putting down a deep layer of wood chips, you will end up with lush fertile soil beneath the chips that will happily support whatever you choose to grow. It is important to never plant in the actual chips, you need to move the chips back and plant in the soil and then cover the plant to below the first leaves.
One major reason why most people don’t want to garden is they abhor weeding. Wood chips will radically reduce your weeding, probably by over 90 percent, and the weeds that do grow are easily pulled out by their roots so it becomes relatively effortless to keep the area clean.
When you use wood chips you not only radically increase the bacteria, fungi, protozoa, and nematodes, the wood chips also attract earthworms, which create vermicompost—one of the best composts on the planet. I believe the mistake most people make with vermicompost is to purchase it or create it by establishing earthworm farms. Then they have to spend loads of time collecting and spreading it. It is far more efficient to feed the worms that are already in your soil. They love wood chips and leaves and rapidly reproduce. You can easily create many tons of free compost every year right where you need it most, under your plants, with no effort on your part!
Last but not least, wood chips serve as a great insulation blanket for your soil and moderates the temperatures in the summer and the winter. When you have a one to two foot deep blanket of chips over your plants, it’s highly unlikely that the soil will freeze in the winter, thereby damaging your plants and slowing down the soil microbes that build soil quality. And, during hot summer months, it keeps the soil cooler so the roots can work more efficiently with the soil microbes.
Simply look up “tree cutting services” for your town on Google. Most tree cutting companies will drop the chips on your driveway for free. Typically, companies dump them in a landfill as waste, and pay to do that, so they are more than happy to dump them on your property. It’s still highly recommended that you tip them; $20 is good.
Even at $50 this is an amazing bargain as you are getting around 5,000-10,000 pounds of material that will give you incredible soil. Even on a small property, you will likely need many truckloads. Wood chips work because of the volume of carbon you are dumping into the soil. Even though a truckload may be bigger than your car and weigh thousands of pounds, it is likely you will need many truckloads to convert your soil. I am converting about ¼ of an acre at my home and am using about 20-30 truckloads or about a quarter million pounds of wood chips.
Once you lay the chips down though and your soil is established with the earthworms, you can go for many years without having to put them in again. Depending on how much you put on right from the start, you may or may not need to top them off each year. “I put 16 inches [of wood chips] around my trees. That was 14 years ago. I’ve done nothing since. I’m starting to add now because it’s broken down. But that was 14 years of absolutely no work, no input, and abundant return,” Paul says.
As Paul mentions, you don’t have to use wood chips, but I do believe they are the best. If you don’t have access to them you can use pretty much any other waste biomass that you have freely available in your area, like straw or cornstalks. You could even use sawdust but it is far inferior to wood chips as it is far more natural and won’t overwhelm the soil like sawdust can.
Put at least four inches of chips down if you are planting a vegetable garden. If you are preparing your soil for next year, you can go much deeper as much of it will decompose over the winter. You just need to hmake sure you only have four inches when you put your plants in otherwise the chips will cover the plants.
It takes time for the wood chips to break down and create soil. So now is the perfect time to lay down a six to 16 inch layer of chips in your planting areas. The thicker the layer the more it will protect your soil during the winter as wood is an insulator and will help protect the soil from freezing and keep the microbes going strong all winter. Plus you will have half a year for the chips to be digested by the soil to produce a magnificent environment to create carbon in the forms of humates that will happily feed your new crop next year. I had my team put 75 tons of wood chips around our Chicago office a few weeks ago so we can start growing organic crops for our staff next spring
“The one thing I just want people to get is that the Creator, who can do anything, never disturbs the ground and He never mixes. All He does is layer. We need to pay attention. Observe the master. He’s the master gardener. Just observe and copy. What’s so amazing is that the easiest is the best. All that work we do is counterproductive,” Paul says.
Ultimately, you have to have good food. If you don’t have healthy nutrient-dense food, it is really difficult to be healthy. Growing it yourself is in many cases the simplest and least expensive option. What makes organic gardening so effective is the focus on soil health. And your health truly begins in the soil. By optimizing the soil microbiology, your plants will be healthier and more nutritious, and these benefits translate into health benefits when you eat them.
Optimizing soil biology also strengthens plants against pest infestations without having to resort to chemical warfare that kills far more than the insects they’re designed to destroy. You can easily apply these principles to your own home garden—no matter how small it is. Even if it’s just a few pots on your balcony. There’s no doubt that urban gardening and small-scale farming is an important step toward building a more sustainable food system.