Wood chippings in compost

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rufty

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Wood chippings in compost
« on: September 28, 2011, 16:50 »
Thanks to the design of my garden (not my fault Guv we're working on fixing it). We end up having an awful lot of small tree branches, climbing plants etc.
To deal with this we stick it through the shredder and compost it. However: we've been doing this for the 8 months or so we've been attacking this overgrown garden and hit a bit of a problem, even in the oldest compost while the other material is long since rotted and is great compost the larger bits of the branches and vines still haven't rotted down and show no signs of doing so. To pick them out and put them back would be very impractical.
Now with our clay soil I have experimented with digging this in and it has done great stuff for the soil texture but I'm concerned the un-decomposed bits of wood could be sapping the nitrogen and other nutrients out of the soil. I have so far only tested this in the plot we have had late peas in this year and they seemed to like it well enough, although they did develop what looked like a weird white fungus coating...
Any thoughts on if this is a good idea because I have a large compost heap full of this stuff and a large vegetable garden that according to the neighbours becomes very waterlogged over winter because of the clay conditions. I believe a healthy addition of this along with a large quantity of sand could solve my problems. Since I'm not planning on any major food crops next year, just more green manure to help improve the soil condition I'm tempted to do this even if it does cause nutrient problems because I can just add that back in, a heavy soil however is a constant problem.

Thanks in advance for your thoughts.

Chris

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sunshineband

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Re: Wood chippings in compost
« Reply #1 on: September 28, 2011, 17:20 »
Two thoughts come to mind
1. Peas trap their own nitrogen and so would  not really be affected by the wood rotting and using nitrogen from the soil to bring this about

2. If you are going to add a mass or wood chippings, you could also add a heavy feed such as poultry poo pellets

oh, and a third thought

3. Be careful not to over enrich any areas you plan to grow root vegin or they will 'fang' and be hard to peel

OK thoughts over now  :D :D

Hope they helped  ;)
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Yorkie

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Re: Wood chippings in compost
« Reply #2 on: September 28, 2011, 17:39 »
I would add grit rather than sand to improve the drainage.
I try to take one day at a time, but sometimes several days all attack me at once...

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sunshineband

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Re: Wood chippings in compost
« Reply #3 on: September 28, 2011, 17:41 »
See, there's always more to think about  ;)  :D

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rufty

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Re: Wood chippings in compost
« Reply #4 on: September 28, 2011, 17:55 »
The reason i tested this with the peas was was that I hoped that they'd be tolerant to any nitrogen shortage. Thinking about it now though it possibly means my experiment has shown me nothing!

Can I ask why grit is preferable to sand? I'd have thought that sand would be better for root vegetables ? I've not come across any plants that hate sand so why not use that, but that's probably my ignorance... Is it that grit is more effective at drainage?

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Yorkie

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Re: Wood chippings in compost
« Reply #5 on: September 28, 2011, 18:02 »
It is bigger particles and thus provides better drainage, I think.

I've always seen horticultural grit advised rather than sand for poor drainage, anyway.

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lmpd

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Re: Wood chippings in compost
« Reply #6 on: September 28, 2011, 18:08 »
I am in the same position, that is, moved into a place with lots of woody stuff growing. I too, went and bought a shredder and immediately filled my new composter, because things are still finding their place, its been moved a couple of times and sure enough, everything else is breaking down nicely, but not the shreddings!!!

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viettaclark

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Re: Wood chippings in compost
« Reply #7 on: September 29, 2011, 00:28 »
I use my shreddings for paths round the beds and the chicken run.
The chooks scratch everywhere and I keep topping up. Don't know where they go but they must break down and be in the earth somewhere!!!

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sunshineband

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Re: Wood chippings in compost
« Reply #8 on: September 29, 2011, 08:00 »
The chicken poo would add nitrogen and wood chip does break down. It just isn't easy to cope with it in beds, rather than on paths  :)

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noshed

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Re: Wood chippings in compost
« Reply #9 on: September 29, 2011, 10:39 »
We get a lot of wood chips in the manure we get from the Met. It seems to take years to break down but it does improve the soil condition. Most people put some chicken poo pellets down a couple of weeks befor planting and that seems to work, but maybe that's why we have lots of foxes.
On the question of the soggy garden - one solution for veg might be to use raised beds. My brother has done this and got very good results in one year. He dug down about a foot (a lot of work) installed the beds and then filled them with council compost and topped of with a few inches of genral purpose. He has very claggy soil indeed and that seemed to do the trick. Obviously you couldn't do that everywhere so you could use the other compost as a mulch around shrubs etc.
Another possibility might be a french drain - a pit with hardcore in dug at a low point to try to soak up some of the water - you'll have to google it but it does involve digging...
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JayG

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Re: Wood chippings in compost
« Reply #10 on: September 29, 2011, 10:55 »
Wood chips count as "carbons" in compost-making-speak, but are clearly a much denser form of it than, say, cardboard or paper, so take much longer to rot down.

Whilst in, rather than on top of the soil, they will temporarily rob the soil of nitrogen (it's needed by the organisms which bring about the decay), although most of it is eventually returned.

I wouldn't put it in the compost bins because even with 3 bins I can't afford to wait for 2-3 years before I can use the compost; I'd use it as a weed-supressing mulch on flower beds or as a path covering where it can be safely left alone for nature to take its course.
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crh75

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Re: Wood chippings in compost
« Reply #11 on: September 29, 2011, 16:41 »
Could you try puting the compost back through the shredder to chop up the woody bits a bit more?

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sunshineband

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Re: Wood chippings in compost
« Reply #12 on: September 29, 2011, 18:47 »
It is still the same amount of carbon added to  break down although it will go a lot quicker very small. Not as quick as shredded paper for example (given as a guide, time wise)

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azubah

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Re: Wood chippings in compost
« Reply #13 on: September 29, 2011, 20:06 »
I use wood chippings as paths on my plot. It saves getting my feet muddy when picking beans etc. As the crops come out I dig the chippings in and have not noticed any problems. Soon I will dig the whole plot over so all of the paths will disappear. By spring it will be difficult to see where the paths have been.

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poodle

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Re: Wood chippings in compost
« Reply #14 on: October 04, 2011, 16:17 »
Why not try seiving the compost to get the larger 'bits' out. You can then have the best of both worlds; the fine to dig in and the rough to use on the surface for weed supression.



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