Pine chip - as mulch or compost

Discussion in 'Planting, growing, nurturing Plants' started by Mike_E_from_NZ, Jan 25, 2009.

  1. Mike_E_from_NZ

    Mike_E_from_NZ Junior Member

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    My neighbour has about 120m3 of pine chip delivered each year as a base to raise his calves. At the end of the season it gets dumped. I am taking some of it for mulch around my avocados. As I put it down I notice that it has already started to break down, and it is full of fungus. Just beautiful. I imagine the calf shit and urine has something to do with it.

    It seems to me that I have, as Bill Mollison calls it, an opportunistic resource. How best to use it? My neighbour reckons that it breaks down into a soil looking consistency over another year.

    I could stockpile it to use next year as another layer of mulch on the avocados. I imagine it would continue to break down in the pile.

    I imagine that the result will be good to grow trees in. After all, what is a forest floor if not rotten trees?

    How acidic might it be? Would it be good to grow vegetables in? What amendments might I add after it has broken down? What about before? How would the fungus react to lime being added up front?

    I have an area that I would love to level out. If I built a retaining wall and filled it with this chip and let it break down, would I be able to grow veges in that? It could be 900mm deep at its deepest. Could I grow in it before it completely breaks down by putting a layer of soil or compost on top to start. There is a German word for this kind of compost pile - can anyone remind me? As well as the calf shit and urine, I would probably sprinkle some other N source throughout to help with the breakdown. (Urea seems to be the cheapest.) Although, when it is all broken down and the N is released from the dying organisms, will I have too much?

    I once met a guy whose brother grew trees and covered his nursery with pine sawdust. When the brother left home the guy planted an entire subtropical orchard in the resulting litter. Beautiful orchard. I am preparing a subtropical orchard area this autumn. Getting the support trees in first. Lots of legumes. I thought I might put down a nice deep layer of this chip to provide litter in the future. I am hoping that the legumes will provide even more N to help the decomposition along. How do legumes grow in a deep woody mulch.

    I know that Masanobu Fukuoka wrote that burying a tree was a great source of nutrients for the soil. And a great way of storing moisture. A lot of writers warn of burying sawdust and woodchips (I suppose a tree might be different). This gives me hope that I might be on the right track trying to use this stuff to build soil (on top of course).

    Does anyone have experience with wood chips in general (pine in particular) that might be able to provide me with some more direction.

    Thanks.
     
  2. Mike_E_from_NZ

    Mike_E_from_NZ Junior Member

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  3. christopher

    christopher Junior Member

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    Re: Pine chip - as mulch or compost

    It is my understanding that the resins in pine wood are inhibitors to soil biota/ I know that I recently dug up a 4x4 of pine that had been uses as a garden edge about 15 years ago, and the interior had not decayed at all. I split off pieces to start the fire in the morning.

    My advise would be to burn it (if you can use the heat), and apply the ashes as a soil amendment (if you need to reduce acidity).
     
  4. Mike_E_from_NZ

    Mike_E_from_NZ Junior Member

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    Re: Pine chip - as mulch or compost

    Thanks Christopher. What is the weather like where you are? And what is your local species of pine. There is just no way that a piece of pinus radiata would last that long in contact with the ground here in New Zealand. But I hear what you are saying about the resins. I will experiment and report back.
     
  5. Michaelangelica

    Michaelangelica Junior Member

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    Re: Pine chip - as mulch or compost

    You lucky bugger!
    It sound great!
    If it is already starting to rot down with fungus and has added nitrogen from manure and urine I would maybe let it rot down a little longer.
    Bark does lock up nitrogen & there are probably worming chemicals and anti-biotics (?) in it that need to decompose.
    Why not experiment with it at different ages?

    I would not burn it as you would loose all those valuable mico-organisms & "Wee Beasties" that are starting to grow in it &just get ash and pollution. You can use cheap dolomite or lime if you want to reduce soil acidity rather than ash.
    You could pyrolise it and get charcoal but again I think the soil micro-organisms would be more useful in the short term.
    You could experiment promoting & speeding up the bacterial growth by throwing some sugar on it.
    (If you have plenty you could pyrolise some, add sugar to some and leave some to rot down-
    "A garden is a place where people learn about plants and soil"-MA)
     
  6. Mike_E_from_NZ

    Mike_E_from_NZ Junior Member

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    Re: Pine chip - as mulch or compost

    Michaelangelica, thanks for the thoughts. Maybe you can explain something to me. I thought adding sugar was a for a carbon quick fix. You see where I am going with this don't you........

    Might be able to manage to scrape up "plenty" :)
     
  7. Michaelangelica

    Michaelangelica Junior Member

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    Re: Pine chip - as mulch or compost

    .......
    Not sure
    Sugar is used in some areas of India where farmers cannot afford fertiliser.

    IMHO the most important aspect of soil fertility is lots of soil bacterial & assorted "Wee Beastie" (soil micro-organisms, &fauna) growth. Sugar or molasses seems to kick start some of the soil Wee Beastie growth
    Things that help this are
    1. Anything that was once organic. (in assorted sizes)
    2. Charcoal.
    3. Adequate soil moisture
    Things that hinder it:-
    1. Some high nitrogenous fertilisers
    2. Some pesticides, anti-biotics, worming medications & other assorted similar chemicals that "kill".
    3.Salt ( not all the time, to all, bacteria)
    Might be able to manage to scrape up "plenty" :)[/quote]
    Just check with the farmer what chemicals he uses on/in his cows.
    Pyrolised charcoal is best environmentally, but traditional techniques will do.

    You can NEVER have too much organic matter.
    'Feed the soil, then, feed the planet'-MA
     
  8. paul wheaton

    paul wheaton Junior Member

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    Re: Pine chip - as mulch or compost

    Okay, I'm gonna share, but I gotta warn you that most folks are gonna have a different opinion from me.

    First, with the sawdust: I think that there are at least four naturally occurring toxins in conifer wood (and, thus, the chips). I think those most of them, the toxicity is generally low enough that the upsides outweigh the downsides. But I gotta say that if I had my pickens, I would choose alder chips instead.

    But ... well ... you don't have a choice, so you make the best of it.

    As you are already hip to, it is pretty acidic. I'm not sure of the pH of the wood chips, but it seems that when it comes to conifers, damn near everything is 4.5. But chips could be higher.

    A high point: raspberries apparently think that conifer wood chips are the very best mulch. I think I read of a trial of something like 30 different mulches, raspberries loved conifer chips best. About eight inches deep (if memory serves). But most stuff doesn't care too much for conifer chips (again - from memory).

    And then there is the whole thing with C:N ratios and the whole N suck (sluuuurp!) - but you seem to be on top of that too.

    In general, plain conifer wood chips: I would save em for something later. Outhouse stuff maybe. Mulching for raspberries and blueberries. Surely there is other stuff for it, but I would avoid using it as a general soil amendment cuz while the upsides outweigh the downsides, it generally ain't by much and I would rather amend with something where the upsides massively outweigh the downsides.

    Now for the poop: What have those critters been eating? What about dope? Are they given lots of shots and fed lots of meds? Dewormer? A lot of dewormers make your hard working earthworms mighty sad. Has their feed been sprayed? Here in the US, there are some chemical herbicides that have a half life of 11 years, ride around in the grass, and pass right through a cow. If you put that poop on your broadleaf growies, they croak within hours.
     
  9. Burra Maluca

    Burra Maluca Junior Member

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    Re: Pine chip - as mulch or compost

    I use pine sawdust and shaving as donkey bedding and it rots down beautifully. If your neighbour says it looks like soil in another year, I'd grab as much of the stuff as I could!!! If you're nervous about any chemicals used in it's production, compost it as long as you can and then use it mostly as mulch around trees and stuff, but I think if I were you I would also try something like a mini raised bed edged with bricks and filled with some of the stuff, maybe after it's rotted down for a couple of months, and then experiment to see what grows in it. If things do poorly, keep it only as mulch until it's all completely rotted down. If things grow well, you'll be the envy of us all and we'll be coming over to collect some! :lol:
     

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