Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Ramial Chipped Wood

I got an interesting e-mail recently from a reader regarding a soil amendment I formerly knew nothing about - "ramial chipped wood."

Just when I think I'm nearing a Unified Field Theory of gardening, new doors open. The links are fascinating:
Hello David,

I just read your recent article in the November issue of Natural Awakenings. I think your column is a great addition to the magazine.

One thing that caught my eye was your mention of the film Back to Eden. After watching it about 6 or 7 months ago I spoke with a professional agricultural consultant, and in our conversation he said that the ideal garden soil would be that originating from a hardwood forest. He suggested venturing into a hardwood forest and removing the top few inches of a section, and bringing it back to my garden. I then decided to search on the web to see if I could find out more information about the soil of hardwood forests. After a while I came across an article about ramial chipped wood. Canadian researchers at Laval University, in Quebec, Canada, began researching the effects of wood chips in agriculture back in 1978. Their research continued for many years and they made some big discoveries. Rather than go deeper into the subject in this email, I'll give you some great links about their work. It took a while to find some of these.





Prior to the Canadian research, there was an experiment done at Cornell University, in New York. It spanned 15 years, from 1951-1966. Just as the Canadians discovered, there were great improvements in soil structure and fertility.


Best Regards,

Richard (expurgated)
Gainesville, FL

Amazing stuff. Thanks to Richard for sending over the links... I spent half a night reading away. It just shows how little we really know about forests and their regenerative power.

I think I'm gonna go throw some sticks around the fruit trees now.

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At January 9, 2013 at 4:28 PM , Blogger Unknown said...

I got myself a pickup truck load of half rotted logs today, and was wondering how I could incorporate them into the soil around my existing fruit trees? These things are like garden gold, half rotted, half not; some of them are even charred on the outside! Can I cut them up into 1 foot or so pieces and just lay them on top of the soil line around the trunks? Or is it safe to dig into the soil a little bit? I don't want to disturb the roots! *confused*

At January 9, 2013 at 5:30 PM , Blogger David The Good said...

I'd drop some on the ground where you like and bury others. The ones above ground are good hiding places for beneficial insects, snakes, etc., while they last - and beneath the ground, they act as a good medium for fungi as well as being a long-term water reservoir.

I don't worry too much about disturbing roots, providing you're not digging all around and cutting off lots of feeder roots. In fact, I think some disturbance may actually increase some plant's vitality. My gut feeling is that chopping off some roots will encourage new root growth, just as pruning can revitalize a lagging tree or shrub.

At January 9, 2013 at 6:22 PM , Blogger Unknown said...

Thank you :) I'll go ahead and follow your advice, which is about what my instincts was telling me to do. I literally felt like I'd struck gold today...these trees are going to love it, I'm sure! :)

At January 9, 2013 at 9:09 PM , Blogger rycamor said...

I've been doing some experimenting with decayed hardwood, as discussed in previous posts.

1. Removed soil from under decaying logs in an adjoining forest. Made 4 small test beds which are doing great. Even though they are raised beds with no wall, they stay so damp that I only need to water them on alternate days, even in full sun.

2. planted a 6" raised bed around the base of a huge decaying oak stump. The radishes I'm growing there are big and juicy.

3. Kept a large pile of decaying hardwood in the field with my chickens, who have assisted in turning it into a beautiful compost heap. Every few days I go in and turn up (or split) some half-decayed logs so the chickens can get at new goodies while I remove some of the better compost for my garden.

At January 9, 2013 at 9:19 PM , Blogger David The Good said...

Sounds like a great plan. I'll bet over time it just gets better and better. I've got some decaying oak stumps I should do the same with.

At January 9, 2013 at 9:50 PM , Blogger Unknown said...

I've become quite the stick fiend the last couple of weeks. Every little twig I come across in the yard I grab and add to a shrub or tree. I'll find one, and then another one, and another one. It's like connecting the dots or something :)
2012 I went an hour west to a mulch place and was buying their mushroom substrate. I spent hundreds and hundreds of $$ and I need a free alternative...that back to Eden video you put up really helped and changed my perspective. :)

At January 9, 2013 at 9:53 PM , Blogger David The Good said...

That's excellent - glad I could be helpful. I remember when it first clicked for me. Suddenly, I was seeing wasted resources everywhere. I'd be driving to church... on my way to work... coming home late at night... and if I saw a pile of bagged leaves by the road, I'd load 'em up. I still do that, though I generally only grab yard debris from places with poorly kept yards. I figure the folks with nice lawns are probably spraying chemicals. ;)

At January 10, 2013 at 11:52 AM , Blogger rycamor said...

Ha! Never thought of that.

At January 10, 2013 at 4:35 PM , Blogger Unknown said...

Yep, was walking to the mailbox today and saw a huge fallen tree branch that's been there for quite a while, it's breaking up easily just by hand. It's been relocated :)


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