Mulch Ideas
Getting the Best Wood Chips

Looking for some great mulch ideas? I have tried numerous mulches, including:

  • Freshly mowed grass
    Applying too thick will stop air flow and tend to mold
  • Dry leaves
    They tend to mat together, causing water to run off, and blocking airflow to the soil
  • Wheat straw
    May contain wheat seed. I had wheat grow wherever I used it
  • Tree bark
    Great for landscaping, lasts long, but adds very few nutrients to the soil
  • Compost
    A wonderful mulch, but it takes a BIG compost pile to mulch much of an area
  • Wood chips from the store
    Like tree bark, great for landscaping, but adds very few nutrients to the soil
  • Wood chips from a tree service
    called Ramial Chipped Wood (RCW)

While each of the above mulch ideas has its benefits, Ramial Chipped Wood meets numerous criteria for a great mulch:

  • Effective weed block
  • Air and rain pass through to the soil
  • Retains soil moisture
  • Good ground cover
  • Builds new dark rich soil
  • Usually free

RCW contains most of the nutrients needed by your garden or landscaping plants. What it does lack are important trace minerals. I fill in this gap by applying concentrated liquid sea minerals. I have heard a lot of good reports from others who have used sea minerals. They report that it makes their produce much more delicious and nutritious.

On this web page you will find the following three mulch ideas for Ramial Chipped Wood

  1. Which trees make the best RCW
  2. Where to find free RCW
  3. Amount of RCW produced annually

1. Which Trees Make the best RCW

Hardwood trees

Also called deciduous trees, hardwoods generally make excellent Ramial Chipped Wood. As this RCW is broken down, it produces a stable and elaborate soil structure with a rich diversity of microfauna and microflora. Fungus feed on its lignins, producing long-lived humus, that gives great structure to the soil. Although animal manures, composts and green manures also create humus, it is a short-lived humus that will disappear in 1 to 3 years. Long-lived humus may be present for a thousand years.

Comparing hardwoods

1. Among the hardwoods, yellow birch, oak, beech, linden, ash and sugar maple, produce the highest quality soils. A mixture of these woods produce the best results.

2. Red maple and trembling aspen are less desirable.

3. Black walnut and cedar are poor choices, as they may adversely affect soil life. Bamboo is also a poor choice, as it may sprout, establish itself, and be quite difficult to get rid of. Cedar, Cyprus, redwood, eucalyptus, sequoia and black walnut wood chips may prevent certain plants from germinating.

Softwood trees

Conifers, such as pine trees, cypress, and other evergreens, make poor RCW. Up to 20% of RCW can come from conifer trees, but no more. As conifer lignins break down in the soil, they produce a large amount of polyphenolics, which hinder other plants from growing. Have you noticed that little will grow under a pine tree? Their goal is to hinder any competition. Conifer soils also contain fewer varieties of microbes, just what you don’t want in your garden.

2. Where to Find Free RCW

You may be doing them a favor!

The second of my mulch ideas is to get your RCW for free. Tree service companies and local utility companies are always looking for places to dump their wood chips. They chip up the small branches anyway, since it cuts down the number of trips they have to make to dump them. It costs money for them to dump at landfills, and they may have to drive miles to get to one. A few phone calls may be all it takes.

Tree trimmers in your neighorhood

Another great way is to keep an eye out for a tree trimmer working in your neighborhood.  When one showed up on our street, I asked one of the men if I could get a load of wood chips from them. He was quite happy to accommodate, and before I knew it I had a large pile of chips ready to haul back to my garden.

Need more than one load?

Offering the driver $10 to $20 a load can keep them coming back, or perhaps a gift of produce from the garden will do. If you need a lot of chips, if you provide a large area that is convenient and easy for them to get in and out of, then let them know that you will take all the chips they have, you may end up with a mountain of chips, since you have solved their chip disposal problem.

For smaller amounts

If you don’t need a full truckload of wood chips, some county landfills provide wood chips to county residents free of charge. If you have a source of small branches, another of the mulch ideas is to rent wood chipping equipment from a local rental place and chip your own. Smaller wood chipping machines can be purchased, but tend to be slow, plus are not made for extended use.

3. Amount of RCW Produced Annually

In a single year, one large tree can provide a tenth of a yard of wood chips. An acre of forest can yield from 5 to 10 cubic yards of chips. An acre of orchard can provide 1 to 5 cubic yards of chips. A 100 yard hedge of trees can produce about 1 cubic yard.

For other mulch ideas, check out my page that goes further into detail about various types of mulches. (mulch types) When you get a chance, please check out my home page, Healthy Vegetable Gardening

(Return from Mulch Ideas to Fertility Soil)

I appreciate your input.

Please share your insights in the box below.

RCW Index

 1. Ramial Chipped Wood

 2. RCW solves gardening
 3. RCW helps create
     the perfect soil
 4. RCW for bushes, trees
 5. RCW creates a perfect
     growing environment
 6. Growing soil with RCW
     by incorporating in soil
 7. Getting free RCW, and
     which trees work best
 8. Applying RCW


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