Monday, May 13, 2013

Increasing soil fertility

There are 2 schools of thought when it comes to using wood chips in the garden.  Some believe it's the best option and others believe its detrimental to a healthy garden.  I personally have done a lot of research and can appreciate both arguments but where we live I have chosen to use wood chips for 2 reasons.  The first is they are free!  The second reason is we live in Florida where it's hot and the soil gets scorched by the sun turning every exposed piece of top soil into sandy dry fluff.  Covering the soil with yard waste and even purchasing hay or pine needles only stays on the surface for a short period  before drying up and disintegrating once again exposing dry, sandy, and dead top soil. 

With wood chips I may get more fungus than normal but as the wood chips break down I also get a garden full of worms that are adding the beneficial bacteria that plants love.  Fungus plus bacteria is a win win!  I also like to grow beautiful and productive plants which is what I get when I use wood chips.

After adding compost but before adding wood chips

Only half mulched at this point.  I've added edibles to the space,  Zucchini, lima beans and tomatoes.

2 years ago I planted a butterfly garden by our pool and filled it with beautiful plants that I knew would thrive since it was such a sunny spot.  Now, 2 years later, I have a sad butterfly garden where only the hardiest of plants remain and the rest go to die.  You can see the original post here.  I know longer use weed liner, unless it's a short term problem solver, and all of it has been removed at this point.

My attention has been on the front garden but I finally decided to devote a little time to bringing this bed back to life.  The problem is that it's located at the top of a slope in the yard, gets extreme afternoon sun, and the only thing covering the soil is some pine bark remnants so the soil is sandy and dead.

To bring it back to life I added rich compost full of worms from the compost pile.  My pile is mostly chicken manure, food waste, and a small amount of yard waste and is not completely broken down so it's full of worms with every scoop but it can be a little potent to use as soil. If you are wanting to just use the soil it's best to wait until the worms have finished their job and have moved on.  In this case however my goal was to give the soil a little jump start so I needed those precious worms.  I made sure to only add a thin layer across all exposed top soil, harvested some Yarrow from the garden and spread that throughout the bed to hopefully aid in the breakdown process of the wood chips Yarrow Info, and topped it with approximately 6" of wood chips in open spots and 3" around the base of existing plants.  This should solve the problem and hopefully this bed will be in full bloom soon!
I'll keep you posted on the progress.....
Happy gardening!  Pin It


  1. You have sandy soil, I have clay. :( Mulching of any kind seems to be the answer! Thanks for the info and great pictures!

  2. I'm not a big wood chip fan. It really robs the soil of nitrogen as it breaks down and as it ages I don't like the look of it. I think manure is much better:) or at least a mix of the two. It also depends where the wood chips come from, some are much better than others.

  3. Hello! I picked your post as my favorite for last week's From the Farm Blog hop so come over tomorrow and you will see it featured. Thanks!!
    Elaine @

  4. Thanks for sharing your experiece. I also don't believe there's one right way to mulch. There are so many factors to consider. We live along the Tx Gulf coast so I think our climates are similar. I came over from the From the Farm link up. Enjoyed the visit.

  5. I have about 20 piles of free chips on the farm that I plan to spread in the garden, under the fruit and pecan trees next week. I don't use weedguard because if the weeds can't come through how do the worms??? Love your gardens.

  6. I would love for you to share and link up at my TGIF Link Party. The party is open every Thursday night and closes Wednesday's at midnight.
    Have a wonderful week!
    Hugs, Cathy

  7. Great Read. I am doing the wood chips as well and will share this with my readers as another example. Thanks.

  8. Grear read. I am doing the wood chips too and will pass this link along to my readers as another example. Thanks.


Thank you for your comments! It so great to hear from you and it is what keeps me motivated to create.