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Educate me on soil, decomposition of wood chips


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I have an old pasture that I've mostly reclaimed form scrubby brushy trees. It's about 4 acres and it's directly behind my house. I eventually want to mow it, or more ideally, to plant wildflowers there so I can let it go and not have it look terrible. However, there is a large, approximately 1 acre, depression in the middle that stays wet for a long time every year. It's just now drying out. Filling it with topsoil would be very pricey. Even scraping the top soil, adding gravel and replacing the topsoil is more than I want to do. I've got some drainage tile near the edge but I still want it flat and I don't want to carry all the moisture away, especially later in the summer.

National Grid, the utility company is trimming power lines all around me and has offered all the chipped trees I could want. I'm taking what they're sending me and it seems like there'll be plenty. I like it because it's free and it's natural. I don't expect it to be soil in the next few years, but I also don't know what to expect long term either.

I've tried to read about this approach online but most sources I'm skeptical about. My questions to you are

  1. What are the long term effects of this approach on the soil; what can I expect?
  2. How long would you think before anything can grow? Will it be a decade?
  3. Should I try to rotate it like compost every year or so with a disk?
  4. Anything else I haven't thought of?
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What’s the ph of that soil ? 

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5 minutes ago, 560Dennis said:

What’s the ph of that soil ? 

Last I checked, about 7 years ago, 7.3 ish

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6 minutes ago, KWRB said:

Last I checked, about 7 years ago, 7.3 ish

Sorry I better not guess now , I was not expecting what your telling me . One thought now is to get an agronomy info from Cornell to read over . I have one from Ohio state that I can link. To you if they don’t ,but I one of the top ag schools in the world should have it. 
Im finding building up soil is a long process , which I’m an expert at cutting corners that extend the time .

The other is do a test on the amount of water that soil can absorb .im done  

 

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Years ago in Coastal South Carolina, lumber mills were a major employer, their jobs were basically slave work where a mill shack and a commissary store were part of a salary package.  To hold the price of building down the owners would build roads and building foundations in the edge of a swamp using freshly cut sawdust as fill.  The houses were basically on pole foundation and sawdust would be added to cover up the swamp, yards and roads  would be rebuilt after every rainy season.  That sawdust never seemed to decompose and grew almost no vegetation even after years of build-up.  Fortunately most workers did not own vehicles and were the working, walking class so they could return home every night. Basically wet wood especially southern pines will stay intact for years!

 

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YEARS before breakdown! ---also the first thing you better do is check local codes! --Around here you cant use ANYTHING combustable as fill or anything with rebar sticking out of it! ----Do as you like but I have worked on jobs hauling the stuff back out when the law (epa) steps in and orders it cleaned up at your expense!  ---Fill dirt is cheeeeep compared to what problems  wood chips can lead to!! lol!!

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Did that years ago. Was not that big of a depression but was maybe 20 loads of wood chips. Today its just grass and there is still a bit of a dip but it benefitted both us and the power Co. Second year weeds began to grow, third year mowed it down and fourth year looked pretty decent. Make sure its not locust or other rot resistant woods. Mine was oak and maple mostly.

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26 minutes ago, 560Dennis said:

Sorry I better not guess now , I was not expecting what your telling me . One thought now is to get an agronomy info from Cornell to read over . I have one from Ohio state that I can link. To you if they don’t ,but I one of the top ag schools in the world should have it. 
Im finding building up soil is a long process , which I’m an expert at cutting corners that extend the time .

The other is do a test on the amount of water that soil can absorb .im done  

 

Well, I took your advice and called them. Of course no one answered the phone because the OMGCOVID(!) but I left a message and hopefully someone will get back to me.

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Depends on what kind of trees.

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Why not leave the low spot alone? It will keep a bit water for whatever vegetation can reach it, and maybe have green instead of brown. Since your not farming it you can mow it when it’s dry, or next time. it will also help keep a better natural balance to the whole thing.  

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Dig out a small section in the center of the low spot to minimize the size of the wet spot put a fountian in it to keep the water fresh and go catch some bluegill and release them in the pond hours of fun for youngens.

My 2 cents you've got water embrace it...

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44 minutes ago, Scott! said:

No way would I ever do that.

Scott Fleming

2004 Soil and Land Management - University of Wisconsin - Stevens Point

Okay, I'm listening. Would you educate me? I'm a total novice at best with soil.

So if I say, it's going to decompose and turn into soil, please explain why this doesn't work. I'm not being facetious. I'm looking to learn. I've seen and read such varying opinions, I'd like to know some facts.

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Good post l I’m learning 

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What is the feasibility of scraping the topsoil and piling it, then scraping the subsoil into a separate pile, then putting the wood chips in and relaying the subsoil, then covering with the topsoil?

 I too am curious because I have a similar project ahead of me.

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I know from my wife when she took some courses in land management that to make wood chips break down in just a few years that nitrogen fertilizer was the way to do it. Mix it in annd then turn it over 2-3 times a year.

Another side effect of damp wood chips is mold. I know this because of a BIL with breathing problems. He and his wife put down wood chip mulch a couple of years ago. Last year he had pneumonia 2 twice. 2nd time they really question them about stuff around the house that could be causing problems. Doc told them to get rid of the wood chips because of molds. I'm not sure of how accurate that is. He has been good sense them so there may be something to it.

 

Rick

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8 hours ago, 1586 Jeff said:

What is the feasibility of scraping the topsoil and piling it, then scraping the subsoil into a separate pile, then putting the wood chips in and relaying the subsoil, then covering with the topsoil?

 I too am curious because I have a similar project ahead of me.

 

12 hours ago, KWRB said:

Okay, I'm listening. Would you educate me? I'm a total novice at best with soil.

So if I say, it's going to decompose and turn into soil, please explain why this doesn't work. I'm not being facetious. I'm looking to learn. I've seen and read such varying opinions, I'd like to know some facts.

My 2 cents. 
For wood chips to break down and decompose you need oxygen. You’re going to have a high carbon load in the wood chips, without something else to utilize that carbon to help it decompose. Mix some manure with the wood chips or other organic materials. 
You will want to test the soil ph as ( I could be wrong here) that high carbon source will lower the ph. 
I’m curious why you don’t just level that low spot with fill from the surrounding areas? 

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On 6/18/2020 at 1:58 PM, KWRB said:

I have an old pasture that I've mostly reclaimed form scrubby brushy trees. It's about 4 acres and it's directly behind my house. I eventually want to mow it, or more ideally, to plant wildflowers there so I can let it go and not have it look terrible. However, there is a large, approximately 1 acre, depression in the middle that stays wet for a long time every year. It's just now drying out. Filling it with topsoil would be very pricey. Even scraping the top soil, adding gravel and replacing the topsoil is more than I want to do. I've got some drainage tile near the edge but I still want it flat and I don't want to carry all the moisture away, especially later in the summer.

National Grid, the utility company is trimming power lines all around me and has offered all the chipped trees I could want. I'm taking what they're sending me and it seems like there'll be plenty. I like it because it's free and it's natural. I don't expect it to be soil in the next few years, but I also don't know what to expect long term either.

I've tried to read about this approach online but most sources I'm skeptical about. My questions to you are

  1. What are the long term effects of this approach on the soil; what can I expect?
  2. How long would you think before anything can grow? Will it be a decade?
  3. Should I try to rotate it like compost every year or so with a disk?
  4. Anything else I haven't thought of?

I just went back and read this again.

1) You won’t be happy as the wood chips take forever to break down by themselves. Soil Ph and structure will suffer 

2) It will support weeds initially. Weeds love poor soils 

3) You don’t have compost, you will have a pile of woodchips. Mix organic materials with the wood chips if you want compost 

4) Probably ( yea I know, not very helpful)

5) Go back one post and read what I wrote there. 

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On 6/18/2020 at 12:58 PM, KWRB said:

I have an old pasture that I've mostly reclaimed form scrubby brushy trees. It's about 4 acres and it's directly behind my house. I eventually want to mow it, or more ideally, to plant wildflowers there so I can let it go and not have it look terrible. However, there is a large, approximately 1 acre, depression in the middle that stays wet for a long time every year. It's just now drying out. Filling it with topsoil would be very pricey. Even scraping the top soil, adding gravel and replacing the topsoil is more than I want to do. I've got some drainage tile near the edge but I still want it flat and I don't want to carry all the moisture away, especially later in the summer.

National Grid, the utility company is trimming power lines all around me and has offered all the chipped trees I could want. I'm taking what they're sending me and it seems like there'll be plenty. I like it because it's free and it's natural. I don't expect it to be soil in the next few years, but I also don't know what to expect long term either.

I've tried to read about this approach online but most sources I'm skeptical about. My questions to you are

  1. What are the long term effects of this approach on the soil; what can I expect?
  2. How long would you think before anything can grow? Will it be a decade?
  3. Should I try to rotate it like compost every year or so with a disk?
  4. Anything else I haven't thought of?

Is the cost of hiring a small land leveler in your area cost prohibitive?

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