- Manisha Lath Gupta
Soil Management in Permaculture: Wood Chip mulch
Updated: Apr 12, 2021
If you have read through our blogs and watched out videos, you would know by now that we love to keep our soils mulched at all times. And, our preferred mulch is wood chips. We are often scorned at by those who perceive wood chips to be very expensive mulch.
The truth is that for us wood chips are for free! How is that? It is because we have planted over 5000 trees at Aanandaa Permaculture over the years. Every year, these trees need pruning, cutting and trimming. Sometimes branches fall on their own during a storm. At other times an entire tree gets uprooted. We generate so much wood from our food forest in the course of the year, that we are able to produce upwards of 100 Quintals (10 Tons) of mulch each year for ourselves!
Between October and January, when the weather is cold and the trees are dormant, we undertake a large tree trimming exercise. We cut the fruit trees for shape, we prune some of the smaller ones for better fruiting, and cut back the large native & flowering trees to let the sun come in. This has the dual benefit of being able to grow other plants under these trees, and of course produce large amounts of wood for mulch.
The cut branches are collected and sorted based on the thickness of the branches. Anything bigger than 6 cm in diameter is kept aside for poles, pillars and bridges. Everything else, including the leaves are taken to the wood chip machine.
Here is a glimpse of how the wood chips are produced. This machine is very similar to a Toka machine - the ones commonly used to chop fodder for the cattle. Except that it has a much stronger blade, has a conveyor belt, and an outlet that throws the output straight into the trailer. As can be seen in the video below, it is quite powerful and chops the material very fast.
The wood chips are piled up in a convenient location - somewhere close to the walking path, so that we can fill up the wheelbarrow and make umpteen trips to our raised beds, or whichever part needs the wood chips as mulch.
For us, this is pure gold. Honest, organic and fresh mulch, made from our own biomass - nutrients being returned to the same place they were extracted from. In 2019 we made almost 6-7 trips to the wood chip processor. In 2020, we invested in a wood chip machine at Aanandaa itself, as it saves us the labour and transport. Take a look at the video below to see how it works!
Finally, just remember. The only way to better the quality of your soil is to mulch, mulch, mulch!