Today’s post is as much for me as it is for you. This is a garden recap: a record of all the successes, failures, and in-betweens of the 2022 garden season. The biggest change we made was starting a Back to Eden style area around our raised beds. Growing with woodchips has some huge pros, but there are definitely some drawbacks. Let’s start with the pros!
The Best Things About Growing with Woodchips
The best thing about the woodchips this year was that we hardly EVER had to water! They retained moisture wonderfully, and even during a huge heat wave this summer, we only had to water the woodchip area a few times. Since we tripled the size of our garden this year, that was a welcome benefit, since less time with the sprinkler on equals less money spent.
We were absolutely amazed at how healthy all of our plants in the woodchip area remained throughout the whole season! Pests that had plagued us in years before, like squash bugs, took almost all season to find our zucchini and patty pan squash plants that were nestled in between some cabbages. Also, powdery mildew didn’t take off until the very last two weeks of September. Considering we’d had plenty of rain in the spring and heat in the summer, I was super impressed!
Prolific with a P!
So many of the things we planted in the woodchips grew like CRAZY. My “theory” is that the nutrients in the woodchips as they are breaking down helped to add to the composting effect. So even though I fertilized a tiny bit at the beginning, they really had all the nutrients they needed in the ground! Here’s a list of what we harvested from the woodchip area.
- Over 45 pounds of San Marzano and Roma tomatoes
- 22 pounds of pole beans
- 10-12 green and purple cabbages (over 30 pounds total, some we ate fresh, some we turned into sauerkraut!)
- Over 8 pounds of potatoes
- 7 butternut squash (we planted two plants, but not sure which squash came from which plants)
- 6 huge heads of celery
- We also got smaller amounts of zucchini, eggplant, and tomatillos that I didn’t weigh.
Problems with Woodchips
Since this was our first year growing with woodchips, they haven’t had a ton of time to break down. Because of that, our soil was quite dense. While that was fine for the tomatoes, cabbages, and squash, our potatoes suffered. We harvested a little over eight pounds of potatoes (we planted four pounds), which although we were able to double our initial investment, it definitely wasn’t the amazing bounty of potatoes we should have gotten. They were also really small and weirdly shaped. They still taste great! But they’re just a little “ugly.”
This one didn’t actually hurt us too bad, which was surprising. But, since the woodchips weren’t fully broken down, the ground was actually using some of its energy and nutrients to help breakdown the chips, rather than feed the plants. So any slow growth that we had or challenges we ran into could have been contributed to by this.
Weeds and Mushrooms
We did our very best to weed heavily before putting the woodchips down, but a lot still came back. While weeds are definitely less than in our raised beds, they are sturdier weeds here with strong roots because they were growing here before the woodchips came in. I think we made some progress by weeding every time we go into the garden, but I’m honestly not sure if that’s a problem we will ever totally fix.
Second, since the woodchips hold moisture so well, that means they’re also great places for mushrooms to grow. We’ve had some crazy amounts of mushrooms pop up all throughout the garden, and have done our best to keep up with them by spraying copper fungicide a day or two after it rains. While the copper fungicide kills the mushrooms, it doesn’t keep them from coming back, which is a bit of a bummer.
Is it Worth Growing with Woodchips?
YES! One hundred percent. The problems we did have are problems that will ideally go away over time as the chips start to break down. Growing with woodchips is an exercise in delayed gratification. Everything has to start somewhere, and I think for our first year, we had some amazing successes and improvements over our raised beds.
Do You Use Woodchips? Or Another Method?
Let me know! Tag me @sweetgumspot on Instagram or Facebook with any photos of your garden! And add any tips or questions you have in the comments below! Also, if you liked this post, check out my post about our newest addition to the homestead, meat rabbits!
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