Wood Chips, Rock Dust, And Mushroom Spores
John Kohler of the YouTube channel Growing Your Greens shows us what plants look like when grown in beds of rotting wood chips, rock dust, and mushroom spores.
These beds of wood chips at the Amazing Permaculture Garden just outside of Portland, OR have been creating very rich and very nutrient dense black soil for five years.
Dinosaur Kale Growing In Ordinary Soil
First, John shows us some dinosaur kale that’s growing in regular garden soil that’s been treated with compost, a bit of rock dust, and overlaid with wood chip mulch. (The wood chips in this case are just mulch and not the special soil made after three years of decomposing.) The kale looks ordinary…like what you’d expect from a garden and nothing to get excited about. However, next, John shows us something very much out of the ordinary…
Dinosaur Kale Growing In Wood Chip Soil
In the next scene, we see John seated among some pretty incredible looking dinosaur kale plants! The leaves on these plants are huge and look like they’re full of color and moisture. This batch of kale was grown in the Amazing Permaculture Garden’s wood chip area. And the wood chips in this area aren’t there primarily for mulch, but [sws_highlight hlcolor=”fbfac7″]the chips themselves have become and are in the process of becoming rich, dark garden soil.[/sws_highlight]
From Clay To Rich Soil In Three Years
Before they began using wood chips, this plot of ground was just unimproved clay soil. The chips have been there for five years, but it took about three years for them to break down into a rich, black hummus that would produce such a high quality plant as the kale we see in this video. (And there are two other ingredients used to treat the soil, as we’ll see coming up.)
John says this way of growing food produces amazing growth with more food in the same space. He also said the taste of the food grown in this kind of soil is better.
How They Started
Over the years, Gabrielle and Tomas have dumped 214 dump truck loads, or around 530 tons, of wood chips on their property. They had it all dumped in one spot and used a wheelbarrow to spread it throughout their garden. John said there’s about one acre being cultivated in this way.
A lot of tree services and arborists have to pay to drop their chips at the dump. You may be able to get truckloads of chips for free if you contact a few tree professionals.
Rich Soil Made From Rotting Wood Chips
John then shows us a section of ground that’s had wood chips treating the soil for five years. The top few inches are regular wood chips. But as he digs down with his hands under that top layer, we see rich, black soil.
Wood chips aren’t the only secret they’re using at the Amazing Permaculture Garden. They also use rock dust, which supplies minerals and food for important bacteria. And they also used white cap mushroom spores, which helps break down the wood.
How You Can Start Using Wood Chips
To use wood chips in your own garden is pretty simple. You just need to find a source for your chips and then place those chips right on top of the ground and wait. Include mushroom spores and rock dust. Keep adding more when you can and don’t till the chips into the original underlying earth.
A Warning Against Tilling The Ground
You may think tilling the wood chips into the dirt would be helpful and speed up the process, but don’t do it! [sws_highlight hlcolor=”fbfac7″]John tells us that as the chips break down, they’ll leach nitrogen from the soil.[/sws_highlight]
If you want to plant in your wood chip area before the chips have decomposed into soil, dig into the chips and pull them aside…get down to the original soil layer and dig into the dirt itself. Plant your plant, and then cover the ground you just exposed back with wood chips as mulch.
Remember…it will take about three years for the wood to turn into soil. Until then, just dig through it without mixing it into the original underlying dirt and plant directly into that original layer of dirt.
Gabrielle Tells Us Her And Tomas’ Story
Their garden is outside of Portland, OR and is in an area that goes through dry conditions three months of the year. Their initial idea was to use chips as mulch to help retain water during times of drought.
But after some time passed, Gabrielle began to notice their plants grew better in the wood chipped soil. So, after some research, she learned that when wood chips rot, it produces a fine soil. She also found out you can speed up the decomposition process by adding mycelium, or mushroom spores. They bought a pound of mushroom spores to cover their entire garden.
Gabrielle’s neighbor is an arborist, so they were able to make a deal with him to dump his chips near their garden. And the area they chose to dump these chips just happened to be close to an ailing apple tree…
Saving A Hundred Year Old Apple Tree
In the last part of the interview, Gabrielle talks about a hundred year old apple tree…they chose an area near this tree for their wood chip dump. Well, the tree was apparently in bad shape and untended for quite a while. They don’t show the tree in the video, but from the way she describes it, they ended up cleaning up some tangled and overgrown branches. They also used rock dust and wood chips on the soil in which the tree was growing.
Gabrielle also said that before they paid some attention to the apple tree, it produced poor, wormy fruit. However, after tending to the tree with the chips and rock dust for a few years, the tree itself is more healthy and the fruit began tasting better and now has almost no worms.
[sws_green_box box_size=”100%”]Shop For Kale Seeds And Rock Dust
Want to try growing your own dinosaur kale? Buy a pack or two of these…200 Organic Kale Toscano Seeds by David’s Garden Seeds.Here’s the type of rock dust Gabrielle mentions she used in her garden. It’s Azomite and it contains 67 trace minerals, including selenium, vanadium, and chromium. You can get it here in 2 lb, 10lb, or even 44 lb orders.
How do you grow kale and how the heck do you eat it? This book by kale expert Sharon Hannah answers those questions and will set you on the right path to growing and cooking your own kale harvests: The Book of Kale: The Easy-to-Grow Superfood 80+ Recipes
John’s First Visit To Gabrielle And Tomas’ Garden
John visited this amazing garden about a year before he filmed the wood chip video at the top of this post. Here’s that first video in its entirety, which is 38 minutes.