I'm undecided on this. I love the aesthetic but weeds still get through (and become harder to cultivate). If your garden paths are already well kempt, it may be worth it. Also, water retention and fungal activity are nice bonuses. You could throw it all up into the beds with a rotary plow but then you're back to square one so..?
True, I wonder how quickly they break down completely. If they break down over the course of the "off-season" it seems like it would be worth it to me. If not, it may be a big drain on labor that would be otherwise spent better elsewhere.
We do use chips in our permanent pathways, on the beds we don't use dewitt on. We innoculate with King Strophari so we get a bit of a bonus crop there too - though plenty of baby 'shrooms get squished when you walk on the paths, so it's not the most efficient system. I think they work best as far as turning into a soil amendment if you can lay them down super thick one year, and let them sit and rot for the next two years before flipping them back up onto the bed tops. In a dry climate I would avoid them, I just don't think they would break down fast enough to be worth the trouble, but SO much water winds up sitting in our pathways that I find they break down nicely - but again, lay them down thick, over cardboard if you can swing it, and let them sit for two seasons before you throw the remaining composted chips back up on the bed. Leaves and woodchips are great here in NJ as a local, weed free, cheap or free carbon source. I'd take leaves over chips, but the blueberry farm next door takes them all from the town so there aren't really any available.
Great advice. We are able to request hardwood chips and get almost 10 yards for free at a time...its hard to pass up. I'm going to look into some of the reseasrch out there in terms of innoculation, I feel like Mushroom cultivation is really popular right now as well as in high demand. Thanks everyone!
With such an abundant free resource (delivered no less!) it is definitely something we are incorporating into our operation wherever we can....creating some slow-composting carbon sources in paths, and using it as a carbon source for our compost piles. In NJ, the King Stropharia mushrooms thrive with almost not effort once established. We are building a large three bin aerated static compost system this season, and hope to buy in less compost next year - we have enough livestock-produced N here on the farm, and now have enough free carbon to balance it out.
@shannonatsilverforgefarm, I was just thinking of a three pile "static system, but poultry netting layer hens in the "active" pile and moving them to the next to let the previous pile cure... maybe with a little aeration? Either way, I think there is a way to do this as a significant and profitable composting supplement... and if the eggs (going rate is $4.5/doz at market here on the high-end) can at least pay for the compost/labor, it would be a win a my book.
Wood chips in large aisle i used to do in my small plot that was about 1/5 an acre. It worked well. Works even better when you put weed mat than chips. A thing to know about adding any wood type filler to your beds is that it will eventually add nice organic material. But while it's breaking down it uses lots of nitrogen and will out compete the crops if you plant directly into a bed you just added a lot of chips too. And it takes a while to break down.
Y'all should check out the last Ruminant podcast dump. Jordan and Karl Hammer go into good detail about the use of ramial wood chips in the intensive market garden context. I'm going to add a double layer of brown recycled paper mulch (3' wide folded in half lengthways) THEN woodchips to the aisles to a plot that I grew exclusively in woven fabric last year. I feel like I've got a good head start on the weeds being under cover all Summer/Fall to begin with, we'll see how it goes. On the other half of the 2/3 acre plot I'm going to leave my aisles bare to make sure I cultivate out any leftover perinnials... it was just in Winter squash last year...
Harvested over ten lbs of gorgeous winecap mushrooms from our innoculated paths last week - love it! Adding a fresh layer of chips for 'shroom fuel once we get our next load of woodchips.
I'm a proponent although I've heard of slug issues. In terms of Nitrogen competition, my understanding is that does not happen unless mixed in with the soil. Sitting on top is ok, I dunno, I dont grow in my rows.
Amazed with how fast the soil biology has "sucked up"/broken down the woodchips we laid in the pathways earlier this spring - we will be adding several inches more to all the paths with our next tree service drop. Not a bad thing, just amazed at how eager the ecosystem is to grab onto all that organic matter.
we add about 6 inches of chips when i get around to it to the trails as i have an unlimited supply, usually turned to soil in 6 months to a year. has pros and cons. no weeds for 6 months, but if you dont do anything after that it makes anything in the trails grow mighty fast.