Woodchip is this gardener’s best friend… Diary of a Rocket Gardener

I have a fairly large plot, and there are a lot of persistent weeds to keep on top of, from bindweed, docks, and brambles to wildflowers like campions, creeping buttercup as well as nettles and couch grass. I started out by creating raised beds, and then covering paths with membrane topped with wood chip. Over the past couple of years I’ve been trying to approach my veg patch with the “no-dig” method, heavily mulching the raised beds rather than digging them over. I’ve found this very beneficial, particularly in cutting down the amount of time spent getting rid of the weeds. It does, however, require quite a significant amount of compost to cover each of the beds every season, more than I could easily produce.

For me and my plot, wood chip is an absolute life saver. The wood chip that is on the pathways slowly composts down, so now, at the end of the 2nd year, it is fairly crumbly. It’s not quite the compost that I’d want in the raised beds, but it’s not far off. So I’ve decided to start a wood chip rotation. I’m currently on a mission to relocate half of it to the chicken run so that they can enjoy scratching around, and the other half to a big pile where it can break down further and hopefully by spring (or next autumn) I will have quite a lot of lovely compost for the beds.

Meanwhile, I’ve befriended a couple of local tree surgeons, and can call on them for a load or two of wood chip from time to time. I’m sure they would be happy to give me the wood chip free of charge, but I give them £15-20 a load. At the moment I have 4 loads which cost me £60. I’m using half of these fresh chipping to re-cover the pathways. This should give me a fresh start, with relatively weed-free pathways next season. Interestingly, many “no-diggers” advise against using wood chip as they find it provides a good habitat for slugs. This hasn’t been my experience at all, and in fact I haven’t seen any slugs in the wood chip as I’ve been shovelling it from place to place. That’s not to say my veg patch is slug-free, it’s not at all, but they just seem to hide elsewhere.

I intend to leave the other half of the wood chip in a mound, again to break down into compost. This should take 2 years, which seems like a long time, but I know how quickly it goes. The overall plan then is to constantly have this rotation moving around, with fresh wood chip to use as and when needed, and nicely composted wood chip to mulch the beds every autumn. It’s very low-cost, and although there is a good day or two of shovelling the wood chip around each year, I quite enjoy the exercise, especially at this time of year when it’s good to a) make the most of any sunny weather and b) good to shed a few pounds ahead of the Christmas munchies!!