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Green / fresh woodchip on paths around veg garden

tomhumftomhumf Killamarsh, NE Derbyshire, UKPosts: 61
We are newbie gardeners who have a largish veg plot at the end of the garden ( maybe 10m X 15m). When we moved we created some raised beds ( with plastic sides ) and weed membrane all around as the paths. It's basically plastic everywhere because we couldn't keep up with the weeding.

After following Charles Dowdings work we're interested in going no dig, and replacing the plastic paths with wood chips. 

I got a truck load ( maybe 4 metre square ) of chippings dropped off today which I barrowed to the edge of plot in a pile against the back wall. I'm planning to remove the plastic weed membrane and spread the chips straight away on paths. The remaining stuff I hope to compost with. There is a lot of green in the chippings - about 50 / 50 I think. Not sure what tree / bush was, but it smells a bit like lime - flat leaves not conifer. I guess it will takes years to compost properly.

I've read different opinions on using green wood chips around paths. Some say it will take nitrogen from the veg beds, some seem to think it doesn't matter. In my case as there is lots of green mixed with the wood, do you think I'll be ok to use straight on paths?

I wouldn't use any of it direct on beds until it has composted well down..

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  • FireFire LondonPosts: 14,192
    If the paths are narrow, could you keep the membrane down and cover with deep chips?
  • StephenSouthwestStephenSouthwest Southwest EnglandPosts: 334
    I wouldn't worry about the chippings being green going onto the path at all. I also agree with Fire - the weed membrane is already down and doing a good job - just cover it with chippings.
  • Allotment BoyAllotment Boy North London Posts: 5,016
    Yes we get wood chips dropped by local tree surgeons.  Lots of people on our site use them on paths. I agree leave the membrane down and put the wood chip on it.  
    AB Still learning

  • WilderbeastWilderbeast East YorkshirePosts: 1,314
    I use loads and loads of green wood chip either in the compost or as paths. Originally I used membrane under it but I've now removed all of this for a few reasons
    1. The membrane holds all the water in so my paths were totally saturated all the time so I had to wear wellies whenever there had been rain
    2. The membrane seemed to be alive and would constantly keep appearing around the edges or worn sections seemed to start coming to the surface
    3. Once you bury all that plastic it becomes forgotten about until you want it out and it's buried under a mass of soil/mulch
    4. Plastic laid over soil prevents it from breathing and absorbing the goodness around it do it becomes really soggy, heavy and lifeless

    I still use lots of the waste which a tree surgeon delivers for free (he's happy to get rid of it as they produce masses), I now lay it over cardboard usually 3 layers thick with 6inch of mulch over. I don't get weeds (well not yet) though my verbena, evening primrose and Solomon's seeds absolutely love to seed in the surface.

    I also compost it and with a few additions this works really well. To speed things along I line the bins with plastic (yes reuse the path membrane) and absolutely soak the chippings as you load them in. I set up my sprinkler to cover them as I fork it all in and pile it high, cover in plastic and old carpet if you have it. Fresh chippings develop loads of heat but dry out very quickly so wrapping in plastic traps the moisture in and keeps the reaction going. I turn and add more water regularly and then use this as browns which allows me to add loads of grass clippings.
  • tomhumftomhumf Killamarsh, NE Derbyshire, UKPosts: 61
    edited February 2021
    Thanks Wilderbeast, those are great points. I definitely want to get rid of the membrane. Good tips on composting the chips, I'll add some water and cover them up when I've finally moved them all off the drive! 
  • KeenOnGreenKeenOnGreen Posts: 1,631
    We have a lot of membrane on the paths at our allotment, and wouldn't be without it, even though we don't like using plastic.

    It's funny how many people see bark chips as environmentally friendly (and don't even start me on cardboard): we get bark chips "for free" at the allotment, however they are delivered by a tree surgeon who;

    1) Cuts down trees (generally not great)
    2) Uses a petrol chainsaw to cut them down (not great)
    3) Delivers them by lorry to the site (not great).  This is at least local, how many petrol miles has your garden-centre bought bark chip travelled?

    They rot down fairly quickly and so need to be replaced every 6-12 months, so it's a constant cycle of 1/2/3.  Having membrane prevents the soil from coming into contact with the bark chips, we think we use less bark chips as a result, meaning less 1/2/3.

    We use metal U clips to pin down the edges of our membrane, which is also folded over, so we never get it fraying at the edges or coming up.  The paths on neighbouring plots, which don't use membrane, are swamped with weeds.
  • FireFire LondonPosts: 14,192
    I see tree surgeons, furniture makers etc as the least worst option for wood, as trees do realistically need maintenance, so they offer waste wood that is not cut down for the purpose of chips. I try and go as super local a source as possible.

    I was thinking yesterday about the process of making cardboard (for packing boxes etc). I would really hope that it is mostly made of waste wood and waste/recycled paper, as it doesn't need to be high quality. But I suspect that it does come from "sustainably managed forests", which means bugger all.
  • WilderbeastWilderbeast East YorkshirePosts: 1,314
    @KeenOnGreen I don't buy any of the chippings, it's all tree surgeons waste. The guy creates a lot of waste despite being very environmentally conscious, he regularly refuses to fell trees when he thinks its unnecessary. He owns a large piece of land that was formerly clay pits and is bringing it back to life slowly and takes his waste there, I happen to live on his route so he drops a load whenever I ask. I don't have any problems with weeds where it's laid and top it up every year. I think it's about as environmentally responsible as I can get, I wouldn't use the bagged bark as it does breakdown very fast and doesn't cover a very big area. 
  • If you've got raised beds I wouldn't worry so much about the fresh woodchip taking nitrogen from the soil as hopefully your beds are above the area affected (which is quite small as I understand). 
    Anyway, in no time the woodchip will break down and be incorporated into the soil to improve it. I notice A LOT of worm casts on my wood chip paths so I guess they must like it! If you had plastic down underneath, I suspect this action wouldn't happen as the worms would struggle to access it?
    Yes, you have to replace the woodchip once a year but it's a waste product anyway and it does the job as I have very few weeds coming through.
    Hope that helps
  • BobTheGardenerBobTheGardener Leicestershire, UKPosts: 11,336
    If I have too much woody material to add to the compost heap, it gets shredded directly onto the compacted earth paths between my raised beds.  Causes no problems at all and saves me buying bark chippings. :)
    A trowel in the hand is worth a thousand lost under a bush.
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