The next day dawned and I was definitely sore. It was nice to see the chicken coop, both in the run and outside looking nice. I also enjoy the smell of the wood chips when I am working around that area. But the coop is only the beginning.. and the day was supposed to be nice so I wanted to try and get the rest of the chips moved around the yard. This time of year the temps could be below freezing by next weekend, so I wanted to take advantage of every good day I could. But before I could start moving the rest of those chips, I had to get some plants I had picked up planted. I had picked up some strawberries roots and some Kale, so decided to do that and work out of some of the stiffness I was experiencing before getting after the rest of that pile.
I had planted some rye seed in the barrels I had cut in half on my rain gutter garden system. I let the first one get too tall and it was difficult to work back into the soil. I cut the tops off and took a trowel and turned the soil and grass upside down and broke everything up the best I could.. then added some soil over the top and will let that sit a bit and see what happens. All the grass I cut off I divided up among the remaining barrels and worked that into the soil with the grass that was growing in those barrels. Really hoping the decomposing greens will improve the quality and fertility of the soil in these containers.
The other barrels had new growth that was only was a few inches tall. I found this height easily turned under and I also worked in some of my alfalfa pellets as well. Then I added more soil over the top and sprinkled some alfalfa on the top of that and planted my strawberries. I bought a package of ten strawberry starts from Lowe’s and planted four down each side and the remaining two in the middle. I still want to order some more.. and since they usually come 25 plants to an offer, that gives me the idea I only need to order one set to finish off the other two barrels I want to plant in strawberries.
After I got the strawberries planted I added some of the wood chips around them as mulch. The gutter that has the strawberry barrels has the plumbing done to continuously feed water into the gutter. If you stick our finger into the soil you can feel moisture, but not a soaking wet feeling. I was a bit concerned about these larger containers getting enough moisture up into the soil, so it is good to know the four net cups are working. I still may want to make sure there is good peat content in these containers so the water is pulled up where it is needed.
The other thing I had to plant was some Kale I picked up. I got a 9 pack of kale and a few went in with the onions. The rest I put in a barrel I want to grow some peanuts in. I have no experience growing this so not really sure how much room it will need to grow. I don’t like kale, but will be good for the chickens and I am actually going to try to eat some. I have read about making Kale chips and there is always the option of dehydrating the Kale and sneaking a spoonful into one of my smoothies. That way I will get all the benefits without technically having to eat it.
After the planting was done I gathered all the boxes I had been saving and headed out to try and finish that pile of chips. The cardboard I have been saving is placed on the ground to act as a weed barrier. Several layers of newspapers can also be used.. but I have easier access to discarded boxes so taking what I can get easily and for free. I have nothing BUT weeds.. so I am not going to cut corners and have to deal with digging weeds out of my mulch at a later date.
The first thing I mulched is this poor Oak tree. It is way out in the front corner of the yard and I do not have a hose that reaches that far. So, at times, it does not get enough water to grow well. I am very surprised it has survived these last two summers. Every year, by the end of summer, it looks pretty rough and you can see it has been affected by drought. I piled a nice ring of the wood chips several inches thick on the cardboard around the base of the tree. In time I will make this area larger and a little deeper.. but for now this is a good start to keeping moisture in the ground for this tree.
Then most of the rest of the afternoon was spent laying down cardboard and dumping the wood chips in the front yard. I went through all the cardboard I had saved and needed more. Because I had a hobby where I was selling and shipping, I had a large assortment of USPS shipping boxes. I went through all of the as well and still needed more. What cardboard I did have allowed me to put a nice layer of mulch down around the front porch, along the drive and around a young tree I have along the front fence. That layer of mulch is a good 4 inches thick and will not move with rain or wind. I am very pleased with the chips I got.
It was starting to get late and my body was really starting to protest, so I took some old catalogs and laid them around a small shrub I planted a few weeks ago and add the several inches of the mulch and called it a day. By now we had been working for many hours and had gotten a lot done. The current and future flower beds were looking nice and you could smell the wood as you worked around the yard. Try as I might I still did not get all those wood chips moved. My FitBit called me an over achiever but I still had more work to do. But it will have to wait until I get some more cardboard boxes and a little rest as the next day was the start of my work week.
I am still really excited about my wood chips. Two days of work and I still have a bit of the pile to go. I called my chipping company on the way in to work this morning and thanked the person I got them from. Told him they were perfect and the next time they worked in the area I would take all they produced. I will have the next bunch dropped around the other side of the property as I have several trees over there and will make for a shorter distance to move the chips. I also want to let some sit in the pile and “cook” a bit. He said he would have many chips all year long and did I really want several loads at one time? I told him to go ahead and drop several as I had plans for them and he was pretty excited not to have to haul them to a disposal site.
Over time I have plans to use the wood chips to improve every inch of my property. Once the trees have a nice mulch I will work on covering this entire side yard for a garden. The area towards the back of the property past the Mesquite will be a regular vegetable garden. I will have the Comfrey growing along the drive and will work my way to the neighbors fence adding the cardboard and chips and after it decomposes some I will grow corn, pumpkins and squash. In time we may also move potatoes, onions and garlic to this area.
The area in the front towards the street I want to grow wildflowers in. The cardboard and layer of chips will kill out all the weeds currently there in the front. After it is covered with the chips I plan on letting the area sit for months as the soil underneath improves. Then I will add some soil and compost to the top and sow the wildflowers in the fall. As a rule wildflowers do not like a fertile area, but the layer of chips should hold some moisture as they get established and keep them from competing with weeds. Wildflowers will create an attraction for bees needed for pollination of the vegetables as well as make the area maintenance free. With the wood chips the area should require little water and no mowing except for in the fall to return the seeds to the soil.
Eventually we will work on areas to add grass. I will work those areas like the wildflower area. Cardboard down then several inches of wood chips then letting it sit for a while. Then soil and compost over the top and either direct seeding or using sod. I like Centipede and have been successful growing flats of it. Once established I will sprig it in the lawn area and get it established. Again.. with the wood chips under the soil decomposing and keeping everything supplied with water, we should have a nice weed free lawn in time. Will have to watch for the chips taking up Nitrogen.. but think allowing them to sit and adding coffee grounds, chicken manure and compost to the top of it when it is put down should offset a lot of that.
With all the plans I have for these wood chips I had better get used to the sore muscles. I am hoping to get to where I can move one load in a weekend. Until then I will take the sore muscles as the chips are a great and free way I can improve my soil.