In the permaculture demonstration garden, there are trenched foot paths filled with wood chip mulch. These paths serve as an example of both materials management and how everything in permaculture serves a purpose. Here’s an outline of what these paths do in the demonstration garden.There is value in every opportunity resource like those wood chips recently delivered by a local tree services company. What is a waste stream for the this company becomes a quality input for a growing system here at Prosperity Homestead. Before reading the list below, jot down how many uses you can find for wood chips in a garden.
Properly implemented, wood chips can:
- Slow water. Foot paths are trenched on contour to slow down and spreads out heavy rains experienced here in Martinsville VA.
- Retain moisture. Trenched foot paths are filled with mulch which soaks up rain water, holding it for weeks at times.
- Warms garden space. Sunlight during the day warms mulch paths and are warm to the touch even late into the night.
- Reduce mud path. Rather than muddy soil around plants, paths remain firm. This also reduces disease in garden from mud splash on plants.
- Build up hummus soil. Layers of moist wood chips break down with microbial activity into a rich hummus soil full of nutrients.
- Buffer moles from garden beds. Paths around raised beds have not been the preferred travel paths — at least not as much as the lawn.
- Habitat for worms. Once wood chips start to break down you'll find worms just below the surface edges of the mulch path.
- For growing mushrooms. Raw wood chip paths are inoculated with edible mushrooms several times a year for taste growth.
- Durable foot path. Deep mulch trenches are two feet deep and two feet wide, then mounded as much as a foot above that.
- Weed control. Mulch is put down within hours of being chipped and is very green. Nothing grows in them.
- Supports raised beds. Each side of no-till raised beds have deep mulch foot paths that pack in to provide firm support for edges of beds.
These wood chips are often considered a waste stream but as you can see here have many valuable uses in landscaping, gardening, and erosion control. The City of Martinsville VA saves tens of thousand a year using recycled wood chips rather than purchasing mulch for around city landscaping.
These foot paths symbolize the many uses of organic waste streams. Smart tree services contractors can turn this waste stream into an income opportunity. Not by charging private individuals for chips, but instead in marketing or partnership opportunity. Contact us for details about unique marketing solutions that show you how.
[Ed. note: Using raw wood chips the wrong way will kill trees, attract termites, and cause many problems in your landscape. Raw wood chips may not be suitable for all applications and may contain diseased materials. Consult an Arborist or other qualified professional before using any tree waste stream.]
Justin Hitt is a Permaculture Design Consultant with more than two decades of experience with organic gardening. He teaches the practical application of critical thinking, entrepreneurial ecology, and homestead management. Practical insights for practitioners, estate owners, and homesteaders.