Is Tilling Wood Chips Into Soil Dangerous? (Answered)

tilling wood chips into soil
tilling wood chips into soil

Tilling is a type of cultivation required whenever someone wants to prepare a new bed garden. It refers to breaking up the soil and stirring it.

Tilling is most commonly used to remove weeds and dead plants from the soil, mix the organic matter, and prepare it to plant seeds in the sowing season.

Most often, the process of tilling is used in gardens, but it is proven to be a successful cultivating method for when preparing lawns for seeding and even on larger lands, such as farms where you intend to grow crops.

Similarly, it may also be needed when adding inorganic materials in very large amounts. What tilling does is it cultivates the soil deeper than ordinary cultivation.

Usually, the soil is cultivated around 10 inches deep, but it can vary depending on the tool you are using to tilt and the purpose of your tilling.

For instance, if you are tilling to sow seed, you must not till too deep for the seeds to germinate properly.

Contrary to it, tilling for leveling the ground or mixing the organic matter in the soil may require you to till deeper until the desired level is reached and the organic matter or fertilizer is assorted.

The reason behind tilling is the same as cultivating the soil. However, there are a few slight differences between the two. For instance, when an individual is trying to grow new crops and the new season’s about to hit, he may till when necessary.

What Is Wood Chip?

As the name indicates, wood chips are primarily composed of the small wood pieces the trees. Various companies collect these over time to sell them in the market for all their benefits.

The wood chips, together with the small wood pieces, also consist of pieces of bark, and sometimes dried leaves are also part of it.

Mainly the wood chips consist of cellulose and lignin, compounds that are degraded by bacteria and fungi. Where cellulose and hemicellulose are easily degradable compounds, lignin, on the contrary to that, is a complex compound that requires special enzymes to degrade it.

Tilling Wood Chips Into Soil

Like mixing fertilizer or till with organic matter to increase the efficiency and quality of the soil, tilling wood chips is also an option. If added the right way, it’s suggested and proven that they will act as an exceptional soil amendment.

Tilling Wood Chips into Soil

One common practice adopted by many individuals is to till wood chips into soil. However, plenty of beginners have some questions regarding using wood chips for the purpose.

Similarly, we have seen quite a few user complaints on the internet that tilling wood chips into their soil has damaged the quality of their soil.

This is why today, we will look extensively at tilling soil. We will discuss everything you need to know about the tillage of wood chips into soil.

wood chip

Is It Safe to Till Wood Chips in the Soil?

In normal cases, tilling wood chips into the soil shouldn’t be anything to worry about as long as you are doing it right. There isn’t any long-term damage caused to the soil or any irreversible damage. But there is one thing that you need to keep in mind while performing the process.

Whenever wood chips are tilled into the soil, the microbes in the soil will start breaking down.

The chips, since they come from the wood and bark of the trees, have naturally occurring spores. When you mix these small wood chips in the soil, the microbes, namely fungi and bacteria, start growing on these wooden chips.

Over time these microbes grow and require nutrients like nitrogen and phosphate to increase and spread. This results in scavenging plenty of nitrogen that is present in the soil and confining it to the wood where they are most active.

While it is not that big of a deal, it can become a reason your garden might not perform well, as these microbes can initially significantly reduce the nutrients available in the soil for the growth of your seeds and plants.

However, this is only temporary and can also be avoided if you take steps to maintain the quality of soil while adding wood chips to utilize their benefits.

Safer Way To Till Wood Chips In The Soil

  1. Add Wood Chips On Top 

Alternatively, you can use the wood chips by applying them only on the surface. This is also referred to as mulching. So mulching the wood chips over the soil is far better than tilling the wood chips in the soil.

wood chip top

This will help them decay easily on the soil’s surface.

Additionally, this will help prevent erosion, ensure the soil does not dry out, and add in the organic matter needed.

Experiments also show that adding wood chips as a layer on top of the soil doesn’t cause significant soil nutrient depletion and allows your crops to grow while having access to sufficient nutrients together with nitrogen and phosphate in the soil.

Using this way to add wood chips to your soil, you may have not only very healthy soil but also a few mushrooms on which your ducks and pets can feed and way fewer weeds, giving your lawn a look that you have desired for a long time.

  1. Do Not Directly Put The Wood Chips In The Soil

Directly putting the fresh wood chips in the soil will result in increased activity and growth of fungi and bacteria in the soil, and they will take up most of the soil nutrients leaving behind the soil that is low on minerals and would thereby either entirely halt the growth of your crops or decrease the growth rate substantially.

You may end up with inhibited plant growth, and all your effort into collecting and sowing the seed and plants would go wasted.

It has also been suggested that the wood chips of coral plants, which are soft and have very less lignin component, are complex for degradation and also don’t perform well when tilled in the soil.

The soil will get extremely hot with escalated fungi activity that will, in turn, take up all the nitrogen from the soil, preventing your crops from growing.

  1. Adding Coffee Beans  

Some professionals suggest adding spent coffee beans to the surface, which helps in adding back nitrogen. The thing that you do need to worry about the most is to make sure you don’t overdo it.

coffee bean

Tillage shouldn’t be harmful to your soil in any way. However, excess of everything is bad.

The same is the case for tilling soil. Tillage your soil only when necessary and required. Overdoing it will affect the quality of your soil.

In case you are worried about your soil, what we suggest is to get the soil checked first and foremost. This will help you determine what your next step should be.

How Should You Till Wood Chips In Your Soil For Beneficial Results 

Wood chips that are left over to compost for a year, two or three are the best wood chips to improve the soil quality and, in turn, have better growth of your crops.

Professionals recommend after you have left the wood chips for a year to compost, they will turn brown due to the action of fungi. It is when adding them directly into the soil is beneficial.

Experiments have shown better growth rates of crops and also reduction of weeds with this.

Another way is ridging the soil and keeping the wood chips in the trenches. After 2-3 years, you can take the compost from the ridges and soil and mix them.

This will produce soil so rich in nutrients and quality because of the leftover microbial life and humic compounds from wood chips that will suffice for the good health of your plants and their roots.  

will derive the most nourishment from the soil

The Final Thoughts

Tilling is a way of cultivating your soil to increase the quality and health of your soil. Using organic components and wood chips with tilling can also significantly improve the quality of the soil if done correctly.

It is recommended not to directly till wood chips in the soil, as the microbes on the fresh food start proliferating and growing in the natural environment; soil, taking up almost all the nutrients from that soil leaving behind soil that doesn’t allow efficient growth of your crops because of the low nutritional content.

If you do want to add them for their benefits, mulch them on the soil, or else let them compost for a year before you add them to the soil.

This way, you can attain all the benefits that wood chips may provide for the soil and significantly reduce the weed production in your soil.

The article had all the details that you should know about tilling wood chips into soil. Be sure to give it a thorough read so you don’t miss any of the details.

2 thoughts on “Is Tilling Wood Chips Into Soil Dangerous? (Answered)”

  1. I had a dead tree removed and the stump grinding company backfilled the wood chips into the soil. I have read your article and added a nitrogen heavy fertilizer. Do you know how often I should continue adding fertilizer and how long before it will be effective?


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