Asked on Apr 1, 2012

How long do tree chips have to age before it is safe to till them into the garden soil?

Douglas HuntMichelle EWalter Reeves


I got a load of chips in November 2011 and am wondering how long they need to decay before
using them in the garden.
3 answers
  • Walter Reeves
    on Apr 1, 2012

    The key is that they be broken down pretty completely before tilling in. Otherwise they rob nitrogen from nearby plants for a couple of years. You can speed up the decomposition process by scattering 10-10-10 on the pile. I use a seat-of-the-pants calculation to determine how much fertilizer to use: add the height and longest width of the pile together to denote how many cups of fertilizer to scatter. Example: a pile 5 feet high by 12 feet long would need 17 cups of 10-10-10. You can always use the chips for mulch with no problems.

  • Michelle E
    on Apr 2, 2012

    I put them in a compost pile and add manure and green matter to speed up the decomposition. When spring comes, anything that is not broken down completely (top of pile) is used for mulch in flower, berry and asparagus beds....the middle to bottom part of the pile is normally broken down enough to use in the veggie garden. You can also speed up the process not only by adding manure, but also by dampening the pile when it needs it and covering it to hold in the heat and turning it every so often so it breaks down evenly.

  • Douglas Hunt
    on Apr 2, 2012

    I like Michelle's strategy, which brings other organic matter into the process.

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