Composting Chips and Shavings

Compost shavings and chips before adding them to garden soil. Here's how. December 31, 2012

Question
I plan on putting the sawdust from my sawmill and the shavings from my planer into a garden. There would be oak, hickory, ash, elm, and locust. Can they all go into the garden?

Forum Responses
(Sawing and Drying Forum)
From contributor S:
Wood chips/shavings don't break down very fast. They will definitely have a negative effect on your garden, especially oak - I know from experience. You could mix them with manure and pile them, turning the pile every couple of months. Then it would only take about 2 years before it's ready to use. The breaking down process will remove nitrogen from the soil if you put them right in your garden.



From Profesor Gene Wengert, forum technical advisor:
Wood has no nitrogen, but the breakdown process requires nitrogen. So, you should add 33-0-0. If you do not, your plants will get the "yellows" for the next few years. As mentioned, manure is a source of nitrogen, but some weed seeds too at times.


From contributor B:
I also have a 6" chipper and chip the smaller slab wood that is too small for firewood and a lot of bark. This is added to my sawdust pile and I added about 20% by volume cow manure, mixed it twice with my tractor/front-end loader and watered it well - 30 hours with a lawn sprinkler - until it was wet all the way through. In 3 days it was 140 two feet into the pile. I turned the pile every 10 days with the front-end loader and in two-three months it was ready to use. The secret is to add the manure, wet it well, and mix it often. The mixing speeds up the process a lot.


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From contributor J:
You also may want to check the Ph of your soil before adding it to your garden because wood chips tend to make soil acidic. I deliver a couple tons of chips yearly to a local blueberry grower who uses them to raise acidity in his soil.


From contributor W:
Don't do it! It has to compost first.