How to create a ramial wood chip garden

In this post, we are going to dive into how to build a raised garden bed with ramial wood chips (RCW) and compost.

If you know me well, then you know how much I love ramial wood chips (RCW). These kinds of wood chips are the ultimate type of mulch you can find. They have leaves, small twigs, and medium-sized branches and they usually always have a carbon / nitrogen ration that is closer to that golden ratio of 30:1, the ratio that creates great, healthy compost. If you want to learn more about the virtues of RCW, then I suggest heading over to Michael Phillips' website. Michael is the renowned author of many great farming books including, Mycorrhizal Planet and The Holistic Orchard.

Moving foward, I wanted to share with you an experiment I have been thinking about doing for a while now. I've wanted to grow mushrooms but I didn't have much space on our farm and I didn't have any indoor space I really could convert to a fungi-growing chamber. Nonetheless, I have desired to grow edible and medicinal mushrooms for some time now. I started thinking the other day after reading through one of Paul Stamet's books about mushroom grain spawn and wood chips. The wood-chip bed method, in which you lay some cardboard, a layer of wood-chips, your grain spawn, and then another layer of wood-chips, piqued my interest in mushroom growing once again. However, this time around, I had an idea of how to integrate mushrooms into a no-till, vegetable and fruit farm.

I think it would be much easier to incorporate mushrooms into an orchard system, because orchard trees love wood chips and you aren't disturbing the soil much at all in an isolated orchard. How about vegetable gardens? Market gardens? The only kind of system that would work with myco-culture would be obvious: a no-till, layering system of building organic matter and soil.

So here's the experiment we are trying in our home garden right now:

1. We already had spread a thick layer of wood-chips onto the existing mulch, as pictured below:

2. Here's the next steps we did. We marked out a 2'x2' square in 4 different spots, which turned into two 4'x4' squares. Then we laid on each square two 2-cubic foot bags of high-quality organic compost. This thereby created two 16 square-foot squares with 6 inches of "new" topsoil. Check out the pictures to see what I mean:

One 2'x2' compost bed.

Another 2'x2' compost bed.

You can see the compost bed and how it was literally laid on top of the existing wood chip layer. It is surrounded by California native plants.

Be sure to use actual compost that is thoroughly broken down.

3. We didn't have any mushroom spawn on hand, so this experiment is going to be about examining whether this type of sheet layering, with RCW and then compost, will produce good yields of vegetables. We will try another experiment with mushroom spawn added in between layers and post about it in the future.

We used birch logs to define the garden space with a border.

4. We watered it in and we are waiting for the rains to help saturate it more before planting next week.

So, that's the experiment! If you want to learn more about the benefits of ramial wood chips, I suggest watching this video from John from

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