President’s Note: Book Review – The Woodchip Handbook

book review woodchip handbook

The Woodchip Handbook- A Complete Guide for Farmers, Gardeners and Landscapers. Ben Raskin. 2021. Chelsea Green Publishing. 224 p.

Some recent experiences using woodchip mulch on perennial plants led me to look for some additional information on the practice. I came across the book The Woodchip Handbook- A Complete Guide for Farmers, Gardeners and Landscapers, by Ben Raskin. It is published by Chelsea Green.

I didn’t realize when I ordered it the book was written in the United Kingdom, until I saw a budget in pounds, not dollars, and tables in metrics. Despite the reference to sites in the UK, it did contain useful information, and attempts to reference some work in the United States.

The subject is covered in several sections: how to source woodchips, managing woodchips, using them for plant propagation, as a soil amendment, as mulch, and for soil carbon building. Each subject has its own chapter.

The book covers woodchips from different species of trees and looks at sawdust vs. woodchips. One interesting subject is using Ramial Chipped Wood (RCW), a term I had not heard of. It is the practice of using the small limbs, usually new growth and less than 3 inches in diameter, for woodchips.

The idea is that such woodchips are richer in nutrients, sugar, protein, cellulose, and lignin than woodchips made from older wood, since they contain the buds and fruiting parts of the plants. The claim is that they help rebuild and maintain fertile soil.

This makes some sense to me. Many years ago a freak hailstorm in the spring just after the trees had budded knocked off most leaves and some small twigs. I raked those up and applied them to my garden as a mulch. I planted right into the soil under the mulch. That year the squash plants were huge. Cucumbers did very well. This is the first time I have read something possibly explaining what I experienced.

Overall, this book is a good resource if you don’t mind the heavy focus on projects in the UK. A majority of the written material can be adapted to growers in the United States. It is one of the only books I have found to focus completely on the subject of woodchips in food production.

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