Ramial Wood

Ramial Wood Mulching

There have been many books written about mulching, but not as much said about the usage of deciduous wood. The specific information about ramial wood is fascinating. We had used coniferous tree mulch for our garden paths for years. Cedar mulch actively repels ants and has a nice look. We started using our pruned wood as ramial wood mulch, also adding it in small amounts to our compost bins.

Working with Nature by Heide Hermary, Ramial chipped wood pg 104 and 105
“The practice of mulching with chipped deciduous tree trimmings have been investigated since 1978.”
“Research at the University of Laval showed that branches under 2.75 inches in diameter contain very high concentrations of essential plant nutrient. When chipped or crushed, and slightly incorporated into the very top of the soil, they significantly increased long term soil fertility and crop yields.”

Ramial wood provides the soil with essential nutrients, but there are more benefits beyond that. All that is required is a cover of about 1” thick and worked lightly into the top of the soil. Wood branches of larger diameter sequester nitrogen for decomposition, causing nitrogen to not be available for the plant. Therefore, the larger branches are chipped and used in pathways and areas that need weed suppression.

“When hardwood tree branches decompose on a forest floor, a stable and enduring humus is created. The lignans in the branches are slowly broken down by naturally occurring fungi, and these fungi also play a vital role in the soil food web, serving as nourishment for micro-organisms.” www.goveganic.net/article17.html

Mulching for better soil health is one of the best tasks a homeowner can apply. Mulch helps maintain soil moisture and improve soil conditions. It is a practical approach to weed control, and weeds become exceptionally easy to pull. Mulch protects the plants from extreme temperatures, whether heat or cold.

“Trees growing in a natural forest environment have their roots anchored in a rich, well- aerated soil full of essential nutrients and soil microorganisms. The soil is blanketed by leaves, organic materials, and living organisms that replenish and recycle nutrients. This environment is optimal for root growth and mineral uptake. Urban landscapes and new developments, however, are typically harsher environments with poor soils, reduced organic matter, and large fluctuations in soil temperature and moisture. Applying a couple of inches of organic mulch can mimic a more natural environment and improve plant health.” http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S003807170900337X

The high carbon of the wood mulch can tie up soil nitrogen, for this reason, we do not dig the wood into the soil. The chips can interfere with air and water movement and root spread. Wood mulch on the surface does not tie up soil nitrogen.

So shredding deciduous wood under 2.75″ is ecological in that this organic matter is not burned but rather added back to the garden to eventually become soil. Wood mulch can help in the climate change fight by sequestering carbon as noted in a recent UBC study completed in the Okanagan. “In addition to saving water, improving soil, combatting pests and stopping weeds, wood mulch actually reduces the release of a greenhouse gas 300 times more potent than carbon dioxide.” Craig Nichol Earth and Environmental Sciences athe UBC”s Okanagan campus.