The Woodchip Handbook
A Complete Guide for Farmers, Gardeners and Landscapers
By Ben Raskin
The first and only complete guide to sourcing and using woodchip – an abundant, inexpensive and ecologically sustainable material – for savvy growers and landscapers at any scale, from farm to garden to greenhouse.
The Woodchip Handbook is the essential guide to the many uses of woodchip both in regenerative agriculture and horticulture. Author Ben Raskin, Head of Horticulture and Agroforestry at the Soil Association, draws on his extensive practical experience using woodchip, provides the latest research from around the world and presents inspiring case studies from innovative farmers.
The book explores and unlocks the tremendous potential of woodchip to enhance soil health and plant growth:
- As a natural mulch for weed suppression, temperature buffering and water conservation
- As a growing medium for propagating plants
- As a decomposing source of warmth for hotbeds in the greenhouse or hoop house
- As a carbon-rich compost ingredient that supports beneficial fungi and microorganisms
- As a powerful soil health booster when applied as small-sized ramial chipped wood
- As an ideal substrate for growing many kinds of edible or medicinal mushrooms
- As a sustainable, versatile and durable material for foot paths and ornamental landscaping
Some of these techniques, like mulching – or the renewable harvest potential from coppicing and pollarding trees – have been around forever. Yet there is always new science to be discovered, such as the role that salicylic acid from willow woodchip can play in preventing tree diseases or promoting livestock health when used as a bedding material.
Whether you are a commercial grower or farmer, a permaculture practitioner or a serious home gardener producing your own fruit and vegetables, The Woodchip Handbook will show you how to get the most out of this readily available and renewable material.
Reviews and Praise
‘In a world desperate for solutions that will allow us to get off the agro-chemical treadmill while tackling the climate challenges ahead, woodchip steps forward. Working with Ben, I’ve learned much over the last few years, and am amazed by the power of this humble resource. This trailblazing book will be invaluable in firing both our imagination and understanding of woodchip’s potential to grow and farm better.’—Helen Browning, chief executive, Soil Association
‘I did not know the world needed a whole book on woodchip, but from the first chapter I could not put this book down. Raskin’s thorough, informed and well-referenced research is going to be a must for anyone who cares about soil. Woodchip has such potential to help us create more local, sustainable ways of growing, and this handbook is the resource needed to dispel myths and find the best method and scale for everyone from gardeners to large-scale farms.’—Alys Fowler, author of The Edible Garden and The Thrifty Gardener
‘I use woodchip quite extensively in my garden and have for decades. It has been an important part of increasing our soil organic matter and carbon storage. The Woodchip Handbook addresses its many uses and all the technical questions of how to acquire and manage it. If you want to learn more about woodchip for your yard or farm, look no further.’—Eric Toensmeier, author of The Carbon Farming Solution and Perennial Vegetables
‘Ben Raskin’s wide-ranging work in varied locations makes The Woodchip Handbook a really useful overview of the possibilities afforded by woodchip. It’s good for soil and good for plants, once you understand how it can work best for you, as he explains in this book.’—Charles Dowding, author of Charles Dowding’s No Dig Gardening
‘In a time when the farming and gardening literature seems to be overflowing with information about soil mineralization with rock dusts, cover crop smorgasbords, foliar feeding, liquid carbon pathways and rotational grazing, it is great relief to finally have, in one place, a treasure that describes the missing piece of the complete soil creation process: coarse woody debris! You won’t find a better, more complete summary of the how, the why and the overall importance of woodchip in the process of building the ideal fertile soil for your garden, homestead or farm. Bravo, Ben Raskin!’—Mark Shepard, author of Restoration Agriculture
‘Ben Raskin's latest book, on the many, many uses and benefits of woodchip, is the definitive guide to the subject. It’s something every climate-change-savvy gardener must read.’—Kim Stoddart, editor, The Organic Way magazine; coauthor of The Climate Change Garden
‘A real “grower’s” guide: comprehensive, informed and, quite possibly, revolutionary. Raskin is a practitioner of soil, and woodchip is his medicine. Through astute observation and keen experimentation, he unravels the burgeoning possibilities of woodchip for soil health and regeneration. The secret to woodchip, Raskin says, is fungi: “Woodchip without fungi is like a sea without fish.” If the future of growing is fungi, this book is the prototype manual for practical application of its unique power.’—Matt Rees-Warren, garden designer and author of The Ecological Gardener
‘Ben Raskin covers all the bases when it comes to woodchip. This very useful and abundant by-product improves the soil and the environment. Ben presents a wealth of information in a logical, clear and engaging manner. I’ve been a longtime user of woodchip; after reading this book, I will begin using even more of it in even more ways.’—Lee Reich, author of The Pruning Book and Weedless Gardening
‘Woodchip is widely available in most cities and has much potential in container growing – as a sustainable source of nutrients, as an ingredient to help sustain the structure of compost over many years and as a brilliant mulch for fruit trees and other perennials. At last, thanks to Ben Raskin, we have the first authoritative, well-researched book on the subject, packed full of useful information and advice. A superb resource for anyone interested in the magic of woodchip.’—Mark Ridsdill Smith, author of The Vertical Veg Guide to Container Gardening
‘Before picking up this book, I considered woodchip simply a nice thing to have around as mulch, but the deep dive Ben Raskin offers really makes the case that this material is an essential and focal part of so many aspects when stewarding healthy plants, soil, livestock and fungi. Readers will find the research and case studies fascinating, and the extensive details helpful in answering some of the most commonly asked questions. In the end, if we are to get serious in the act of regenerative farming and ecosystem repair, it's clear that woodchip will play a critical role and it’s time we get more serious about utilizing it.’—Steve Gabriel, Wellspring Forest Farm; author of Silvopasture
‘Tree ecosystems create long-term soil fertility. We tap into lignin potential and fungal doings in our own gardens and orchards by utilizing woodchip in a multitude of ways. Ben Raskin delves into the practical nuance of ramial chipped wood and more to inspire humus building efforts everywhere. Regenerate your soil with the woodchip!'—Michael Phillips, author of The Holistic Orchard and Mycorrhizal Planet
‘This is a timely piece of work given the dramatic rise, access and popularity of woodchip technologies. Ben Raskin has done the subject proud: well researched and with a pragmatic approach, there is something for growers and gardeners of all shapes and sizes here. Woodchip is able to offer truly sustainable solutions to some of the problems facing horticulture, in particular the replacement of peat-based products. With woodchip we can now grow our own fertile soil and substrates. This manual gives some great information towards that goal.’—Iain Tolhurst, Tolhurst Organics
‘Agriculture has been reinventing itself regularly over the past ten thousand years. The Woodchip Handbook is a practical guide for the next step in that transformation in our backyard gardens and orchards as well as on our largest farms. It’s also a great read. Let the trees lead the way!’—John Bunker, orchardist and author of Apples and the Art of Detection