Wood chip sock, construction guide
Basically it is a long plastic mesh tube that is filled with a modern waste material called “wood chippings”. If you hear chainsaws and a chipper buzzing away in your neighbourhood, then there is a good chance of some FREE wood chips. The open ends of the tube are tied off using cable ties to create a long wood chip filled sock that we are going to use as a soil retaining edge to our semi-raised deep beds. But again it also has a dual function which is to introduce mycorrhizal fungi into our semi-raised beds to help feed our greedy woody annual vegetables through a symbiotic relationship.
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What use is a “Wood Chip sock” on an allotment ?
This image of the mound style of planting that the native american tribes adopted was popular for a time in the UK in the 1970’s. However our grey and rainy little island would soon wash these heaped mounds flat. This is where these wood chip socks can be put to use as a soil retainer on these mound type beds. With this approach the water and some soil runs into the “wood chip sock” edging but still retains its mounded shape for most of the growing season.What are the advantages of these Wood chip socks to edge beds vs boxed-in raised beds.
- Costs less per metre for plastic mesh vs wood from DIY store.
- Is easier to construct and does not require expensive tools or heavy lifting to construct (pair of scissors and filling tube only).
- Stops raised beds being washed away by British weather.
- Can be positioned to fit any type of raised bed shape that can be imagined.
- Helps to retain moisture in the raised bed, reducing watering by hand.
- After a year the majority of the wood chips should have rotted down. The sock can be emptied and refilled with fresh wood chips.
- Mycelium fungus from the rotting wood chips have been proven to help nutrient uptake by woody vegetable plants due to a symbiotic relationship.
- A 3m long sock will edge a 1 metre-in-diameter horseshoe shaped semi-raised bed .
- UV stabilised plastic mesh will not rot and has shown no degradation after 2 years.
- Its an essential part of the Goddess VG bed design
Where can I get the protective mesh Sleeve from ?
This product is actively sold in garden centres in America (Grass valley, California) by Valley farm supplies and is called “Multipurpose Mesh tubing”
There is currently only one reseller of this plastic mesh in the UK and that is a British company called Allplas
It roughly works out at 50p a metre.
Instructions on how to fill your Wood Chip sock
What you will need;
- x2 Cable ties,
- 3m of plastic mesh tubing,
- 3 foot section of 4.5 inch wide plastic pipe,
- approx 45 ltrs of woodchips (half a bin load)
Since adopting this border edging method the plants that grew close to the wood chip sock appeared more robust with higher yields. After six months of acting as a border / walkway some of the edging socks had become a little flattened. All you do is lift them out of the soil and flip them over and fluff them up a bit and there back to normal. When turning them over you can see lots of white micro fibres that have grown through into the raised bed.
In the allotment gardening world there is a heated discussion regarding the use of “wood chips” as a mulch with a belief that it can cause problems with fungal levels in your soil as well as stripping nitrogen. I believe that wood chips contained within this plastic sock limits some of these negatives. The limited contact patch that the sock has with the soil and with the other 60% exposed to the air (outer part of the sock) may mean that more nitrogen fixing than nitrogen stripping may be going on. Perhaps this could be a nice project for a horticultural student.
Hopefully in the future a jute or biogradable mesh tube version will become available. You may even find a 3m easily packaged little roll being sold for a £1 in Poundland or Wilkos, fingers crossed. If the idea becomes popular the price per metre should start to tumble.