Wood chips are an excellent source of carbon to the soil but they tend to take longer to decompose. If you want them to add nutrients to the soil, you might require a special strategy to increase their rate of decomposition. The most important ingredient in this process is nitrogen.
Fungi are needed to break the carbon components in the wood chips and you need a combination of both the carbon in the chips and a source for nitrogen. There are many sources for nitrogen but you must choose materials that are rich in nitrogen. Use materials such as eggshells, nutshells, corn cobs, or coffee grounds.
Build a compost pile
This is the place where you will mix your wood chips with other ingredients to help them decompose fast. You must first prepare the ground before you bring in your wood chips. Choose a good place in the garden where you can easily take care of your compost.
Clear the place of other trash, debris, or vegetation. Some people prefer to dig a large hole which is okay because organisms will easily access your compost. Create the bottom layer for drainage using straw or twigs. Bring all the materials you will add to your compost and get ready to start.
Make your wood chips smaller
When the wood chips are too big, they will take a long time to decompose. Bigger chips might also use all the nitrogen and still not decompose effectively. After you have added the bottom layer, make your wood chips smaller. You may shovel them into finer chips or do a second grinding or even a third one to make them finer.
You may also rent a wood chipper or buy one if you prepare composts often. Choose a chipper that makes finer chips ready for composting. If you still want to save time for chipping, visit a lumber mill and buy double or triple ground wood chips. They will already be finer and ready for use in your compost pile.
Adding nitrogen to wood chips
On top of the straw/twigs layer, add another layer of the finely ground wood chips. You may alternate with layers of green materials to help it decompose fast. The main purpose is to help with smooth air circulation in the compost. Begin adding nitrogen on top of the wood chips because this is what organisms need to catalyze the process.
The nitrogen materials you might add are green leafs such as vegetable leaves, fruit scraps, or coffee husks. You may also add eggshells, urine, or chicken manure. If you want the process to move faster, add NPK fertilizer at the ratio of 10:10:10.
Hot composting wood chips
You may leave your compost pile to decompose on its own but since you want it to decompose fast, heating it will speed up the process. You heat a compost pile using nitrogen, water, and air. To heat a compost means to increase the number of bacteria in it so that they can break down the materials fast.
You will not introduce bacteria into the compost, but you will create a conducive environment for them to thrive. Add more sources of nitrogen by adding green leaves, eggshells, peels of potatoes, fruits, etc. Add water to keep moisture levels high and keep your compost aerated. Sun’s heat will help keep adding warmth into the compost.
Composting wood chips with urea
Urea is very rich in nitrogen and it can be used to create a balance between the rich carbon in wood and the nitrogen in leafy plants. Urine from mammals is the richest in nitrogen although some mammals have excreted more nitrogen in their urine. Rabbit urine is known to be rich in nitrogen and chicken excretion. You may also buy factory-made urea.
When you add urea into your compost, you create a conducive environment for the fungus and bacteria to thrive due to the high levels of nitrogen. You also create a nitrogen-carbon balance in the compost which makes it possible for both fungus and bacteria to thrive and thus speed the process of decomposition.
Turning Your Compost Heap More Often
Water and organic materials that make your compost heap are not the ones that trigger decomposition. Instead, it is the microorganisms in them that speed the process. They eat the materials and thus break them down into nutrients that can be used by plants.
The reason why you should turn your compost often is to allow more air to circulate within the compost. The microorganisms need air to breathe and stay alive. When there is more air, they reproduce fast and multiply into millions and this is how your compost heap decomposes fast.
How long does wood take to decompose?
How fast wood will take to decompose depends on several factors. The main factor is the conditions surrounding the wood and its size. If it is in a moist place, it will decompose faster than wood in a dry place. The other determining factor is its size. The larger the wood, the longer it will take to decompose. The type of wood also matters with hardwood taking longer than softwood.
Depending on its size, wood can take one year and another up to 100 years to decompose. That is why you need to cut it into chips and grind them to shorten decomposition time. Wood chips in a compost heap can take between six weeks to 12 weeks to decompose.
Chemicals that speed up decomposition
If you use nutrient-rich topsoil, you might not need to use chemicals to speed up decomposition but if you are planning to use your compost heap sooner, there are artificial remedies you can use. Fertilizers rich in nitrogen are a good decomposition catalyst.
You may also buy inoculants and use them in your compost heap. They are chemicals that are rich in fungi and bacteria, the components that are important in speeding up decomposition. Most inoculants also contain nitrogen that helps bacteria and fungi to multiply fast. The chemicals are better when used in commercial compost heaps.