Using rcw (ramial chipped wood)

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In this tutorial, we are going to learn how to make a growing bed using RCW

We will need: a wheelbarrow, 4 wooden posts and some string, a rake, a pitchfork and a mallet

With the help of the 4 wooden posts and string, designate the area where you'd like to create your growing bed.

Empty the wheelbarrow of RCW directly onto the ground (topsoil)

Use the rake to evenly spread out the RCW across the entire surface of the topsoil.

The layer of RCW must be between 3-5cm (1-2 inches) thick. This limits the growth of weeds, provides enough nutrients for fungi to grow, and also aids in the thermal regulation of the soil below.

Allow the RCW to lie dormant for several months so that more nitrogen will be created.

This natural phenomenon occurs during the first few months after the RCW is put in place

The newly-developed fungi on the growing bed need nitrogen released by the RCW in order to grow

If you don't wait long enough between after putting down the RCW and sowing your seeds, the fungi and growing seedlings will be in competition over the essential-yet-finite nitrogen resources, which could harm their growth.

That means that you'll get yellowed leaves and the growth of your plants will be temporarily stunted

If the RCW is laid down in autumn, allow it to rest until the following spring.

By then, the issue of nitrogen deficiency will have passed and your crops will fully benefit from the growth of the fungi

After this resting period, you will be able to see that the structure of the soil has already improved.

You'll see white filaments, known as mycelium, where the fungi has grown.

This is a sign that your RCW is in good health, and lets you know that that it's time to mix the RCW with the first few centimetres of soil beneath

This process allows the fungi to begin colonising the soil.

Use a pitchfork to mix the RCW with the soil. Stand up straight and sink the teeth of the pitchfork into the ground. To gently prick holes in the soil, lift the pitchfork up and out. Careful here, it won't work if you just turn the soil over completely.

You can also use a broadfork.

Your growing bed is now ready for seeds

We will need: a trowel, a hoe, and of course, seeds, seedlings or plant cuttings.

If you want to plant the seeds directly beneath the soil, use a hoe to dig out a small trench about 5cm (2inches) deep. Place the seeds in the trench and cover them with soil.

You can also choose to transplant seedlings, as shown here with these thyme plants and sage plant cuttings.

RCW is also beneficial for fruit-bearing trees. Using RCW will strengthen your fruit tree and render it less susceptible to disease and pests.

Pour out the RCW and spread it in a circle around the tree using a rake

The surface of the RCW should cover the same amount of space as the perimeter of the fruit tree's canopy

Be sure to leave gap around the trunk of about 30cm (12 inches) so that you don't get unwanted growth there.

Around fruit trees, you don't want to mix the RCW with the soil, since that could damage the tree's roots

RCW can also be poured directly into potted plants, or even into window boxes.

After several years, the wood chips will no longer be recognisable. That means it's time to put down new RCW.

Depending on climate and cultivation practises, RCW usually works effectively for about 3-4 years.

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