Growing tomatoes in wood chip soil. - Knowledgebase Question

Mechanicsburg, PA
Avatar for lceslinger
Question by lceslinger
August 31, 1999
Will growing tomatoes (Rutgers) in maple wood chips (from where we took down trees) affect the fruit? We had a drought season and we watered. The fruit is large, beautiful but very solid, almost hard, and tasteless so far. We got the seed from Burpee, as usual, and have grown Rutgers for 30+ years with good results. The wood chips were a year old before we planted so they should have leached out. The "soil" was mostly wood chips (75%).

Answer from NGA
August 31, 1999
While it is possible that a soil made 75% of year old wood chips could have caused some problems, the fact that they have made fruit leads me to believe that the ripening/flavor problem is possibly weather related rather than soil related especially in view of the unusually dry summer we have had. However, when using wood chips it is best to let them age for at least a year before using them as mulch and to wait longer so that they are at least partially composted before using them as a planting medium. You might also consider using a fertilizer containing "minors" along with additional rich compost and some garden soil in the mix to assure that all the necessary nutrients are present. Finally, you might also run some basic soil tests for factors such as pH and nitrogen to make sure nothing is too far out of balance before using it again next year. Your County Extension (240-6500) should be able to help you with the soil tests and interpreting the results.

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