Chicagoans Don't Fear Soil, Just Bad Gardening Advice

The weekend that the Chicago Flower & Garden Show opened Mike Nowak had Michele Owens, of Garden Rant, on his radio show to promote her book, Grow the Good Life: Why a Vegetable Garden Will Make You Happy, Healthy, Wealthy and Wise. Mike started the segment by giving the book and author high praise. Then irony reared its ugly head. Mike asked, "Why did you do the book...you must have found that garden writers weren't saying the right things."  What followed was hilarious on multiple levels as the author flubbed the only two questions posed to her about gardening. The first was about the safety of soil in a spot where dogs have been pooping and about mulch robbing soil of nitrogen. 

The dog poop question came from Santo the bus driver who wanted to start a "garden on a patch of ground that a lot of dogs have been using over the years. And he wanted to know if he needed to prepare the soil, if there were any precautions, he wanted to plant vegetables."
"Well, you know soil is really self cleaning. If you add organic matter they're probably going to break down whatever is there. I would try and get anything fresh off of the site and I would also probably try to fence it a little bit to keep them out in future, but I wouldn't sweat it. We just had a winter, the ground has been frozen. I mean, if it were my garden I would just go ahead and do it."
Moments later Mike read a Tweet by a gardener who said they had been researching the issue for their community garden and disagreed with the advice. At this point you can tell she was thrown for a loop because she let out a long sigh and over pronounced her Ps in the beginning of the follow-up "...I'm just saying what I would do...I'm not trying to tell anybody else how to do this, you know. Consult the literature, talk to a scientist, talk to a master gardener, talk to an extension agent!" 
Days later she returned to her blog and mentions the first incident and gives a better explanation. She talks about the Twitter controversy and attributes the reaction to Americans who are "scared" of dirt and digging in it. 
As a garden blogger, I wasn't surprised that gardeners on Twitter listening to Mike's show were questioning the bad advice she was giving. American garden bloggers are known for their ability to question and confront authority figures. 
When I  facilitate seed swaps and do garden talks around Chicago the number one subject new gardeners bring up is soil. They want to know if their soil is safe to plant in, if it isn't safe they want to know about soil remediation methods, they ask about ways of amending soil. Soil, soil, soil. It is all new gardeners want to talk about in Chicago. I can't believe the dog poop in garden soil question was answered so poorly by someone who has 20 years of gardening experience and who is a garden writer. If you ask gardeners around Chicago if you should plant a vegetable garden where a dog has pooped the answer will be, yes, provided you build a raised bed over the area. Raised beds are the gardening version of Chris Rock's Robitussin bit; they're the answer to all the gardening ailments in Chicago.
The problem here isn't ignorance on behalf of Americans or the gardener bloggers who were listening and tweeting. You had someone who didn't know what they were talking about. Isn't accustomed to having her authority question and was easily flustered. Someone who isn't a good listener and is a poor on-air communicator. 
Communication starts with listening. Had she listened to the question to begin with maybe the point of the question would've been clear. The caller wanted to know if it was safe to plant a vegetable where "a lot" of dogs had been crapping "over the years."  To be able to answer the question requires some critical thinking, but it can be done. How many are "a lot" of dogs.  How many years of dog crap accumulation are we talking about? Is there a chance the dogs ever had diseases and were medicated?  What about their diets? Anyone who has ever owned a dog and yard knows that little will grow in a yard where a dog has had free reign. What are the chances that after years of being a dog run that there was anything growing above ground that would feed the soil microbes?
Without knowing the answer to all of these questions the best answer would be to recommend growing in raised beds or containers. After being called out for giving bad advice she said that she wasn't trying to tell people what to do and that she wasn't an expert. Um, wasn't the point of the radio interview to talk about a vegetable gardening book where you tell people what to do? And if you're not an expert, should you be writing books? Don't writers find expertise in a subject to be helpful in the writing process? 
Her retelling of the "controversy" on her blog is patronizing and elitist, but that's to be expected from Garden Rant. Attributing the backlash to Americans being afraid of soil she sounds like a grad student stubbornly defending a shoddy thesis. The people who called her out for giving bad advice just have an "outsized fear" of soil and soil microbes. Ha! It sounded to me like people were afraid of dog crap and what lurks in it. The Twitter members who I saw voice their objection over her bad advice not only grow their own food in their backyards-- they're members of community gardens where they grow more food! Growing your own food and sitting around listening to a gardening radio show for two hours on a Sunday morning doesn't sound like the habits of people who are afraid of soil. 
Chicagoans don't have an "outsized fear" of soil. They're afraid of crappy gardening advice that could potentially get someone sick.They have good reason too. In 2008, three out of five members of Michele Owens' family contracted Lyme disease after working in her garden. She replies to a comment on Garden Rant about using wood chip mulch: 
(Snip)
"I'm interested in this idea for weed control in mine. I am deliriously happy with the results I've gotten from my current mulch scheme: a layer of alpaca bedding (manure plus straw) close to the soil for the nutrients and then another layer of shredded fall leaves for weed control. However, I have apparently tragically created the perfect environment for ticks in the leaf mold.

Since three out of five members of my family got Lyme after working in the garden this spring, I need to try something else. My lawn guy, an old sage, says, "Put the wood chips you use on the paths on your vegetable beds."

Shocking advice, but maybe he's right."

http://tinyurl.com/4nht93n
Emphasis mine. 
The subject of wood chip mulch came up on the radio show moments after the dog poop correction. Wally Schmidtke, Pesche garden center's "answer man," called in to expand on her advice about woodchips from earlier in the segment and warned that woodchips, in addition to carrying pests and diseases, can rob soil of nitrogen during decomposition. Michele's response to Wally was again off the mark, she wasn't listening because of the reasons listed above. She mentions talking to Linda Chalker-Scott, a scientist, and her research on the subject that proves wood chip mulch doesn't rob nitrogen in the soil and says, 
"If you're planting vegetables into a wood chip mulch, you're not going to plant the vegetables into the woodchips. You're going to scrape the wood chips away and, um, scrape the wood chips away and, uh, plant the vegetables into the soil. I know vegetable gardeners who have huge success with wood chips."
Wally Schmidtke responds, "Oh sure Michele, I understand. I often find that when people are beginner gardeners the wood chips get mixed into the soil. Where they'll decompose and rob the soil of nitrogen. If they do use a woodchip mulch." 
Turning to the same post from 2008 we get confirmation of what Wally is warning about from-wait for it-Linda Chalker-Scott. The comment reads in part,
"...I can say definitively that if wood chips are used as a topdressing and not worked into the soil they will not tie up nitrogen..."
http://tinyurl.com/4mzv72o
Again, had Michele Owens been listening (or at least read her own blog) she would've understood that Wally Schmidtke wasn't taking issue with the use of mulch in the garden and that he was correct. There's a reason why Wally called in. Her earlier comments on wood chips made it sound like you were suppose to either grow your plants in wood chips or work the wood chips into the soil. Mulching is a good gardening practice and when used as a top dressing doesn't use up nitrogen beyond the soil surface. It is when it is mixed with soil through tilling that it uses up nitrogen and results in yellow (chlorotic) leaves.
According to Michele Owens, after her disastrous radio appearance Mike Nowak jokingly said to her, 
"I like your book, but you don't know shit about dog poop." 

http://tinyurl.com/4sxodlz 
You can talk to and be able to name drop as many researchers, scientist and experts as possible. None of that will make up for not having simple gardening experience to back up your advice. 
TL; DR Go ahead and grow the good life, just make sure the person trying to teach you how to live happy, healthy, wealthy and wise doesn't give you bad gardening advice that could lead to you getting worms, Lyme disease or kill your plants. 
Note: This past winter I contributed to 'Good Growing' segment on The Mike Nowak Show. You can listen to his gardening/green living show Sunday Morning on WCPT. It's a good show when the guests are knowledgeable about what they're talking about, I recommend it. 
"Like" my garden page on Facebook. I treat my page more like a blog, with topics and events that I don't get around to blogging here. Subscribe to my gardening videos on YouTube.
UPDATE: A commenter below who was fixated on the subject of wood chips and Wally's call to the show made me go back and listen to the podcast again. While talking about adding organic matter and what's available Mike Nowak is ribbing her about having a source for organic matter that most of us don't have access to she says "People make fantastic vegetable gardens using nothing but wood chips from utility companies. They come in and trim the trees and they may give you a pile of wood chips." It should be noted that people do NOT create gardens using nothing but wood chips and that making it seem like you could just start a vegetable garden using a pile of wood chips is wrong, hence why Wally called in to correct  Michele Owens. 
UPDATE2: J-Dog spoke to a University of Illinois Extension soil expert about the dog poo situation and got an answer from an educated source. The Dog Poo Answer

Comments

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  • I know first-hand that answering random gardening questions live can be a little unsettling. I have gotten some doozies* when staffing the master gardener helpline and in the 50 or so classes/presentations I've given. No one person, no matter how experienced, knows everything about every aspect of gardening.

    That said, soil is not some small, random fact or aspect about gardening. It is the heart and soul of gardening, the core and fundamental aspect of gardening, especially when growing vegetables.

    This was not an "out-there"/off-the-wall, unexpected, "omg, how do I answer this?" question. You don't need a PhD or advanced understanding of soil micro- and macro-organisms to know to tell a wanna-be gardener not to grow veggies directly into soil that was a former doggie latrine. Why? Because it's icky! And because adding soil always helps, never hurts. In fact, it could have been the perfect jumping board to encourage raised beds and/or discussing soil improvements/feeding the soil, not the plant, etc.

    You want to encourage new gardeners, make sure they succeed.

    Personally, I'm also not afraid to say "I don't know," especially when the consequences to incorrect guidance could be harmful.

    *My favorites are 1) How many plants will fit in my front yard? and 2) (Over the phone:) I have a green houseplant. What is it?

  • In reply to gardenfaerie:

    You're right, you don't need much schooling to be able to answer the dog poop question. I've seen Master Gardener trainees answer it with a better understand of the situation that Michele Owens.

    Heck this past winter when I went to the Wicker Park garden club's plant propagation workshop I saw newbie gardeners give better advice on the very same question to someone who had just moved here.

  • In reply to gardenfaerie:

    Years ago my soon-to-be ex sister-in-law planted a garden in her late dog's latrine area, and grew an enormous abundance of vegetables (which I refused to eat, and wouldn't let my kids eat.) When she had a couple of cookouts during late summer, she served up the most beautiful (scrumptious, according to other guests,) tomatoes. As far as I know no one got sick, but still. . . ! (The SIL proudly explained how the garden was so productive thanks to all the years of dog poop, so the guests knew where those tomatoes came from.)

    Anything I've ever read about compost, (which, if managed properly,)'cooks' at high temperatures and kills many pathogens,) advises against using the manure of carnivores such as the family dog or cat, due the dangers of the pathogens in their excrement. Extrapolating from this, if it's not safe for cooking in the compost, I'll stick with my belief that a doggie latrine is not the place to plant a veggie garden, unless a raised bed with fresh soil is placed on top of the area. Even the manure of herbivores shouldn't be used on a garden unless/until it has been thoroughly composted. (Personally, I wouldn't use composted cow manure anymore either unless I knew it came from pasture-raised animals who were not supplemented with (GMO) grains, hormones, and antibiotics.) I'm not scared of soil - been playing in the dirt since I was a baby. Still, any soil I'm growing food in, I make sure it's good, clean, safe dirt.

    It's bad enough that dog doo is contraindicated for composting due to their meat diet. When you do a little investigation into what's in most commercial dog foods, that should be enough to convince most people that soil that's regularly been pooped on by dogs might not best spot for a food garden.

  • In reply to ssgardengirl:

    Thank you for commenting because you bring up two points I edited out of the post because it was WAY TOO LONG as it is. You can Google "humble pile" and come up with some links about someone in Chicago who is composting human and dog waste. The keyword here is composting! It isn't like they're spreading fresh dog crap on their gardens.

    If the food that comes in cans and bags that I will readily admit to eating is so bad for me, imagine what's in what we feed dogs! Now imagine all of those chemicals and preservatives accumulating in the ground year after year and it is enough to make a fast-food junkie like myself think twice. How could that not cross someone's mind who described herself as being "beyond organic?"

  • In reply to ssgardengirl:

    Linda, I was gonna bring up the whole not composting meat-eaters' poop thing, plus the dog diet, but my comment was already way too long! :)

  • In reply to ssgardengirl:

    LOL - my comment was way too long too, but that didn't stop me!

  • In reply to ssgardengirl:

    p.s. The dung of omnivores (most humans,) and carnivores, (dogs, cats,)doesn't belong in compost, and doesn't belong in gardens, composted or not. Any Master Composter or any other compost expert who knows what they're talking about will tell you this.

    If you really want poop in your garden, raise some rabbits or chickens, or find an organic farmer who's raising his livestock on pasture only, (or a stable after making sure what those horses are being fed.) Then be sure you know how to compost it properly and for how long before putting it on a food garden.

  • In reply to ssgardengirl:

    One more thing - bat poop (guano,) and red wiggler worm poop (castings,)(as long as you're not putting any animal products in your worm bin,) are the best poop for a food garden.

  • In reply to ssgardengirl:

    Rabbit poo (composted) also works wonders. Worm castings are awesome, whether as compost worked int he soil, a top dressing/mulch (it retains water really well), or used as a tea foliar spray. P.S. My name is Monica, and I'm a master composter.

  • In reply to ssgardengirl:

    I won't step in the dog poo. Wood chip mulch is my area of long term "simple gardening experience."

    So Wally Schmidtke, Pesche garden center's "answer man," called in to warn that woodchips, in addition to carrying pests and diseases, can rob soil of nitrogen during decomposition. That is just plain wrong on multiple levels. Read Dr. Chalker-Scott's fact sheet for more science based answers to these concerns. http://www.puyallup.wsu.edu/~linda%20chalker-scott/horticultural%20myths_files/Myths/magazine%20pdfs/Woodchips.pdf

    A mulch by definition is a top dressing. It is not a soil amendment. If Wally is concerned that beginner gardeners will till the wood chips into the soil why is he singling out wood chips and not mentioning other woody mulches like cypress, hardwood and bark that a beginner gardener can just as easily work into the soil and tie up nitrogen as it breaks down? If Wally is concerned that beginner gardeners would unwittingly do that then he should be against mulching the vegetable garden all together.

    You suggest Michele Owens made it sound like wood chips were worked into the soil or planted into directly. I can't listen to the podcast due to satellite internet. Can you back that up with quotes from the show?

    Dr. Chalker-Scott does not recommend wood chips in the vegetable garden or in shallow rooted annual beds and I ignore that advice completely. What beginner gardener do you know who is not going to fertilize or more likely over fertilize? A more experienced gardener is going to feed the plants as needed. The small nitrogen loss at the soil mulch interface from wood chips as a mulch is easily overcome by adding nitrogen from any number of sources.

    Michele Owens book is actually a "Why To" grow a vegetable garden. She does not promote herself as an expert and clearly says in the book this is not a "How To" kind of book. We are all more used to the "how to" kind of advice in garden media that is for sure, but that is not what this particular book is like.

    Wally's pest, disease and nitrogen concerns about wood chip mulch are essentially false. So the question is why do you want to nitpick Michele's incomplete advice about dog poo and possibly misunderstood discussion of wood chips - were you really listening - and let Wally spread old wives tales unchallenged?

  • In reply to ChristopherCNC:

    Christopher, How the heck are you? It's been like 2 years since we've communicated last. Thanks for dropping by and adding to the discussion.

    Are you really arguing that pests and diseases can't be carried in wood chip mulch, especially in wood chip mulch from urban areas like Chicago? I do not agree with that at all.I haven't read Chalker-Scott's fact sheet because she did a good job of breaking it down in the comment of her's that I linked where she does say that if it is NOT mixed into the soil then it would not use up nitrogen. So, what's she's saying if it is mixed into the soil it would use up nitrogen, which is what Wally is warning against. He's "singling out" wood chips because that's what was being talked about. In particular Michele Owens' advice to get wood chips from municipalities. I won't transcribe the section where she talks about wood chips because I've spent more time than I cared to listening to and transcribing the stuff above.

    "What beginner gardener do you know who is not going to fertilize or more likely over fertilize?"

    Maybe you're too far removed from being a beginner gardener that you don't remember the silly things we do and don't do when starting gardens. When I first planted bulbs I didn't ammend the soil and I didn't fertilize the bulbs and the bulbs did fine. Years later I still don't fertilize bulbs, heck I don't even fertilize annuals and perennials in my garden at all any more for fear of what I'm putting into the soil.

    Recently, I had the opportunity to consult a community garden that had just been installed. Do you know what I found in their raised beds? Of course you don't because you weren't there. So I'll tell you. They used free "soil" they got from the city, which was just dirt, gravel and mixed in mulch for organic matter. They did this because they didn't know better. After some excavation I was shocked when I found packing peanuts at the bottom of their raised beds. Why did they put packing peanuts as a layer to a raised bed? Because they were adding drainage. D'oh! The problem here isn't experienced gardeners, it's new gardeners like the one who called in with the question about dog poop and the hundreds of new gardeners that people like Wally have to deal with on a regular basis, and the bad advice new gardeners sometimes get at big box garden centers.

    I make it a point to not over estimate the intelligence of new gardeners, because I was there once. I'm still there and I still make ignorant decisions in the garden every year.

    What Michele's book is or isn't, is not the issue here. I don't recall mentioning the book in this post other than to point out that she was on this local radio show to promote Grow the Good Life: Why a Vegetable Garden Will Make You Happy, Healthy, Wealthy, and Wise. But you got me curious so I went to look at the table of contents. How do you devote 10 pages to "Beginning a garden" and not have "how-to" advice? All gardening books are how-to books, unless we're talking about a collection of essays.

    No, Wally's concerns are not false. Do you mean to tell me that you'd dump a diseases plant into your garden after pulling out from another area? That's essentially what happenes with a lot of this mulch from municipalities. They're not cutting down healthy trees to make mulch! I've bought commercial mulch that contained live bugs and possibly even eggs that came from who knows where.

    You have not proven that anything Wally has said is false. If anything the source you brought up agrees with what Wally says. So, why are you "nitpicking" Wally's comments when the radio segment wasn't about him? Why did you choose to not comment on her ignorant and dangerous advice about planting a vegetable garden where dogs had been crapping?

  • In reply to ssgardengirl:

    People are saying Michele's book is not a how-to book, but an inspirational book. I looked at its toc and that seems true. Wonderful! No worries! Everyone should write about what they want, from the angle that appeals most to them. It's wonderful to read different perspectives and experiences.

    The issue isn't the focus of the book; it's that a non-hands-on gardener was not the best fit for answering live callers with practical gardening questions. For either side. As someone I once knew used to say, "It'll end in tears."

  • In reply to ssgardengirl:

    I think the best answer an expert can sometimes give is "I don't know the answer to that question." I guess it doesn't make great radio, but in my opinion its the responsible thing to say if you really don't know.

  • In reply to snappyjdog:

    Sometimes, when you think of yourself as an expert, or when others think of you as an expert "I don't know" could be the hardest words to say.

  • In reply to ssgardengirl:

    I agree with gardenfaerie and snappyjdog. The issue is giving information, potentially dangerous information, to a caller who has the idea that you're an expert.

    MBT - remember when you were on the show and they took calls from folks asking you gardening questions? I mean I know you're a good gardener who can offer advice but would you ever answer a question about potential soil pathogens? I hope not. There's nothing wrong with saying you don't know and you shouldn't wait until somebody challenges your response to do it.

    Honestly, I had more of an issue with the way it was handled afterwards. A 5 part twitter lecture that ended with calling folks high schoolers? That stung a little considering it was directed (hopefully unintentionally) at people who've publically supported and tried to help promote the show. I guarantee they won't that get from the folks he was defending.

  • In reply to ginthom:

    I don't remember that time. I wonder why I blocked it out. ChicagoNow has (or used to have?) a radio show and I was on there talking about gardening and taking questions too. I would take on the soil question myself, because I know the answer: RAISED BEDS. I've seen people who have been doing this for decades in Chicago answer this. I'd probably avoid talking about phytoremediation since I don't know much about it but I would suggest people look into it. A fascinating subject. I believe raised beds may also be a city rule for vegetable gardens on city property. But, you're right. There's nothing wrong with saying you don't know the answer to something.

    Mike's reaction to the whole thing was very disappointing. I remember logging onto Twitter that day and seeing everyone's tweets about the subject and being a little shocked that Mike was scolding his Twitter audience and that he called people high schoolers. Considering that the person he was defending probably never listens to his show and never will again it was the wrong thing to do, in my opinion. The people I saw get offended over the high school comment are the reason Mike has an audience on Twitter.

    It wasn't like you all were directing the tweet to her and she would get her feelings hurt. I know she was all like, "Twitter is great, I love Twitter" even though she only signed up to promote her book and has less than 300 tweets, had Mike not brought up the tweets he was getting all of this wouldn't have had happened.

  • In reply to MrBrownThumb:

    "the customer is not always right, but the customer is always the customer." by some retail guru

  • In reply to ginthom:

    MBT as someone who has used fresh from the trimmers truck wood chip mulch in ornamental, perennial, annual and vegetable beds for twenty five years I am saying yes, Wally and you are wrong to be spreading the myth about wood chip mulch being problematic. The potential nitrogen loss is so negligible as to not be worth mentioning. The pest and disease issue is also so minor as not to be worth worrying about compared to the great benefits derived for the soil and the plants by using wood chips. Again I suggest you read Dr. Chalker-Scotts overview of all the current scientific papers on this for a more informed opinion on the matter.

    Did Michele Owens tell people to till wood chips into their soil? If not why does Wally need to bring it up without lumping in all forms of woody mulches as they relate to use in a vegetable garden? He can just as easily be accused of giving faulty or less than thorough advice.

    Frankly you make it sound like all trees in the urban environment are infested with pest and disease and the only urban forestry that occurs is the removal of diseased trees. What facts do you have to back up this urban myth? What about routine tree maintenance, right of way, utility easement, construction and demolition work that impact the urban forest?

    What is disease anyway? Trees die of drought, old age and injury all the time. A dead tree does not necessarily indicate disease. What proportion of urban wood chips are potentially diseased and where did you come by this information other than hearsay? And say a tree is diseased and chipped for mulch. Most pest and disease are host specific. What chance is there that Dutch Elm is going to kill your tomatoes or Emerald Ash Borer is going to tunnel through your carrots? Insect and disease are also in an environment over huge bio regions. Any tree or plant stressed enough to succumb to an insect or pathogen has already been exposed. Wood chips from around the corner or across town won't change that exposure level much.

    The blanket statement that wood chip mulch or urban wood chip mulch more so will spread insects and disease that can cause harm by using them just isn't fully or even close to accurate. You and Wally both need to back this up with scientific evidence if you are going to give it out as advice to gardeners.

    Wally if you read this please take the time to do a little more reading on the current science on wood chips.

    All gardening advice comes with caveats. Nothing is 100% But the benefits of wood chip mulch far outweigh any remote chances of problems occurring. Gardening is always a crap shoot. Using wood chip mulch doesn't change that.

    If you are going to accuse Michele Owens of giving bad advice, you and Wally shouldn't turn around and do it yourself.

  • In reply to ChristopherCNC:

    Hello again, Christopher.

    Can you point out the bad advice being given here? I don't see any advice given here other than suggesting the exercise of caution. Is anyone advising against the use of wood chip mulch? No.

    Again, I'll point you to the comment by the same person you keep bring up that point out that when tilled in with soil wood chips do use up nitrogen, which causes it to not be available to be used by surrounding plants because it is tied up decomposing the wood chips.

  • In reply to MrBrownThumb:

    It is hard to have a discussion when you keep side stepping the points I bring up and refuse to read Chalker-Scott's own paper addressing the insect and disease issue and stick with a few comments at Garden Rant in which she clearly states nitrogen loss is not an issue for wood chips as a mulch and will not prove your claim that Michele Owens suggested tilling wood chips into the soil.

    Simple question. As a garden expert or experienced gardener however you view yourself as a garden media person would you recommend using wood chips as a mulch?

    If you can't answer that without dodging the issue then I'll just move on along.

  • In reply to ChristopherCNC:

    Yes, I too find this conversation difficult. Mostly because you're arguing a point that NOBODY has made. I didn't have to read the Chalker-Scott paper because I read her comment(s) (linked above I might add)which parse her research into easy to digest nuggets, of which I take away that mulching is fine PROVIDED YOU DON'T TILL IT INTO THE SOIL WHERE IT WILL OCCUPY NITROGEN NEEDED BY PLANTS.

    If you had read the Chalker-Scotts paper perhaps you would have read the portion where she advises AGAINST using mulch in an annual bed and a vegetable garden. That is certainly a much more severe position than the one to which you are objecting to. NOBODY is advising against the use of mulch, what was brought up was that when mulch is TILLED INTO THE SOIL is when it would become problematic as it breaks down as it uses up nitrogen.

    Again, I will quote this part of her comment which basically makes this long exchange we've had pointless. "...I can say definitively that if wood chips are used as a topdressing AND NOT WORKED INTO THE SOIL THEY WILL will NOT TIE UP NITROGEN..."

    I'm not a garden expert nor am I a garden media person. I'm not dodging any question--just bored with your strawman argument. Nowhere within this post or it's comments will you find anything resembling a comment or statement that is anti-mulch. But to satisfy your curiosity, I'm not now, nor have I ever been anti using wood chips as mulch. I believe that within the archives of this post you would find posts recommending wood chip mulch in one form or another.

  • In reply to MrBrownThumb:

    So then the take away from the original post and your follow up comments over a topic that is not in dispute was just about the opportunity for you to make catty and snide comments over something Michele Owens never said nor suggested. It's all about protecting the baby gardeners from making grave errors I suppose. How noble of you and Wally.

  • In reply to ChristopherCNC:

    Look who is sidestepping now.

    But I thank you for being so persistent because you caused me to go back and pay close attention to the interview. While talking about adding organic matter Mike is ribbing her about having a source for Alpaca manure and how most of us don't have something like that to add to the soil and start a vegetable garden. She then says "People make fantastic vegetable gardens using nothing but wood chips from utility companies, they come in and trim the trees and they may give you a pile of wood chips."

    Now I understand why Wally would waste his time and call in to expand on what she's saying because she makes it seem like you can start a garden in a pile of wood chips. Had you read the post prior to commenting you would've seen that I pointed out that Wally was calling in to "expand" on her advice of using wood chips. Thank God we have people in the Chicago area like Wally who actually know what they're talking about and have a good ear for bad advice, because I totally missed it the first hundred times I subjected myself to the interview for this post.

    At this point I don't care what you want to take away from this post, just as long as you go away.

    If you care to listen for yourself you can download the post. The bad gardening advice starts at the 1:06:00 mark.

  • In reply to MrBrownThumb:

    So then you agree. Michele Owens never said to till wood chips into the soil and you and Wally misinterpreted a discussion of it on adding organic matter to the soil via mulching a vegetable garden. Michele's quote in the post even clarifies that. Your misguided fears then lead both of you to bring up non issues of insect and disease in wood chips, which you repeated several times in this discussion. Repeating the myth about insect and disease in wood chips is hardly a ringing endorsement of their use and a subject you have refused to address when it was pointed out that you are wrong about that matter.

    So you are no gardening expert, just expert enough to try and belittle Michele's less than covering all the possible scenarios discussion on a short radio show.

  • In reply to ChristopherCNC:

    Are you hard of reading? They're talking about ammending dirt with organic matter and recommend: Alpaca bedding, wood chips, composted manure, homemade compost, city yard waste or leaves. Which of these is a top dressing and which of these are soil ammendments that are usually mixed into the soil.

    When you are given a whole hour to talk on radio and you only take two simple gardening questions and can't answer them clearly, that's pretty bad.

    I'll give you credit. You're the bravest Garden Rant apologist I've ever come across and you're persistent if nothing else, but at the end of the day you're just an apologist. Not even a very good one.

    ETA: I've taken away your trusted "commenter status" and any subsequent posts you make will have to be approved by me. Some tips to get your comment approved: Read before replying. Make sure you understand what you're reading. Leave your strawman in the vegetable garden where it can scare away the crows. Be interesting.

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