The Woodchip Handbook

Ben Raskin


The first and only complete guide to sourcing and using woodchip—an abundant, inexpensive, and ecologically sustainable material—for savvy growers and landscapers at any scale, from farm to garden to greenhouse.

The Woodchip Handbook is the essential guide to the many uses of woodchip both in regenerative agriculture and horticulture. Author Ben Raskin, Head of Horticulture and Agroforestry at the Soil Association, draws on his extensive practical experience using woodchip, provides the latest research from around the world, and presents inspiring case studies from innovative farmers.

The book explores and unlocks the tremendous potential of woodchip to enhance soil health and plant growth:

  • As a natural mulch for weed suppression, temperature buffering, and water conservation
  • As a growing medium for propagating plants
  • As a decomposing source of warmth for hotbeds in the greenhouse or hoop house
  • As a carbon-rich compost ingredient that supports beneficial fungi and microorganisms
  • As a powerful soil health booster, when applied as small-sized ramial chipped wood
  • As an ideal substrate for growing many kinds of edible or medicinal mushrooms
  • As a sustainable, versatile, and durable material for foot paths and ornamental landscaping

Some of these techniques, like mulching—or the renewable harvest potential from coppicing and pollarding treeshave been around forever. Yet there is always new science to be discovered, such as the role that salicylic acid from willow woodchip can play in preventing tree diseases or promoting livestock health when used as a bedding material.

Whether you are a commercial grower or farmer, a permaculture practitioner, or a serious home gardener producing your own fruit and vegetables, The Woodchip Handbook will show you how to get the most out of this readily available and renewable material.

Copyright 2021, softcover, 208 pages.

About the Author:

Ben Raskin has worked in horticulture for more than 25 years, developing a wide range of experience both in practical commercial growing and wider policy and advocacy work. As the Soil Association’s Head of Horticulture and Agroforestry, he provides growers at all levels of production with technical, marketing, policy, supply chain and networking support. He is currently implementing a 200-acre silvopastural agroforestry planting in Wiltshire. Ben is the author of several previous books on gardening, including Zero-Waste Gardening (2021), The Community Gardening Handbook (2017) and three volumes of the Grow Together Guides aimed at families with young children: Compost, Grow, and Bees, Bugs, and Butterflies. Additionally, Ben co-chairs the Defra Edibles Horticulture Roundtable and sits on the boards of the Organic Growers Alliance and Community Supported Agriculture Network UK.

Praise for The Woodchip Handbook:

‘In a world desperate for solutions that will allow us to get off the agro-chemical treadmill while tackling the climate challenges ahead, woodchip steps forward. Working with Ben, I’ve learned much over the last few years, and am amazed by the power of this humble resource. This trailblazing book will be invaluable in firing both our imagination and understanding of woodchip’s potential to grow and farm better.’―Helen Browning, chief executive, Soil Association

‘I did not know the world needed a whole book on woodchip, but from the first chapter I could not put this book down. Raskin’s thorough, informed and well-referenced research is going to be a must for anyone who cares about soil. Woodchip has such potential to help us create more local, sustainable ways of growing, and this handbook is the resource needed to dispel myths and find the best method and scale for everyone from gardeners to large-scale farms.’―Alys Fowler, author of The Edible Garden and The Thrifty Gardener

‘I use woodchip quite extensively in my garden and have for decades. It has been an important part of increasing our soil organic matter and carbon storage. The Woodchip Handbook addresses its many uses and all the technical questions of how to acquire and manage it. If you want to learn more about woodchip for your yard or farm, look no further.’―Eric Toensmeier, author of The Carbon Farming Solution and Perennial Vegetables

‘Ben Raskin’s wide-ranging work in varied locations makes The Woodchip Handbook a really useful overview of the possibilities afforded by woodchip. It’s good for soil and good for plants, once you understand how it can work best for you, as he explains in this book.’―Charles Dowding, author of Charles Dowding’s No Dig Gardening

‘In a time when the farming and gardening literature seems to be overflowing with information about soil mineralization with rock dusts, cover crop smorgasbords, foliar feeding, liquid carbon pathways and rotational grazing, it is great relief to finally have, in one place, a treasure that describes the missing piece of the complete soil creation process: coarse woody debris! You won’t find a better, more complete summary of the how, the why and the overall importance of woodchip in the process of building the ideal fertile soil for your garden, homestead or farm. Bravo, Ben Raskin!’―Mark Shepard, author of Restoration Agriculture

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