Book Review: “The Woodchip Handbook”

In his new book, “The Woodchip Handbook,” author and horticulturalist Ben Raskin explores the many uses for woodchips on a farm or homestead.

by Robin HackettNovember 26, 2021
PHOTO: Chelsea Green

Title: The Woodchip Handbook: A Complete Guide for Farmers, Gardeners and Landscapers

Author: Ben Raskin

Cover Price: $24.95

Publication Date:  October 29, 2021

Publisher: Chelsea Green Publishing

I’ll be honest and say that, before I read Ben Raskin’s book, I was skeptical as to whether or not it would be possible to devote a whole book to the topic of woodchips. I mean, what is there to say, really? You use them as mulch, wait for them to break down, and spread out some more.

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Turns out, of course, I was quite wrong. As Raskin shows throughout the book, woodchips can play a valuable role in a farm (or garden) ecosystem. But as with anything else, they can be misunderstood and therefore mismanaged. 

Reading The Woodchip Handbook is a good way to set out on the right foot.  

The Many Ways to Use Woodchips

Overall, the book gives woodchips an incredibly comprehensive treatment. Raskin begins the book with a brief cultural history of woodchips (did you know that Peter Jensen invented the first woodchipper in 1884?) that arrives at an important point.

Woodchips have been a waste product of human activities for a long time. 

And as a result, we’ve gotten good at finding productive ways to use them. As Raskin explains, woodchips can be used as a mulch, in compost, in potting soil or even as a soil amendment. Or, woodchips can be used as a substrate to grow mushrooms or in bedding for animals.

The list goes on.

Read more: Did you start a garden this year? Here are some tips to keep things growing all year long!

The Many Kinds of Woodchips

But, as Raskin explains at many points throughout the book, using woodchips in these different ways requires an understanding of these processes. It also requires an understanding of the woodchips themselves 

Woodchips from different trees have different characteristics. Some woodchips might have allelopathic (growth-inhibiting) properties. Others might be cut from treated wood that can harbor all sorts of toxins. And woodchips cut from small, young branches can be used much differently than chips from an old tree.

Raskin delves into all of these details throughout the book, and much more as well. He devotes a substantial amount of time to sourcing woodchips. And he also spends a significant amount of time discussing how to chip your own woodchips. 

He provides a calculus for when it makes sense to purchase or rent a chipper, as well as some options for setting up a system to grow your own chips on-farm.

Overall, The Woodchip Handbook is a worthwhile read for both farmers and homesteaders. If you’re currently an avid woodchip user, The Woodchip Handbook will help you ensure that you’re getting the most out of your systems. And it will undoubtedly teach you many new things as well. 

And if you’re looking to begin using woodchips on your farm or homestead, The Woodchip Handbook is the perfect place to start.