If you are a gardener, you are probably well aware of the value of compost in your garden. You probably also know the old saw about not using wood chips because they suck nitrogen out of the soil until they have broken down for a couple of years.
So how do you use all those wood chips while waiting for them to decompose long enough to build your compost into that nutrient-rich pile of black gold you need for your garden?
Simple: Heat your Winter Greenhouse with them.
Contain your wood chips in barrels, boxes or other massive containers.
Position them inside the greenhouse directly on the ground beneath benches, or in pipes channeled from a compost-containment system in or outside the greenhouse.
Choose a container for your wood chips. You can use barrels, boxes or other large containers. Fill them wood chips, and top with some leaves and a few handfuls of dirt to inoculate with beneficial microorganisms.
Place them throughout the greenhouse, under your planting benches, so rising heat from the decomposition process will directly warm seedbeds and plants above them. Painting them black will help warm them if faced toward the sun.
Compost inside the greenhouse directly on the ground beneath benches as an alternative. Dig down a foot or so to take advantage of the earth's constant temperature.
Build frames of wood or cement blocks around the excavations, wherever you want heat --- making them at least 2 feet high --- then fill the whole thing with wood chips. Top with a bit of dirt/manure mix, and allow to compost.
Channel 3-inch pipes through compost from a compost containment system in or outside the greenhouse, if you want something more permanent. Use a substantial enclosed composting system capable of being sealed in such a way that no gases escape from it, either inside, or outside (adjacent to the greenhouse). Use a prefabricated septic or water tank or similar for the purpose (compost gets extremely hot, so use a tank capable of withstanding heat without melting).
Fill the container about 2/3 full with wood chips and a mix of soil and manure (to inoculate with decomposition agents). Lay coils of flexible PVC on top that and fill to the top of the container. Run ends of pipe outside container into greenhouse and back again for a continuous loop.
Run pipe under the floor of the greenhouse for in-ground beds or through raised beds or under planting benches for closer heating of flats and container-grown plants. You can also suspend pipes, but keep them away from outside walls --- especially on the north side --- where they will cool very quickly. As the air inside the pipe cools, natural convection will send it back into the compost, pushing warm air into the pipes for continually circulating heat.