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Redwood sawdust/chips, is it good for mulching?

I have access to lots of free sawdust/redwood chips. I use about a bucket full in each batch of compost in the tumbler and all my garden paths are covered with it. I love the smell and color and it keeps the weeds down. Covers the dogs when they come in and help, but that's fine with them. Do you see a problem using it as a mulch around the plants as a to keep weeds down and retain moisture?
 
Sawdust or wood shavings are great for compost or on paths, but not to put directly on soil where there are plants. They must be composted first, otherwise they tie up the nitrogen in the soil.

Lucky you to have them! The scent must be great.
 
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Tie up the nitrogen-does that mean it makes nitrogen unavailable for plant use? If one were to put it in the soil in the fall, would it be OK to plant in next year?

Just wondering, we have a big pile of "sawdust" from cutting up a rotten tree, so it's probably mostly decomposed anyway. The wood we are cutting up is light-weight as balsa wood. What can I do with the stuff? I've already added some to the compost pile.
 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Everything that blooms and grows, the garden angel scatters and sows...in the land of corn and pigs...Iowa Zone 4-5

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I know of no good reason to not use redwood sawdust either in the compost, thin layers so it does not matt, or as a mulch. There is still this old myth that woody mulches "rob" the soil of Nitrogen that is simply not true. I first started hearing this in the 1960's and looked for research to support that idea and could find no research. However in the 1980's I started to see research that said sawdust, wood chips, etc. made a good muclh and did not "rob" the soil of Nitrogen and there is lots of research to support that today, none that shows that material does "rob" the soil. However it is a persistent myth.
 
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I'm so glad someone asked this question because I have a big pile of the stuff too. So I can use it as a mulch around my veggies? I was using it in the paths between the beds, but its so fluffy its hard to walk on till it matts down.

datgirl
 

Northern Il,along the Fox River.

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Wood touching soil is not the kiss of death for your garden as some will have you believe. I use (literally) tons of wood chips in compost, on paths, around perennials and often, when I run out of other free materials, as mulch around veggies. No "robbing of nitrogen" has ever been noticed. I've even gotten good crops out of some new beds containing lots of wood chips when adequate additional nitrogen is provided. At any rate, note that the nitrogen is not robbed but simply borrowed.

Generally I don't incorporate the bulk of the wood chip mulch into the soil but after harvest, I lightly rake it off. Of course, some of it gets mixed with soil but no need to panic. Any reasonably healthy soil can handle this.

Wayne
(Always happy to help Kimmsr drive a stake through the heart of the myth.)
 

Adirondackgardener

Mainegardener

Trying out Northeast PA.

 

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As jennifer said, sawdust used for pathways and such is great. But using it fresh, either in a compost pile or especially around newly planted seedlings is, I believe, not a good idea.

I know there's many who don't believe in the "nitrogen robbing" effects of certain freshly applied materials in gardens. I'm sure there's lot of research and references (as well as personal experience *see Wayne*) to support that belief. I believe, however, there are significant references and research to the contrary. Personally, this has always been a source of confusion for me. Never knew exactly what to believe. Everytime I saw a mention disagreeing w/the nitrogen depletion premise, I'd try to do my own research for more info. I'm no chemist or soil biologist. Don't pretend to be one. I'm a home gardener who also delights in doing any kind of research. (Thank God for Google!) Wink

So, it's based on my own opinion and said research that I humbly disagree and maintain that applying fresh, high-carbon material, such as sawdust, which requires huge amounts of nitrogen to decompose, will rob that nitrogen from any available source to enable that process. To my sense, it just seems logical, and "logical" always works for me. (I should also add that ever since I stopped using wood chips from around my perennials - years and years ago - they've ceased to look as chlorotic and spindly as they used to.)

I know the argument that urges one to "just look at the forests" with all the accumulated leaves on the forest floor and yet the trees flourish. So, how's the carbon-laden leaves retarding the growth of the trees one may ask? Who says it isn't? Afterall, equating the nitrogen uptake and needs of established, 50-100' tall oaks and even 10' saplings to a 2" seedling or freshly sown seed isn't exactly fair and makes a poor comparison. So, why take the chance of undermining said seedling's or seed's growth and health?

As I said, there's lots of research to support this. Not necessarily archaic stuff, but recent literature. (Below are just a few links.) But if people really want to make up their own minds on this, then Google any combination of terms: "robbing soil of nitrogen"; "robbing nitrogen", "nitrogen depletion". Even, in this particular thread's regard, "sawdust nitrogen depletion" or "sawdust nitrogen robbing" or just plain "sawdust". Just a few are:

http://www.urbangardencenter.com/tutorial/f02.html
http://hendry.ifas.ufl.edu/HCHortNews_Mulch.htm
http://leon.ifas.ufl.edu/prepare_annual_beds_well_ahead.htm

Bottom line, IMO, the sawdust can be added to the compost, but make sure to add more nitrogen sources to the pile or be prepared to wait longer for decomposition. If needed as a mulch, let it sit for at least a couple months before using it around seedlings/plants.

This is what makes this board as interesting and educational as it is, and one of the reasons I keep coming back here: The openness and (for the most part) respect w/which we share information and opinions.
 
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ [i]"To Live Is Not Just To Survive, But To Thrive With Passion, Compassion, Humor & Style."[/i] ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ My Blogs: [URL=http://www.lindafrank.blogspot.com] GardenzOwn [/URL] [URL=http://www.OurGardenEarth.blogspot.com]OurGardenEarth[/URL]
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I think I'll try the partially decomposed sawdust on one bed and see what happens. It definitely is not fresh new wood, the tree has been dead for at least 10 years.

Thanks for all the info, pro and con.
 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Everything that blooms and grows, the garden angel scatters and sows...in the land of corn and pigs...Iowa Zone 4-5

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This would be an interesting question for Scott, if he's looking. How do we pose this to him?
 
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I know Mike McGrath (you know, former OG editor?) swears by the 'robbing nitrogen' premise. Heard him just last week restating his views. But, like you, me and the wall, that's just one person's opinion. I think it's a very debatable and intriguing question, and I'd like to hear Scott's opinion on it as well.

Since this is Saturday, my guess is Scott's probably out in his own garden (which is where I should be right now!) Wink Perhaps he'll see this on Monday or we can drop him an email. He's always very receptive to any correspondence.

I think, though, in the end it still comes down to personal preference and personal inference from research or experience. Which is why I alluded to the fact that the more input on a controversial subject...the better! Smiler
 
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ [i]"To Live Is Not Just To Survive, But To Thrive With Passion, Compassion, Humor & Style."[/i] ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ My Blogs: [URL=http://www.lindafrank.blogspot.com] GardenzOwn [/URL] [URL=http://www.OurGardenEarth.blogspot.com]OurGardenEarth[/URL]
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Wow! Thanks for all the replies. I love this message board. I wonder if the sawdust in my compost tumbler is the reason why it heats up well for a few days then is cool and the compost is unfinished. I am religious about turning it every day. I might try going over the pony poo with the lawn mower before adding it as well. It doesn't break down in 2 weeks. Maybe I need to add more chicken droppings/ bedding to the mix to offset the sawdust. If the sawdust does rob or borrow nitrogen, I might use it for a layer in the potatoes mixed in with clippings and newspaper. That might slow down the lush green growth.
 
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Not sure why you want to slow down the lush growth of your potatoes. You can't eat the foliage of course, but it does feed the roots.

Have you had problems with low potato yields?

Wayne
 

Adirondackgardener

Mainegardener

Trying out Northeast PA.

 

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I will not get into the nitrogen-robbing debate and I have used wood chips before with good results, however... I need to point out that the title of this thread says redwood. Redwood (and cedar) has a chemical makeup that inhibits decay. I would think, because of that, that it would not make it a very good candidate for composting. Also, redwoods have a natural resistance to insect damage.

Between the decay resistance and the insect repellant qualities I would think that maybe the redwood chips would not be good for the micro-herd and worms we have in the soil of our gardens.

If it were me I would use those redwood chips on paths and other areas where I didnÂ’t want things to grow.
 
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ LAUS DEO, Where ever I go, there I am. ..... major at nwi dot net ..... Zone 6a, Eastern Washington, sagebrush high desert, Columbia plateau.
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> Not sure why you want to slow down the lush growth of
> your potatoes. You can't eat the foliage of course,
> but it does feed the roots.
>
> Have you had problems with low potato yields?
>
> Wayne

I have only grown potatoes for 2 years. I expected to see potatoes growing inside the mulch and soil I added above the original hills. I got quite a few potatoes from soil level down, but nothing to speak of above. So from zero to 1 foot were 95% of the spuds. Above that to 4 feet, only 5 % of total.I am going to let things go as they will. Here is a link to a pic of the patch in question.
http://www.2002restorations.com/index.php?IMAGE=../uplo...sub_category_id=1169
 
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Major has an excellent point about redwood's ability to withstand decay (or pest damage),
which would, as he said, make it a rather poor candidate for composting. Even, I'd think,
in sawdust form. Plus, redwood is very acidic and while a good long, hot composting can
alter the acidity of, say, oak leaves, (like I add in great numbers to my pile) considering the
delayed decay of redwood, I'd think the acidic composition of it would remain something of concern.
 
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ [i]"To Live Is Not Just To Survive, But To Thrive With Passion, Compassion, Humor & Style."[/i] ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ My Blogs: [URL=http://www.lindafrank.blogspot.com] GardenzOwn [/URL] [URL=http://www.OurGardenEarth.blogspot.com]OurGardenEarth[/URL]
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Redwood puts off a chemical that suppresses plant growth, except for other redwood trees. It is not helpful to the garden unless it has been composted to where it's unrecognizable. And even then, large amounts still contain that chemical, and I've noticed plants are much slower to grow with it around.

It's free to the packagers of the stuff from the lumber mills here, and they sell it at a huge profit, the nurseries promote it because labor-wise it is an easy solution. And for some reason people don't want to use leaf mulch, which is a shame, because it contributes WAY more to the soil.

It requires nitrogen to break down wood, and if the mulch gets the nitrogen first, before the plants roots do, and it will, because it's not only on top, it's under the soil, then that's where the nitrogen will stay. I've gardened with redwood bark chips for 30 years, and they are one of the biggest nuisances I have.

I think it's a real shame that redwood gets spread everywhere on the west coast, when people spend thousands of dollars for landscaping, not realizing what it's doing to the plants to essentially drown them in the stuff.

Roots get under pathways, so the redwood chemical will not help them there either.

If you want to compost it, make a separate pile with equal amounts of manure and redwood, and some dry carbon material, dead leaves or straw, and turn it often, make sure it stays moist. It will take a long time, but the finished product is a better garden addition. Smiler
 
---------------------- Life goes on within you and without you - George Harrison
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Do you see any difference between using redwood bark shavings and the sawdust from the wood itself or is redwood redwood?
 
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Because Redwood puts off a chemical that suppresses plant growth, I would think that it wouldnÂ’t make much difference whether it was bark shavings or sawdust. As you said, Redwood is Redwood. However, maybe the bark may contain less. I just don't know for sure. If it were me I would only use it for paths where you want to suppress the growth of weeds.
 
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ LAUS DEO, Where ever I go, there I am. ..... major at nwi dot net ..... Zone 6a, Eastern Washington, sagebrush high desert, Columbia plateau.
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What I can find out about the Redwood, "Taxodiacae", family is that like the "Juglans", Walnut" famly the roots have the greatest level of whatever suppresses other plant growth, is allelopathic. There have been variable results when using wood chips or sawdust and not all of the plant suppression properties can be traced to the allelopathic properties that are supposed to be there.
Research shows that the soil bacteria do not get busy and digest material placed on the soils surface, mulch, and show very little interest in it unless the soil is so devoid of organic matter that the mulch is the only thing they have to eat. If your soil has even just a little bit of organic matter in it the soil bacteria will work on the mulch, slowly, but will not use Nitrogen from your soil, depriving your plants of N, to digest that mulch fast enough to cause problems.
 
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What about cedar shavings/sawdust?
Would they have to be treated like Redwood before they get to be usable in the garden?
 
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oh2fly, the landscape amendment sold is redwood bark. It's either in chips or in fluff these days. It's what's left over from milling the wood. Of course sawdust is from the wood, but the bags of stuff at the nursery are bark. It's all got the chemical.

But just generally speaking, all organic soil amendments should be a mix of organic ingredients. Just using sawdust, chips or one item doesn't create the organic soil biology you are looking for anyway.

Wood chips don't rob the soil of nitrogen, they just get it first and tie it up if it's applied from the top, because the wood is on top and underneath (they are sneaky little critters). Some nitrogen does get past the bark or sawdust, but you never know how much, and we've only got a short time to get these annuals up and running. If there's any nitrogen left over after the wood is broken down, the plants will get it eventually, but that could be a couple of years down the road.

Bales of straw or alfalfa are cheaper and much better for composting. After Halloween they are often free at grocery stores that used them for display. Leaves and cut grass are often free if you ask your neighbors if you can sweep up theirs. They are often most grateful!

gardpro, there is one kind of cedar, eastern red cedar (Juniperus virginiana) that has an alleopathic chemical. I haven't seen the bags at the nursery distinguishing between red cedar and cedar, so I don't even buy those that say "forest products," or "cedar" it's just too vague.

But wood requires nitrogen to break it down, even if it doesn't have any alleopathic chemicals, and it would be necessary to use much more nitrogen and inject it under the wood mulch to be sure it got into the root zone at about 1 foot deep so the plants can have their own supply. And then you've got to be careful about the salts involved in manure and some forms of nitrogen if you are adding a lot Smiler
 
---------------------- Life goes on within you and without you - George Harrison
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Some cedars, like redwood, are somewhat rot resistant, but there is nothing I can find that says the cedars are at all allelopathic and the cedars growing around here do not appear to inhibit other plant growth.
Soil bacteria will not, as a rule, move out of the nice, cool, moist soil into the often warm, dry mulch to chow down if there is sufficent food for them in the soil, and they will stay in the soil working, doing the job they are supposed to and not move out unless there are really complelling reason to do so, so mulches will not "rob" the soil of Nitrogen because the soil bacteria that will , eventually, digest that mulch will work on it at their leisure.
 
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Here's an interesting little event I just had happen. My pole beans are climbing happily up poles of various kinds, EXCEPT the redwood 2 by 2 I had left over from a project. It's still red in color, not an old pole. I've been trying for a week to get it to wrap around, and it "refuses". I found it off on the ground the next morning every time I tried to take 18 inches of a tendril and wrap it.

I replaced that pole with a green plastic covered garden pole, and overnight it went straight up!
 
---------------------- Life goes on within you and without you - George Harrison
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That is interesting. My pole beans are planted around 3 2x2s also made of redwood in a teepee and some of them aren't interested in hanging on either. I thought it was the wind. Maybe the plants know something we should? ?:|
 
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