Shuould I just till in my pecan shell mulch?

mesquiteman(8 Central TX)February 21, 2014

Hello folks,

I am relatively new to gardening and have now been through my first full year! It will soon be time to plan my spring garden and I have a question.

I used pecan shell mulch for my garden back last spring. For my fall garden, I just pulled it back and re-planted. I feel the need to till the soil this spring before planting the spring garden. I am not sure what to do with the mulch.

Should I try to scrape it off and set it aside or just till it into the soil? My concern is that I seem to remember reading somewhere that wood chips mixed into soil robs the soil of nitrogen while they decompose. Is this correct? Pecan shells are not technically wood chips but I would guess they are similar.

Any thoughts or recommendations would be greatly appreciated!

I am in central Texas if it matters any.

Thanks for your time.

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If you are prepared to continue to add organic matl. to the soil such as frequent applications of compost or mulching after tilling then I don't think it's an issue IMO. Observe the plants you put in after tilling & amending, they will tell you if nitrogen is a problem. This will get you closer to the earth into which you plant & besides learning as you go is part of the kick of all this "gardening" :)

    Bookmark   February 21, 2014 at 11:07PM
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Hello Mesquieteman,welcome to GW . Rather than suggesting till in or reuse , I will explain the issue so that you may choose which is best for you and your garden. You are correct in not equateing the shells to wood chips. It requires about 3 times as long to compost pecan shells as it does for oak,pecan,elm,ash and other common chips. That means nitrogen depletion will not be an issue. Pulled aside and reused,they will easly last another 2 year and depending on enviormential conditions,up to 5 years. I see it as doing what is easiest but I would add leaves,grass clippings or horse/cow manure to speed the process of composting the shells. Since you mentioned concurn over N depletion,keep this simple principl in mind. The faster high carbon material rots,the more N required to support the process. The more surface area exposed,the faster material rots. A dozen 1 Lb chunks of wood buried in the ground will rot slower and have less efect on N than 12 Lbs of wood chips. Saw dust rots faster than chips and effects N more. Good luck on the upcoming growing season.

    Bookmark   February 22, 2014 at 2:12AM
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mesquiteman(8 Central TX)

Paleogardener, thank you for your thoughts!

Klem1, thank you for laying it out like that! I believe I will save them for re-use as it appears, from your information, that they may not provide much benefit to my soil and I might as well save the money and not have to buy more! I now know, though, that I don't need to worry about trying to get them all up. If I am reading it right, I could get up as much as is easy to get, then just till in the rest.

Anyone know of a benefit the pecan shells will have in the soil? My soil is already rich and when tested last year, was too high in most everything. We do have a high PH here and I have read that pecan shells will naturally, over time, help reduce the ph since they are acidic.

    Bookmark   February 22, 2014 at 2:23AM
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NO. While pecan shells may have a nutrient analysis of about 1% N, and much less P and K the Carbon to Nitrogen ratio is so high it would take years for the Soil Food Web to digest them and that might tie up some N that your plants may need while that is happening.
Like any other organic matter pecan shells will have little to no significant affect on soil pH. Most of what I have been able to find about using pecan shells in the soil involves converting them to bio char first.

    Bookmark   February 22, 2014 at 6:59AM
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" I feel the need to till the soil this spring before planting the spring garden."

But, does the SOIL feel the need to be tilled?

What do you think tilling will do for the soil?

    Bookmark   February 22, 2014 at 11:44AM
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