Can I 'speed up' the ageing of fresh wood chips?

chateauclubcrestApril 7, 2008

We are able to get wood chips for free from our community. Usually they are somewhat aged, but the last batch they dropped off looks too fresh to use. I understand that fresh mulch steals nitrogen.

Is there any way to speed the aging process?

Are there any steps that I can take to use it in some of the areas that I have plantings--adding fertilizer underneath or something.

Just fyi, we use this mulch for various things on our property, including pathways and walkways, around some of our trees (so the lawn tractor doesn't have to go as close, but we also use it on a few areas far from the house where I have a few beds of garden experiments going.

Thanks

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esthermgr

I've found that the spots where I mixed in used coffee grounds under the wood chips or where my kid pees a lot (don't ask... ) tend to rot faster. Not scientific, just what I've seen in my garden.

    Bookmark   April 7, 2008 at 12:43PM
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blutranes(z8 Mid Ga)

As long as the mulch is used on top of the soil and not dug/tilled in there is no danger of robbing nitrogen from the soil is my understanding. Since most mulches are used to suppress weed/grass growth weather the wood chips are fresh or not should not matter. I trust this helps in some way...

Blutranes

    Bookmark   April 7, 2008 at 12:53PM
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gratefulgardener3300

Take the old mulch out of your walkways and use that where you don't want any N to be robbed. Fill your walkways with the fresh chips and you won't have to worry. I don't think that any N gets robbed either, but I prefer using aged wood chips.

    Bookmark   April 8, 2008 at 8:49PM
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adirondackgardener(Western Maine)

The term "aging" is pretty vague. Letting chips simply get old really does nothing to improve them. You pretty much have the same carbon mass as when they were new, albeit with less moisture in the cells. To properly "age" them so the carbon does not "rob nitrogen" (another poorly defined term in my opinion) you have let them completely rot to compost.

My thirty years experience with chips is that I've always used truckloads of them every year, almost always green and fresh from the tree. Used as mulch, you have nothing to worry about as far as tying up nitrogen in your soil is concerned. They are never too fresh to immediately use as mulch.

Waiting for them to lose moisture and turn gray will do nothing to improve them so start getting some use of them now. A new woodchip is as ready to use as an old one. And they make your garden look and smell fresh.

Wayne

    Bookmark   April 8, 2008 at 9:42PM
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gardeningwithlcgrace(7 Delaware)

I may have the name wrong because I heard it from my grandmother over the phone...cottonseed meal? She said that she heard that it helps to decompose wood chips.

Has anyone heard this?

I'm also wondering about decomposing wood chips that we spread on all of our front beds last year. I'll have to rake them away until I've planted seeds & the new seedlings are strong enough to handle woodchips around them or figure out how to work with them where they're at.

    Bookmark   April 9, 2008 at 12:29PM
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cavamarie(z8b/9a FL)

I use a lot, and I mean a lot, of wood chips as mulch, around all my flowers and veggies. I get used shavings out of my chicken coop and my horse stalls, and spread it around between the plants. Works like a dream. Keeps the moisture and coolness in the soil, while slowly decomposing.

    Bookmark   April 9, 2008 at 5:50PM
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kasha77

My hubby welded a 55 gal. drum up to rotate on a stand- this is my new compost tumbler. I'm running out of browns (carbon) for my ratio- but I have free access to unlimited wood mulch, they even load it into my truck! If I were to mix wood mulch with fresh cow manure, how long would it take to create compost? I'd turn it every day, keep it moist, & we're in zone 7- lately 80* nites & 40 - 50* days. I'll look for another source, like shredded paper. Any other ideas? I'm desperate to create compost!

    Bookmark   April 11, 2008 at 11:08PM
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sarabera

You can speed up the composting of wood chips by spraying the pile down with liquid lawn fertilizer--the high nitrogen type that is used to "green-up" lawns quickly. Turn the piles once in a while. (My old landscaping boss taught me this trick). But this is not really necessary, if you are using the chips for mulch there is no issue. I know because we use at least 100 yards per year on our property, and thick! The chip will break down over a couple of years and make great compost, and the worms will do the mixing for you!

    Bookmark   April 12, 2008 at 12:06AM
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idaho_gardener

I wouldn't try to use wood chips in compost until they have rotted on their own for quite some time. You should probably look for straw for a 'brown' for your compost bin.

There was another thread in this forum about composting wood chips. Ideas usually focused on some sort of Nitrogen source and keeping them wet.

Potassium Nitrate is used as a stump removal/rotting agent, but because it's used in making black gunpowder, it might be a little hard to some by. The government is making it harder and harder to get stuff we need, stuff like lye, fertilizer, stump remover.

    Bookmark   April 12, 2008 at 1:02AM
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rdak(z5MI)

The lawn fertilizer spray is a good one IMHO.

I spray alot with molasses water and that seems to speed up decomposition of dead plants, etc.

    Bookmark   April 12, 2008 at 7:31AM
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