cedar bulk mulch

Discussion in 'Soils, Fertilizers and Composting' started by Marty Lund, May 3, 2009.

  1. Marty Lund

    Marty Lund Member

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    I'm quite green (no pun intended) but enthusiastic about gardening. After following instructions for "lasagna gardening" to create new beds along the perimeter of my lawn last fall, and planting shrubs and perennials, I lay down a mulch of cedar bark. I assumed this was okay as the local garden shops all sell bags of it and it seems to be commonly done. However, I've recently come across several warnings by gardening gurus (Brian Minter Steve Whysall) to never use the stuff. Why not? Is there anything I can do to make it okay? And if not, is there any use at all for the cedar mulch? Thanks!
     
  2. Ron B

    Ron B Paragon of Plants 10 Years

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    • It is unlikely that wood chip mulches containing cedar will have negative effects on established
    landscape plants.
    • The allelopathic activities attributed to mulches made from cedar and other species may actually
    be due to other factors such as nutrient and light limitations.
    • Seeds and seedlings, whether weeds or desirable species, are more sensitive to mulch suppression
    as they do not have established root systems.


    http://www.puyallup.wsu.edu/~linda ...Myths_files/Myths/Allelopathic wood chips.pdf
     
  3. greengarden bev

    greengarden bev Active Member

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    I think part of the gurus' objection to cedar mulch is the social cost. Commercial bagged mulch comes from trees that are cut on an industrial scale, then processed, dyed, bagged, trucked, stacked, sold, and finally driven to the final resting place. That's a big carbon footprint for something that may already be available locally-- in your neighbourhood-- from arborists or municipal tree cutters. Using chips and bark from these local trees keeps them out of the landfill. You also have the added benefit of some of the local microherd living in these chip piles, unlike the sterile stuff you get at the garden center.

    There is also the issue of the cedar mulch industry-- that deliberately cuts down trees to make them into a commercial mulch product. Like many environmentalists, I think that trees have inherent value and should not be "harvested" for use in gardens.
     
  4. K Baron

    K Baron Well-Known Member

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    The cedar mulch works great, however it encourages moss and adds more acidity to the soil. Hydrangeas love the mulch, as do many other acid loving plants and shrubs.... straw is a great mulch, albeit a tad messy in windy areas...
     
  5. janetdoyle

    janetdoyle Active Member 10 Years

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    How do the commercial suppliers of the mulch/compost type stuff called "fish compost" get it so dark, almost black... is this dyed? I use, and want to use a mulch but I have seen warnings that it depletes the soil of nitrogen, etc., so is it okay to add a nitrogenous fertilizer or manure to it? So far I have used a bark mulch of unknown type, I don't remember it saying what type of bark, just bagged and sold at a supermarket or nursery. I have tried to put a layer of rich compost and fertilizer under it, first.
     
  6. growest

    growest Active Member 10 Years

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    janet, I'm pretty sure the black colour is natural and due to the length of time composting. The black is related to the humus produced by the breakdown of organic stuff like bark.

    If you're referring to Seasoil, a wood/bark and fish waste combo, they do compost that stuff for something like a year before selling it, and it's definitely black by the time you get it!

    One nice thing about these well composted materials, they are pretty stable, which means they shouldn't be pulling much nitrogen from the soil even if they do (inevitably) get mixed down into the root zone somewhat rather than staying as a layer on top like we always plan.

    Fresh bark/wood, which is brown anyway, would take the nitrogen as it begins that "composting" process right in the garden, so we prefer the black, pre-composted stuff...that incidentally looks better at least in my flower beds anyway!
     
  7. K Baron

    K Baron Well-Known Member

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    OK you may all think I'm nuts, but composted mushroom manure is by far the best mulch that I have ever used....just slop it on!
    No weeds, sprinkle with water and percolate the nutrients for your garden.... no smell.... no maintenance...did I mention no weeds?... no tilling, no back breaking work all summer long!

    The manure was delivered to my home.... all 4 cubic yards of it!
     
    Last edited: May 17, 2009
  8. janetdoyle

    janetdoyle Active Member 10 Years

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    No, no one's nuts, it is all a matter of what works for whom and where! And fun to try new things. I was referring not to the bagged Sea Soil which is finer but to "fish compost" sold in bulk here, which I liked but it does take a lot of labour to put in a can or cans or bags at the local supplier just down a road or two here in Saanich. I'm not a truck owner so I have to fit whatever into my car -- and make a couple of runs at it, as I can only hold so much and I don't want it all over the inside of the car... I'll try the mushroom manure next, to see how it goes... I've used plain bark mulch but don't totally care for the colour, and also felt I had to add extra nitrogenous fertilizer etc.
     
  9. 1950Greg

    1950Greg Active Member

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    Raw bark mulch can dry out certain soils in the summer much like peatmoss does in flower pots. Other than that it may take more watering I can't see a problem.
     
  10. janetdoyle

    janetdoyle Active Member 10 Years

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    I often wondered about that drying effect -- it is a cosmetic thing, anyway, I think largely, although it does keep small weeds down. I like the compostier mulch better but it is harder to transport around unless one has proper equipment or willing help -- my "help"meet likes to go out on the boat, doesn't enjoy transporting mulch.
     
  11. Barbara Lloyd

    Barbara Lloyd Well-Known Member

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    Put in a whole new large landscaped yard in Watsonville, CA. Mushroom grower in Santa Cruz selling compost so bought a load of that. Worked great!!! The only flaw was that it was not screened so I was pulling squished milk jugs and such out of it as I spread it around. Here in Anacortes on a small lot, I use Cow manure held in a garbage can and use it as manure tea. Works Great! Not to many Mushroom growers around here that I'm aware of.
    barb
     
  12. Laticauda

    Laticauda Active Member

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    Cedar is great for keeping fleas, ticks and I believe mosquitoes as well. However, cedar is dangerous to reptiles (and maybe birds?) due to the oils in the wood.
     
  13. janetdoyle

    janetdoyle Active Member 10 Years

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    You mean the cedar mulch keeps them down, or keeps them active? I assume the former. The mulch you get with a truck [or your own bags/cans on a tarp in the trunk] that is more rotted is great, the person who has to get it in bags at commercial outlets gets a lesser product, ok visually but in my case I am now mixing in a bit of this mushroom manure! ...
     
  14. Marty Lund

    Marty Lund Member

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    It is interesting how varied the responses to my query re cedar bark mulch have been. For the record, I contracted Brian Minter and have received the following reply:

    Nice to hear from you and thank you for the information. However, fresh cedar bark or sawdust has resins which do adversely affect certain plants. We have seen this happen. Once it ages a bit, it's fine. It's just wise to use fir or hemlock to avoid any issues.
    All the best, Brian Minter

    By now, the cedar bark mulch has aged a bit so I guess I'm okay!
     
  15. janetdoyle

    janetdoyle Active Member 10 Years

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    Well, that is interesting. Thank you for sharing this. There's a lot of fresh cedar bark mulch in various outlets around here, I think I'll make more of an effort to get the aged stuff or the other tree bark.
     

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