Cedar Mulch Question.

Discussion in 'Outdoor Gardening in the Pacific Northwest' started by Keith Elliott, May 5, 2021.

  1. Keith Elliott

    Keith Elliott Contributor

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    I have read through a number of posts regarding mulching, and I see that we have some real experts here.

    We have a pile of cedar mulch, which came directly from a sawmill down at Enderby, delivered here last fall. It is pretty rough stuff, and there's lots of long strands of bark, often a couple of feet long. So those parts might not be much good for anything.

    We have just started to plant some veggies in a long raised bed and are interested to know if we can carefully add some of this mulch. The main purpose, as far as I know, would be to try and keep the extreme summer heat (50ºC+) from cooking the soil surface as well as helping with moisture retention.

    We just put in runner beans, corn and peas with a few nasturtiums as companion plants to keep the veggies happy! Thanks for any help or advice.
     
  2. Margot

    Margot Renowned Contributor 10 Years

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    Is that a typo Keith? 50ºC in Anglemont, BC!? I notice that the highest temperature recorded there in August, 2020 was a 'mere' 32ºC. That's high enough to melt me but not what I would describe as extreme summer heat.
     
  3. Ron B

    Ron B Paragon of Plants 10 Years

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    Use it where you walk on the ground around the bed instead.
     
  4. Keith Elliott

    Keith Elliott Contributor

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    No, not a typo. A couple of weeks ago when we had a warm spell, it was 30ºC here, and that was only in April. You have to remember that we are on a steep slope and the ground is such that the sun is effectively at right angles to the ground. I remember a couple of years back when we had one of those above ground swimming pools set up here that I had a thermometer set up outside and it hit 59º. Mind you, that was in the sun, but nevertheless it gets really hot here.

    Doubtless if you measured it over on the neighbours' lot, it would likely be barely 30º. His lot is still tree covered. We do have one of those electronic thermometers set up outside (in the shade) which reports the temperature inside. For example right now it's 13.2º at 10:36 p.m. By the morning around 6 a.m. it will likely be down to 6 or 7. We have cloud cover tonight, so it won't get that cold. And typical wintertime cold lows usually don't get much below -17ºC.
     
  5. Keith Elliott

    Keith Elliott Contributor

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    Hello Ron. Actually we have already put a layer of drain rock between the raised bed and the low deck. I think it's 3/4 minus, so it packs reasonably well but it's still comfortable to walk on. What might you suggest as a mulch on the veggie bed?
     
  6. Margot

    Margot Renowned Contributor 10 Years

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    I don't doubt that it gets really hot in Anglemont and other areas in BC but I don't think your recording of 50ºC+ can be accurate. It gets pretty hot anywhere the thermometer is in the sun.

    List of extreme temperatures in Canada - Wikipedia

    The highest (official) recorded temperature in BC was 44.4ºC (112ºF) in mid-July, 1941 in Lytton/Lillooett. You'd have to bring in a meteorologist to swear on a stack of thermometers for me to believe it ever got as high as 50ºC+ (122ºF+) in Anglemont or anywhere else in BC since then.

    Having said that, fresh, coarse, cedar mulch would not be my first choice to use around the plants themselves. As @Ron B suggests, it would be great on pathways. I notice people often use straw (not hay) around plants in a vegetable garden . . . perhaps that would be a good mulch to help moderate temperatures and conserve moisture.
     
  7. Keith Elliott

    Keith Elliott Contributor

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    OK, I hear you about the temperature. But those are always recorded in the shade. If you ever check the real temperature on the ground in the sun, it's way higher than the official temperature. The veggie garden doesn't have the luxury of being nicely shaded, although we are very likely going to add shade cloth in the future.

    As for the cedar mulch, we do have plans to use it on a short section of pathway up by the lower lawn. I did check into other mulches and you are quite right that straw should be good. I know that we have seen hay for sale in the area, but haven't noticed any straw. I'm sure someone has straw available locally.
     
  8. Georgia Strait

    Georgia Strait Generous Contributor

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    Straw: be careful to buy the cleanest expensive straw - yes you pay a fortune but thank yourself with a big pat on back later

    And no sore back either from bending to remove seedlings

    Our garden supply has special bags of straw for 17$ (pricey) but apparently it won’t seed so freely

    Call around and tell thé garden store what your use is

    Regarding tree mulch - careful what you buy - I had a head gasket in one truckload - y’all never know what pressure treated or creosote you’re getting .... and aren’t some trees naturally toxic around plants ?

    If I saw a tree service chipper working nearby - and they were cutting maple or alder - I would asking the crew about it

    Remember Firesmart is not a fan of wood chips near your valuable structures.

    PS I looked at Google st view of H Depot in Kamloops - up on the hill near TRUniv and I can’t see a smoke tree but maybe you’re going there soon and can photo the parent of your adopted twig cutting
     
  9. Georgia Strait

    Georgia Strait Generous Contributor

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  10. Georgia Strait

    Georgia Strait Generous Contributor

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  11. Keith Elliott

    Keith Elliott Contributor

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    One at a time I will try to answer your questions:

    I remember buying a bale of either straw or hay years ago when I lived at the coast. Used the stuff all over the place and next year had a fabulous crop of hay everywhere! So, from personal experience I know exactly what you're referring to. Val is looking for some straw now.

    As for the mulch, this came right from the cedar sawmill at Enderby. We've driven past there a number of times and didn't spot any head gaskets coming out of the mill. But you never know...

    We do usually see a chipper operating here at least once a year out on the highway somewhere, many times in conjunction with BC Hydro getting rid of branches that are too close to the power lines. There's little maple or alder up this way, the usual hardwood is birch. What happens with the birch trees here, is that the tops will break off - happens very frequently - and then rain gets right into the tree and the inevitable rot sets in. The locals refer to it as "self pruning". The only trouble with that is that you don't get any warning when the tree is likely to go over. We have a few such birches here as we speak, with the tops broken. It's usually the evergreens that Hydro is trimming back, spruce, fir and some pine. Believe it or else, we actually have a chipper here which we got from a chap in Kamloops about five years ago. He was telling us that he wouldn't ever try to run any branches over 2" through it, as he didn't think it had enough power (8 h.p.). I couldn't get it started when we were buying it, but we took it home anyway. Well, it turns out that this thing had never even had any gas in the tank, it was brand new. To make matters worse, we still haven't used it! Maybe if I can pirate a load or two of branches from some of the lots that are being cleared here for building, we can finally make some use out of it.

    As for the HD smoke trees, all that was there last year was some very straggly looking plants, about the height of the fence - which I think is about 4 feet - with a very open habit. We'll be going in to HD when the scarifier/dethatcher arrives. They don't have any in stock, it needs to be shipped in. So I will make sure to have a good look at everything they have growing around the perimeter, just in case there's something else that needs pruning!
     
  12. Keith Elliott

    Keith Elliott Contributor

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    Thanks again...just now spotted your other posts. We will call HH in Scotch Creek to see if they get this straw in. If not, someone has already told us about an outfit called "Balebox". Checking that out as well. This local North Shuswap group has all kinds of interesting stuff available. It's a resource that we only discovered a couple of months ago.
     
  13. Keith Elliott

    Keith Elliott Contributor

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    Wow! Well, I must say that lady is a downright genius! Incredible amount of information available there. Regarding the second link you put up, Wood Chips as Mulch, that's really just a copy of what Dr.Linda Chalker-Scott has on her website.

    Now, after having read about wood chips, any concern I may have had regarding the cedar mulch has pretty much vanished. It turns out that all the talk about the alleged troubles that cedar mulch causes appears to have no valid scientific backing. I must admit that was a bit of a surprise to me, as I expected to see all kinds of negative things, but it just isn't there.

    I had better direct a vote of thanks to Margot as well, as she seems to be a veritable source of all manner of great information.
     
  14. Georgia Strait

    Georgia Strait Generous Contributor

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    Regarding that clean straw - i read their website - seems the ph number office is in Manitoba (a good thing!) and have various grades of clean straw for barns and gardens ... and a limited inventory of organic too

    GardenStraw — HealthiStraw
     
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  15. Keith Elliott

    Keith Elliott Contributor

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    Isn't it sometimes funny how things jog ones memory. We have a close relative who is a retired prairie farmer. I think I would bet that he knows a thing or two that might be of assistance. He's retired now so we can chat anytime. Who knows what might come out of a brief chat?
     
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  16. Keith Elliott

    Keith Elliott Contributor

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    I called the local HH store over at Scotch Creek, and apparently they do not bring in any straw. They referred me to Purity Feeds in Kamloops, so perhaps next time we are there...
    Alternately, Balebox is over at Grindrod, and I can't remember exactly how far that is, but I think it's a little further than Kamloops. Doesn't matter what you need here, one of the biggest disadvantages of living 40 kms past nowhere is always the driving distance. Maybe Buckerfield's in Salmon Arm, I'll give them a call.
     
  17. Keith Elliott

    Keith Elliott Contributor

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    Turns out that Grindrod is about 6 kms closer than Kamloops. Before Covid ruined everyone's fun, there used to be a hot rod run over there every year.
     
  18. Georgia Strait

    Georgia Strait Generous Contributor

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    Maybe give the supplier source a call in Manitoba, and they can name a local retail source for you

    I am getting mine off the Home Hardware truck weekly Delivery on Tue Wed so we shall see what it’s like
     
  19. Keith Elliott

    Keith Elliott Contributor

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    Grindrod isn't that far past Salmon Arm and it is very much a farming area. Next time we are over that way we'll take the extra 20kms or so drive down to Grindrod and get some straw. There's not that much rush anyway.
     
  20. Keith Elliott

    Keith Elliott Contributor

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    A bit more about a potential source of mulch. Tomorrow afternoon, we are going down to the neighbours' place to pick up some lumber that he has cut for us. He has a circular saw mill, as opposed to a band mill, and the circular mills with the thick blades make much bigger chunks of sawdust. So I'm going to see if I can abscond with some of that. I have yet to see the mill itself, but when we were there for a pizza dinner (cooked in their amazing outdoor pizza oven!) I was chatting to their friend who knows how to build these things. He did confirm that the mill makes copious amounts of sawdust, so I'm pretty sure that will be a good source of mulch.

    I used to use the sawdust from my band mill when I was on Ruxton Island on all the pathways. We had the softest pathways anywhere on the. island, and almost no weeds at all. Just keep adding more sawdust as the underside decomposes and it does a great job. And if you are cutting wood on a regular basis, believe me, you are not likely to run out of sawdust anytime soon!
     
  21. Georgia Strait

    Georgia Strait Generous Contributor

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    Without invading your privacy - I am very impressed by what you haul in your car —- we all need the same !

    I must say I’d be stuck withOUT a trusty older suv or minivan

    Our neighbor swears by his Subaru wagon (used one up, got another) for all his garden supplies from plants to pots to peat moss !
     
  22. Keith Elliott

    Keith Elliott Contributor

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    Maybe we are cheating a little but, we have a small trailer for such things.
     
    Last edited: May 25, 2021
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  23. Margot

    Margot Renowned Contributor 10 Years

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    I wouldn't be without my small, old half-ton pick-up truck. I'd rather be seen tooling around in a Jag but we gardeners sacrifice for our gardens. My ideal situation would be to have two trucks because I'm slow loading and unloading . . . one truck would be full of soil or mulch that I'd remove at my leisure and the other would be for compost waste that I'd also add to over time. It's not so far-fetched really - I know some people have 2 dishwashers for similar reasons.
     
  24. Keith Elliott

    Keith Elliott Contributor

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    The trucks I can absolutely understand, but the dishwashers...? That's just plain lazy.
     
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  25. Keith Elliott

    Keith Elliott Contributor

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    Our friend was most generous with his donation to the cause of some lumber. In a partial exchange, I'm going to make some planter boxes for his grandson, the young lad who showed such an interest when he visited us a short while ago.

    He has a scrap pile which I'm certain would easily fill two logging trucks. Some of his "scraps" look perfectly usable to me, so I have his kind permission to cut some of them up as usable wood.

    His mill has an 1,100 mm blade on it, but it is very thin. So the sawdust - and it's a big pile! - is reasonably fine. Not fine like a band mill, but much finer than the typical circular mill which usually has teeth about 3/8" wide. All in all a very impressive setup.
     

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