Are you ready? It's time for our 14th annual photo contest! Enter your best pictures of the year, for a chance to win a calendar and annual subscription here. Hurry! Deadline for entries is October 21.
My uncle seems to think that sawdust is good for a garden. He knows someone who can bring loads and drop them off for a price. If there are benefits to having it tilled into your garden, what are they? Also, when would be the best time to till the sawdust in the garden if there are benefits? I know that this year is out of the question for both him and me. I plan on planting today. Thanks for any comments.
One time I used sawdust as a mulch. Disaster! Nothing grew! Thankfully, I had not tilled it in, so was able to remove it. The area I had it on still took a couple years to come back to normal. Sawdust will use every bit of fertility to decompose. It is slow to decompose, also.
Sawdust poses some problems because wood is slow to decompose, and the bacteria that decompose it will use pretty much every bit of nitrogen they can in the process. Some wood is no good for a garden, like walnut which is naturally toxic to some plants. If you do use it you'll need to compensate for all the nitrogen it will use in the decomposing process so your plants don't suffer nitrogen deficiency. (They'll basically turn yellow and die)
That's what happened to mine.
If you are paying for the stuff, no way.
If you want to keep weeds from growing, use plastic film, either black of green. Landscape fabric will do the same thing. Just cut a small hole for the plant. It will keep the soil warmer also, so things will grow better.
Sawdust, in moderation, is good in composting. It is a "brown", adding structure, but not being particularly high in nitrogen. Most deciduous trees (oak, beech etc.) break down quite quickly, but conifers (pine, fir etc.) break down more slowly. Avoid wood chips (bigger chunks) since they break down very slowly indeed. Avoid chemically treated wood of all kinds (old way and new way). Avoid plywood (chemical glues) and painted or varnished wood. Avoid wood that contains natural toxins (black walnut). I personally also avoid using cedar sawdust, since I use cedar for its weather resistance so it seems that it would break down slowly.
Based on the above list of don'ts, I would be very wary of sawdust from an unknown source. I only use sawdust I generate myself, and I carefully empty my collector bags before and after using "banned" woods.
I would not recommend sawdust as a direct additive to soil. Since it is low in nitrogen, it is not going to help much as a fertilizer. In fact, there is much speculation that it adsorbs nitrogen as it decomposes, taking it away from growing plants. It does tend to raise the moisture level of soil. It also tends to encourage fungi in the soil, which may not always be beneficial.
I only use sawdust in small amounts from projects hubby does in his shop so I know exactly what type of wood I'm dealing with. I only add small amounts at a time to my compost bin so it will be mixed with lots of other compost items and well composted before being used. I agree with the others that, if added directly to your garden, it will burn up too much nitrogen while it's breaking down.
I agree with Wulfsden and NatureLover1950 ... small quantities can be used to rebalance your compost pile. I've used some in my compost when I had a large quantity of fruit that needed more carbon to balance the mix.
Well here we go. I can get all the saw dust I want for free as my husband works in a lumber mill. They saw, oak, beech, different maples, ash and cherry. In other words, hard woods.
I have been searching the web for info on saw dust gardening and there is not much. I keep hearing it will rob your garden of nitrogen and the hard woods are better then the soft, pine etc.
My husband has delt with shavings and sawdust and wood all his life. He said he has seen people use it and have no problems. This is what he told me.
1. Dont pack it around the stalk of your plants. Leave 6-8 inches.
2. Put it on 3-4 inches high.
3. Never use green/raw saw dust. Let it set for at least a year.
4. In the fall put more cow manure in and have it rototilled. Cover it for the winter.
So now that I have put it all on I am going to keep my eye on my veggie garden. Maybe I should start another thread else where as I am not a beginner.
Does rain manage to penetrate through a 3-4 inch depth of sawdust?
I was glad to see you let the sawdust sit for a year and then mix it with manure. I had a tree trimming company offer me free sawdust but I have nowhere to store it, and I wasn't about to put fresh sawdust around my vegetables.
I'm not a beginner either - been gardening for 59 years come this July! :)
Thanks, there is more then tomato's. As I stated I have been searching for information on the Web and there really is not a lot and then when I do find things a lot of it contradicts itself. I found this post that was started: April 30, 2009 and the Thread had a short life.
As of tomorrow Wed, June 14th we have had rain every day. With very little sun. I just went out and scraped it with my hand its about 1/4" wet. So with that fact comes the next question. Will the sprinkler system work or will I have to hand water?
The sawdust is not mixed with manure. The garden is loaded. In the fall manure will be spreaded around and rototilled in and covered. In the springtime, the sawdust should be totally composted. (I hope). That is a long time away! :-)
I highly doubt termites would take the plunge up here in sawdust. If they did or anywhere, sawmills would be infested. This is dead decaying stuff.
Since it sat a year is not sellable to farmers for their animals for bedding, it will not take up the animal waste like it should.
I guess I am a guinea pig here and taking it one step at a time. If I loose this garden I will not be a happy gardener and my husband will have a tomato stalk wrapped around his neck. :-) Just kidding.
I have been putting the sawdust on one pail at a time for 3 weeks. Finally finished yesterday. Pests are down, it feels like your walking on a cloud and it dont take long to weed. Oh and it feels really neat barefooted.
Bad part - I am very leary and watching it very close.
schickenlady - yes one great thing about sawdust is that it feels great under-foot.
If the actual soil under the saw dust is damp, then your veggies are probably okay, otherwise, I would either remove the top layer of saw dust, or wet the entire depth of saw dust.
Personally, I use shredded leaves. I put on a one to two inch layer and let the rain saturate them before adding more shredded leaves - so all the layers are damp. Otherwise, I find the rain does not penetrate to the soil layer.
I have been using "chinchilla chips" in my flower beds for the past 10 years and my vegetable beds for the past 2 years as mulch. Chinchilla chips are simply used kiln dried pine shavings that are used for a week as bedding for my chinchillas. The water penetrates easily and the ground stays damp long after the non-mulched areas are dried out. Last year was the first year that my garden wasn't lawn, it was a dry hard clay where I didn't see any worms. After one year with a 3-4 inch chinchilla chip base the soil is damp and soft and fully loaded with worms. I have seen this my flower beds as well over the past decade. The used pine shavings compost quickly when used as mulch while enriching the soil. There has been a complete transformation of the soil over the past 10 years and you can easily see the difference in soil in the vegetable beds in just the 2 seasons.
I put a whole bunch of sawdust in my garden a couple of years ago and had good results from it.
A pallet mill in our town went out of business. They'd made pallets out of green oak trunks for many years and left big piles of sawdust. The thing is, this sawdust was aged and BLACK down in the piles - I found an RC Cola bottle from the 1950's or 60's in it!
In the fall I loaded a bunch with my tractor and hauled it with a trailer until I had my 35' x 50' garden covered about 6" deep. Then I plowed and tilled it in before winter and had no soil problems the next growing season.
I doubt there were any nutrients in the sawdust, but it lightened the texture and helped with my clay soil. Aged, black sawdust was great - but I think new sawdust might cause problems.
Here we go again. It will be year #2 with a sawdust garden. I can only tell you what I did.
Last year it was ash sawdust and this year it is cherry. I have done the same thing as I stated above (last year) I had no problems and basically no weeds. I had a sea of red and was only seeing red. I was loaded with tomato's.
The sawdust for the most part started to decay by late August. Come the end of the season, the garden was rototilled in October & again in early November. Then again in May. The dirt is very rich & black.
If the sawdust depleted the soil of Nitrogen, I surely would not do it again. 2 different angle shots. Sherrie
We compost our sawdust, we need it since we have so much green in the compost. But I don't see why it wouldn't work as a mulch, on top of the soil. I'd fertilize before putting it down, so the nitrogen gets to the plants.
I have used sawdust in several ways but never into the growing beds of regular vegetables, unless very aged and very rotted. I use it between rows or beds, I use it around berries to keep moisture in and weeds at bay. (raspberries, blackberries, a little around strawberries, and blueberries.)
It can rob the beds of nitrogen while breaking down, and it can shift the soil's ph too much. Once the sawdust has rotted well between the beds, I have worked it in with compost for the next years growing.. Good compost tends to help the beds stay in a good zone ph-wise.
You might also check in with your local farm bureau, or extension service about soil testing. Anyway that has been my experience
[quote="HoneybeeNC"]schickenlady - yes one great thing about sawdust is that it feels great under-foot.
If the actual soil under the saw dust is damp, then your veggies are probably okay, otherwise, I would either remove the top layer of saw dust, or wet the entire depth of saw dust.
Personally, I use shredded leaves. I put on a one to two inch layer and let the rain saturate them before adding more shredded leaves - so all the layers are damp. Otherwise, I find the rain does not penetrate to the soil layer.[/quote]
^ What she said. This is wonderful stuff... and if you have a tree that sheds in the winter, its perfect timing to collect and reuse in the spring.
I have been using the chips from tree companies for years.
The first year they were placed in the walkways to sheet compost. When the chips had decomposed I put the material in the beds and added more tree chips to the walkways.
Then I did not garden for a while, then re-landscaped. The soil from the old vegetable beds was very rich in organic matter, so I spread it all around. Grew a great lawn until there was water rationing.
Now I am getting started with raised beds again, and have filled them with chips. Too coarse to plant in directly, so I will pull the chips aside for each plant. I know that in just a few months the soil under the chips will start showing the benefit of the microorganisms working on the chips, and in less than a year my beds will be fully productive.
Our electric companies here hire tree-service people to keep tree limbs trimmed away from power lines. This being forested country, they work at it all the time - year-round when the weather allows. The crews cut branches and feed them into a big chipper on a trailer. The chipper blows chips into the dump truck that pulls the chipper trailer.
Often, when they're working nearby, I ask a crew to dump the chips on our property. They're happy to do that as it saves them a trip to wherever they usually dump when the truck is full, so I have several piles of wood chips of various ages to work from. These rot down to a nice black sawdust in 3 or 4 years, at least the middle of the pile does. Using my tractor bucket, I've carried and worked this compost into my garden soil for years with good results.
We have a lot of black walnut trees in this area, and at first I was afraid to use this compost in the garden because of the toxin walnuts carry. Apparently that toxin breaks down with time and composting, because I've had no problem with it.
Uncomposted, the wood chips are great for pathways and mulching around trees, though I don't put uncomposted chips in my garden soil. As you say, they work real well underfoot.
Wood plus patience equals great compost! And I really like the assembly line approach: this year, walkway, next year bed. Or first a pile, then walkways, then mulch, then turned under.
If you want to experiment with speeding it up, you might try top-dressing one of those piles with a little cheap nitrogen . Like a few cups of urea (46-0-0). It might cook down much faster than the other piles.
Mostly unidentified stuff from whatever jobs the tree company had.
Some parts were identifiable, when they work in the summer and some leaves or fruit make it through the chipper.
I have found:
Palm (Leaf ID)
Alder (ID by seed bearing cones)
Pine (Leaf ID)
Eucalyptus (not much, it can be toxic to other plants) (ID by the fragrance)
Fruitless Mulberry (Leaf ID)
And I know there were chips of Black Locust (Robinia) and Camphor (Cinnamomum) because they pruned those trees for me.
I suspect, but could not ID:
Black Walnut, or other deep brown wood that chipped into really nice, uniform, small chips.
Yes, adding N in almost any form will break it down faster. When I had the other vegetable beds I would add N, then cover with clear plastic in the winter for the warmth. (I should go do that now... we have had enough rain to thoroughly soak the new stuff)
Okay, so we've contracted with a tree service to take down an ash tree that is shading our
entire yard and is a candidate for the ash borer that is in our area now. The tree guy asked if I wanted some chips and I said yes. I was thinking of putting them in the compost pile, but from this discussion it looks like it might be a better idea to just use them for mulch. Right? I LOVE DAVE'S GARDEN!!! I learn so much from this website!!!
>> I was thinking of putting them in the compost pile, but from this discussion it looks like it might be a better idea to just use them for mulch. Right?
I agree with you. Wood CHIPS will take a long time to break down in a compost heap. You're better off run ni8ng the com post as fast as possible with other "brown" sources, and let the chips break down over several years on the surface of your garden where they will make great mulch.
Or if you like to fiddle, screen out the chips from the sawdust and fin e fibers. You could compost the fines and sawdust fairly quickly if you have lots of greens and want to bulk up your pile and get more volume of compst. But I mainly suggest screening because coarse wood chip mulch is a better than fine, dense mulch with a lot of sawdust.
Fine mulch (like with lots of sawdust and fibers or very fine chips) may:
1. hold water in the mulch layer instead of letting it pass through to the soil.
2. wick water up out of the soil and let it evaporate
3. Allow weeds to take root in the moist mulch and give slugs a wonderful place to hide and multiply
4. maybe grow ugly fungus or lichens on the damp woody surface
5. maybe even be so dense and suggy that it interferes with air getting into the soil (a little).
Coarse mulch is better because:
1. water drains right through it, into the soil
2. it reduces evaporation from the soil, and prevents raqin from spashing the soil surface and making it muddy
3. it prevents weeds from sprouting and discourages slugs somewhat
4. by staying dry, it discourages fungus, lichens an d mold, and "looks better"
5. it lets soil breath unobstructedly and moderates soil temp swings from noon to nighttime
RickCorey is right about the problems and benefits with separating the finest material, the sawdust from the coarser, the real chips.
It is a lot of work, though.
If there is not much fines, just go ahead and use them as mulch with the chips. When it rains, the fines will wash down to the top of the soil/bottom of the mulch. Make sure there is a nitrogen source, that fine material will need it to compost.
If the material the tree company gives you has a lot of fine material it would probably be worth separating for all the reasons Rick states. The only reason I would leave coarse material in a compost pile is to (hopefully) keep the pile a little more open, better air flow. Sure takes a while to compost, though. Slow (cold) method: 2 years. But the end result was fantastic! I used it to start seeds.
If you do not have very much you could start simply by raking it out and removing the coarsest material for mulch.
If the pile is really big, that will take a lot of patience!
>> If there is not much fines, just go ahead and use them as mulch with the chips.
I agree completly!
>> raking it out and removing the coarsest material for mulch.
Another good idea. I would try to do the raking on a flat, hard surface like a driveway. Easier.
If you have a big wheelbarrow and strong shoulders, you could also spread the pile over some clayey surface where you want to smother leaves and loosen the clay. Spread it 3-4 inches deep. Let it be rained on for a while so some of the fines wash out. NOW rake of the top one inch, and you'll have mostly big chips for mulching your flowerbeds..
The remaining layer of small stuff will still kill the weeds under it, with darkeness and nitrogen competition. But new weed seeds will blow in and sprout on wooden fines. So after a few months, turn the sawdust and small stuff under. Now the clay will drain well, but the nitrogen competion will be severe. Plant a cover crop that makes its own nitrogen, and the weeds will be suppressed further as the clay is improved further. A year or two or three later, what was weedy clay will be good soil.
Great comments! My only experience has been with wood shavings used for horse stall bedding. When mucked out with the horse manure I piled it to one side of the garden and let it sit for a year. That was the softest, moistest part of the garden, loaded with earthworms and easy to work.
Then came persistent herbicides that come through the animal in it's waste - not wanting to take a chance on killing my garden I gave up the practice and finally the horse once the granddaughter outgrew the "horsey phase".
A local gardener has an arrangement with a tree service; they dump wood chips on his field rather than taking it to the landfill. He lets it set in big piles for a year or more then digs broken down wood chips from the bottom, screens it and uses it in his garden for mulch then next season tills it in. He's managed to improve his heavy, black gumbo clay into a productive CSA farm.
Hi everyone. I retired last year and began my first vegetable garden right here in Miami (Zone 10B)
Tomatoes were not that bad, lettuce so-so, eggplant white better than the purple, garlic bad, onions bad, herbs great.
Had a patch of sweet potatoes and it was a bust. Just saw a video about growing sweet potatoes in soil mixed with sand and sawdust. Is it a good idea?
I am learning and writing everything down . Happy to be here, proud owner of a lot of chickens, geese, guinea hens, etc
It's bound to hold some water for you (I assume you have very sandy soil).
Sawdust mixed into the soil will encourage the growth of beneficial soil microbes SO much that they will suck all the available Nitrogen out of the soil even before roots can get any to your plants.
So it would be ideal if you could compost that sawdust first, for some months, with plenty of "greens" or a nitrogen source.
On balance, though, sand won't supply your plants with nitrogen OR water, so for the first year you may be better off adding the sawdust anyway, but very frequently watering with some soluble fertilizer that has plenty of N. And/or mixing lots of manure or other high-N compost with the soil along with the sawdust. And/or mixing in some pelleted or slow-release fertilizer with lots of n (like lawn fertilizer) at the smae time as you add sawdust.
Meanwhile, also make as big a pile as you can of sawdust and keep mixing in kitchen scraps, coffee grounds, manure and lawn clippings or anything else green. Six months later, that compost will be GREAT to mix with sandy soil, or layer on top of sandy soil.