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Sawdust from Maple trees

Greenville, IN(Zone 6a)

Iím not sure if this should be posted in this forum or not but if itís not in the right place maybe someone can point me to the right place to post it?

My neighbor gave me some sawdust from some maple trees and I had him dump it where I plan on planting some flowers this year should I mix leaves with it or will it be ok to just leave there over the rest of the winter then plant some irises and ligularia.

Ida, MI

This may not be the best place to post this question but there are plenty of folks here who can help you out just the same. The sawdust will make fine mulch, one thing to be aware of though is that sawdust breaks down pretty rapidly and uses nitrogen in the process so it can draw nitrogen out of the soil. A simple addition of whatever form of nitrogen fertilzer you use would be in order. You will notice that the soil under the pile becomes greatly improved as soil organisms enjoy the organic matter and insulation provided by the pile.

Forgot to add that this applies to any wood waste except black walnut which has a natural chemical that can kill other plants so its best to say no to black walnut shavings.

This message was edited Mar 17, 2007 1:15 PM

Greenville, IN(Zone 6a)

So if I put grass clippings on it this summer it should be alright, I will have plenty of those lol I guess I should wait untill I put the clippings on there a few times first before I plant the flowers, or what if I put some leaves with it, I just had him dump the shavings until I heard of what to do on here, should I move this to composting maybe? Wasn't sure where to post it.

Shenandoah Valley, VA

Actually, new research has found that new wood chips and sawdust don't rob the soil of nitrogen unless they're actually dug into the soil. However, sawdust isn't the greatest mulch. Are you using it as a mulch or mainly to improve your soil? It would make a great addition to a compost pile.

On the irises, I'm certainly no iris expert, but I was told you shouldn't mulch irises because the rhizomes will rot. Perhaps someone here knows more about irises and can tell you whether this is so or you could check with the folks in the iris forum.

Greenville, IN(Zone 6a)

Hi Hart :-)
I'm just using them to improve the soil before I plant, I still have a couple of months, was just wondering what to add to them for the soil, it will be tilled in later on in the season, or maybe this isn't a good thing to till them in, I have some in my compost pile, don't need anymore there, just didn't want to pass them up, I can also get some wood ashes from where he burned some of the smaller limbs. I have all this good stuff and don't know what to do with it lol He brought me two wheel barrows (sp) full. It stays kind of damp downthere when we do laundry the drain is just above it from the basement.

Shenandoah Valley, VA

I think if you take Spot's suggestion and add nitrogen, it wouldn't hurt to dig it in. It does break down fairly quickly but not as fast as two months, especially in colder weather.

Be careful with the wood ashes. Use them sparingly. You can burn your plant's roots with too much. Also, if you have alkaline soil, it's going make it even more alkaline. If you have acid soil, the alkalinity can be a plus. The ashes will add some phosphate and potassium, no nitrogen.

We do all our heating with the woodstove and pellet stove and I always have lots of wood ashes. Most of it is dumped where it won't affect the plants or where it can sit for a year. I do use some of it as an ice melt on the driveway - works better than salt. It's pretty messy though. You have to make sure everyone isn't tracking wet ashes into your house.

Greenville, IN(Zone 6a)

I won't use the wood ashes then but I do have some low nitrogen fert. (don't really want to use this if I don't have to) I can add and maybe some grass clippings in the spring along with some leaves that I have stocked piled from the fall before I till it in. I'm just trying to learn about how to use all of these together, I have a feeling he's going to be cutting a couple more trees down this spring. I have some pieces of limbs outlining my shade garden now from his trees.

I wouldn't dare use ashes around here for the snow lol My dad never wipes his feet before he comes in the house, they would be all over lol He goes in and out about 50 times a day, nothing else to do lol He's 83.

Ida, MI

Wood ashes are a very usefull fertilizer,they have phosphorus, potasium, calcium iron and lots of micronutrients. You do though have to carefull how you use them as Hart said, the nutrients are in an immediately available form, too much at one time can burn and you have to be carefull about getting them on green leaves etc. Also the ph is a factor. They raise the alkalinity of soil about 2/3 as much as lime. I have slightly acid soil and I save my wood ashes all winter and apply them in spring before the plants leaf out and let me tell you I see the difference especially in bulbs, they just love the stuff. Don't use them on acid loving plants like blueberries and evergreens. Just like any other fertilizer, a little knowledge goes a long way in using them effectively.

The irises will benefit from mulch but if they are the german rhyzomy type keep the depth at just an inch or so.

Indeed sawdust and wood ashes are good stuff, take them when you can get them. I have heard that there is argument against the need for nitrogen when using sawdust as mulch, but IMHO a little nitrogen can't hurt. The grass clippings etc. you mentioned are good scources of nitrogen and I wouldb't worry about adding a lot, the recomendations are for a small amount of nitrogen supplementation.

One other thing to rember about sawdust it can compact and make it hard for oxygen to reach the soil so when you start putting plants in spread the pile so they are no more than 3" thick, before the plants go in you can leave them as deep as you like. When you spread out the pile and start putting plants in you should notice worms etc. who have migrated to the area to take advantage of the abundant organic material, good stuuf!

Josephine, Arlington, TX(Zone 8a)

LeBug, please don't throw away your wood ashes, keep them in a dry covered container. There are many uses for them, including using them as a water softener for the clothes wash.
Fill a bucket 1/2 full with ashes and add water to the top. Stir well and let it settle, then you can take a cup of that water and add it to your wash, it will do a great job, no need for bleach. Keep the bucket covered and use as needed, more water can be added to the bucket to keep it going.
Here is a link with other uses;

Greenville, IN(Zone 6a)

The water from the ashes don't make your clothes smell like burnt wood? That's a trip lol I'll check that link out, thanks!

West Pottsgrove, PA(Zone 6b)

hart, can you tell us where to find the research that says using wood chips and sawdust as mulch doesn't consume nitrogen? I can't find it.

Shenandoah Valley, VA

I'll have to look for it, Claypa. I've run across it several times.

Shenandoah Valley, VA

Woody material that is incorporated into the soil will temporarily inhibit the soilís ability to supply nitrogen to the plants. However, according to research, mulch only uses nitrogen at the soil surface, and not from the root zone. If you do not turn mulch into thesoil, you'll prevent nitrogen drag.

I know what I originally found was about some of the studies on this. I'll have to look for that later.

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