What to Do with Fresh Wood Chips?
If you have a recently felled tree due to a storm or you had to remove a tree due to a construction in your backyard then you might be asking what you can do with it. A perfectly good tree can be used as firewood or as a building material. You can season wood and after a season has good building material or good wood as firewood.
But what to do with fresh wood chips from cutting and felling a tree?
Should these be thrown away?
Can you use fresh wood chips?
Remember, these are FRESH wood chips. Many homeowners doubt that they can use fresh chips because these might transmit diseases or molds. There are also concerns that fresh wood chips may rob the nitrogen from the soil and cause plant and tree leaves to turn yellow.
There is very little chance that fresh wood chips can transmit diseases or molds to trees and plants where it is placed. Most organisms that cause diseases do not survive for a long time in mulch.
According to experts, a possible concern is the transmission of pine wilt. This could happen if fresh pine chips contain the nematodes are placed around another pine with wounds along the base of the trunk. Otherwise, this is a perfectly safe mulching material.
When it comes to concerns if wood chips can reduce nitrogen content in soil, this is very unlikely. Yes, nitrogen is most lacking in urban soils and is usually the only one that needs to be added periodically in the form of nutrients or fertilizers.
There is some grain of truth that incorporating fresh wood chips into the soil can reduce available nitrogen as microbes that break down wood utilize soil nitrogen but this is when you mix the wood chips in the soil. But if the fresh wood chips are placed on top of soil then there is no worry to that.
The only layer of soil that may show reduced nitrogen is the upper couple of inches and this not enough to cause nitrogen reduction that will affect woody trees and shrubs.
Use only a small quantity of fresh wood chips
Wood chips are actively decomposing and therefore this is generating heat. Using large amounts of fresh chips can burn plant foliage. Using too much can also cause soil pH change. Fresh wood leaches a pH as low as 4 and this is too acidic to your plants resulting in unwanted soil and plant conditions.
This pH change usually affects the soil down to a few inches, therefore, it will affect shallow-rooted plants like vegetables, herbaceous perennials and annuals and not a worry at all for trees and deeply rooted plants.
Fresh wood chips are very high in carbon, therefore, the only way for these to fully decompose, nitrogen will be used up. Nitrogen will be removed from the soil and will only be returned when the wood chips are completely broken down.
How to use fresh wood chips?
Place the fresh wood chips around trees and shrubs to a depth of up to 4 inches. You must leave around 6 to 12 inches space around the base of the plant or tree mulch-free. There are also a few places where it is safe to use fresh wood chips.
Use fresh wood chips in the compost pile. These are so high in carbon; you will have to mix these with half as much grass clippings and/or manure. Mix in a cup of lime for every four wheelbarrows of wood chips to neutralize the pH.
Give your compost pile a long time to decompose (for at least a year) and do turn the pile whenever you can once or twice a month. When this compost is done, you can use this anywhere in your garden. You can place fresh wood chips around evergreen trees and other acid-loving plants.
Place this a few inches around plants like rhododendrons, azaleas, and boxwoods. You must keep the chips a good three or four inches from the trunk of the plants to protect the bark from the heat of decomposition.
Yes, you can use fresh wood chips in your garden as a mulch but make sure to add only a thin layer around plants and trees. Fresh wood chips can affect temperature, soil pH and soil nitrogen levels.