En EspaŅol

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?

Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
    
 
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions
Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.
Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.
 
rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

Thursday - August 19, 2010

From: Wimberley, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Compost and Mulch, Soils, Trees
Title: Using cedar chips as mulch in Wimberley, TX
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

In TX Hlll Country there is an abundance of wood chips, usually "cedar", which I have used as plant mulch. Since wood chips extract nitrogen to decay, do you consider chips a poor choice as plant mulch?

ANSWER:

This is one of those things that everybody has an opinion and/or theory on. Even the experts change their minds ever so often. If you Google on "wood chips as mulch" you will run across one garden forum after another, chock full of the opinions of each contributor, often conflicting.  A blog from PennLive.com on Fresh wood chips as mulch pretty much summarizes our opinion.

The decomposition of those wood chips is going to introduce some acidic content into the soil. In Central Texas, we have a pretty alkaline soil, and a little acid couldn't hurt. However, we also agree that oveuse of fresh wood chips can have a negative effect on the plants growing there. We are great believers in the compost pile. Composting those wood chips for a year or so, spraying a little water on it when there has been no rain, and throwing grass clippings and other green matter for nitrogen in the pile will make a wonderful mulch/soil enhancer. The blogger we referenced says it's okay to just pile up the chips and let them rot for a while. 

Since, as you say, there is an abundance of these chips, often free, it's hard to turn down that opportunity to recycle the leftovers of clearing and cleaning up woody plants.  If you really want to use the chips right now, no waiting for composting, don't use more than about an inch on the soil, and if you are concerned about the nitrogen, sprinkle some high-nitrogen fertilizer, like for lawns, on the soil before you put down the mulch. Not too much though, if you are growing native plants they don't need fertilizer and high nitrogen fertilizer can promote more leaves and fewer blooms in the plants you are mulching. 

 

More Compost and Mulch Questions

Wilting stems on beautyberry in Georgetown, TX
August 16, 2009 - Last summer I discovered that a 4-year old beautyberry had one (of many) stems that died. Leaves on this single stem wilted and dried up. This year the same happened to two or three stems. The rest of...
view the full question and answer

Compare Natives to Lawn for Carbon Footprint Benefits in Durham, New Hampshire
September 22, 2010 - Are there carbon sequestration rate tables for turf (lawn) and bushes, shrubs, trees? I want to compare the carbon footprint benefit of lawn versus the same area put into native plantings.
view the full question and answer

Seeding wildflowers in Dallas
June 30, 2009 - What is the best way to establish seed for wildflowers in Dallas, TX? The area does get some irrigation from rotors. Would hydromulch be the most effective option?
view the full question and answer

Non-native, invasive creeping fig in Webster TX
May 26, 2013 - We've recently moved into a new home in the southeast Houston area. The back of our property has a long concrete wall (gets quite a bit of sun), which we thought we could cover with a spreading vine....
view the full question and answer

Sheet mulching before planting Habiturf from Grand Prairie, TX
March 03, 2014 - Have you tried sheet mulching as a bed prep and to kill bermuda grass before planting habituff?
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants's Facebook profile Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.

Mr. Smarty Plants wants you to be his Facebook friend. Click the Facebook icon to add yourself to Mr. Smarty Plants list of friends.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | SITEMAP | STAFF
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center