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 Trees Questions

Leaves turning yellow on Banana Shrub in Eutaw. AL
July 28, 2013 - We have a very large (about 12' tall), very old (probably planted in the early 1900s) Banana Shrub in our front yard. It was very healthy until last year when its leaves began turning yellow and fal...
view the full question and answer

Fast-growing shade tree for Corona CA
September 17, 2014 - Hi, I'm looking for a fast growing shade tree. I live in Corona CA so it will need to do well in a lot of sun, moderate winds and clay soil. Thanks so much for your suggestions.
view the full question and answer

Problem with magnolias and yaupon in Prosper TX
May 13, 2012 - Problem with Little Gem magnolia - 3 little gems planted next to a fence, in Prosper, TX. Planted 3 years ago, 2009, one of the trees is now withering. The other 2 are doing fine, the one has leaves...
view the full question and answer

Is it wise to cut suckers from live oak branches in April in Austin
April 07, 2010 - My live oak branches are filling with suckers and I would like to cut them now, April. Is that wise?
view the full question and answer

Larvae infesting Mexican white oak
December 16, 2010 - What larvae/worm would dwell and eat the inside of a Mexican White Oak? I planted one last November and it was doing great. The bark started cracking towards the bottom but the top was very full & gre...
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
© 2014 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center