En Español

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

Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

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

Philadelphus ernestii under live oak in Pflugerville TX
April 05, 2010 - Will Philadelphus ernestii thrive in the root zone of live oak, or would the oak inhibit its growth? I'd like to plant it just at the edge of the canopy.
view the full question and answer

Want a source for Mexican redbud in Houston, TX
October 04, 2010 - I live in west Houston and would like to purchase and plant a Mexican redbud in my yard. I have Googled to find one and also searched the Growit site without success. Where can I find one in Texas? I ...
view the full question and answer

Pruning of Bauhinia lunarioides
May 29, 2008 - I have a Bauhinia variegata..when is the best time to prune it? it tends to grow horizontally..where do you clip off the limbs?
view the full question and answer

Magnolia Not Doing Well in Round Rock, Texas
June 25, 2011 - I have a Magnolia grandiflora in my back yard, planted on May 20th of this year. Located on a western exposure with no shade and about 18' tall x 10' wide. I've been watering it every 3-4 days or ...
view the full question and answer

Unusual green fruit
August 17, 2009 - Unknown "fruit" in my backyard I have large (softball size) nobbly green orbs finding their way into my backyard. They sort of look like a tennis ball left out in the rain to rot, but they are o...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | JOBS | SITEMAP | STAFF INTRANET
© 2016 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center