Question of the Week
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Thanks to JoLea Arcidiacono for this great question! Winter is the best time to prune trees. Recently, she's had several pruned, and wants to know how soon she can use the chipped wood as mulch.
Fresh mulch can be hot, due to the decomposition of plant material in branches—which are mainly carbon—so that is one issue.
As it decomposes, you have to be careful about the carbon-to-nitrogen ratio. There are microbes in your soil that decompose plant material. As they digest it, they need both carbon and nitrogen. In the process, they can deplete soil nitrogen, which takes that essential element away from your plants.
So, put that fresh mulch out into a pile to age for a couple of weeks to a month before adding it to your flowerbeds. It can be used in walkways anytime.
You can also add nitrogen to your soil to assist in this process. Scratch in cottonseed meal, alfalfa, blood meal, or an organic multi-fertilizer than contains nitrogen. A tip from a CTG guest: scratch in alfalfa pellets sold at feed supply stores! This will be slower since the pellets need to break down, but they're fairly inexpensive.