Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Will grass clippings and dead cedar needles work ok as a mulch in my flower beds and garden?

will i have to till them in in the spring, or will perenials grow thru them? will they work ok in the garden also? i have mostly cedar droppings, as my trees are shedding a bunch. also, are there 2 different types of cedar trees? i ve never had a cedar tree that lost this many needles..........

Will grass clippings and dead cedar needles work ok as a mulch in my flower beds and garden?
Okay, this is a year for cedar "needles" which are scales, but are the tree's leaves. The taxonomy or classification of cedars and relatives is complex, in that local names persist over generic ones. True cedars are the longer-needled type of tree that are generally known as a type of spruce, and the tree generally known as cedar is in the Arborvitae genus. And genera are further divided into Thuja and so on. So this is why the multiple genera are simply known as cedar when talking landscaping. Conifers are cone-bearing, and as such produce cones which can be produced in one or more seasons depending on species; this could be in lieu of vegetative growth as a tree cannot bear a large crop and grow much at the same time. So in alternating years, we see larger crops of cones over growth, and vice versa. This has been the year of needle/scale drop for my cedars. So this is natural. This is known as being biennial/perennial in the growth and reproductive cycles. Fresh conifer needles need to be weathered prior to spreading on the garden, so as to cause a natural needle coating to be removed by exposure to the elements. This coating is originally needed by the tree as a natural anti-dessicant to prevent too much transpiration (loss of moisture), which would result in drying and stress to the tree. Some of this chemical remains after needle drop, and acts as a deterrent to decomposition, and can be allelopathic (causing retardation of growth of surrounding plants, a natural survival mechanism of conifers to cut down on other trees' competition for growing space). So if you are growing plants that are to be mulched with this material, I would spread it in an open spot to weather over the season, or use it, but don't spread it to deeply. The worst thing that could happen is that it would slightly set back existing plants; it won't kill them. Needles are acidic, and are an excellent soil amendment for acid-loving plants which include oak, blueberry, azalea/rhododendron, holly, other conifers, etc. Grass clippings should not be used fresh, too deeply, for 2 reasons: they can rot, and mat down, creating a condition that actually repels water, and the rotting stinks, and rodents can nest there; and fresh grass clippings are high in nitrogen, and actually temporarily rob the soil of nitrogen as they require more of it to break down. So allow them to dry first, then spread as mulch. You can get around this by simply spreading on open areas of your garden initially to allow decomposition without affecting garden plants. Hope this helps.
Reply:yes they will work as mulch just do not make it too deep for the plants to push through- and ck your siol ph some plants don not like acidic soil some do- you will have to research this- again- yes in the garden wuth plants that like that type of mulch-
Reply:I use grass clipping all the time!! Just don't put it right up close to the stems if the grass clipping are not dry yet! It feeds the soil!!
Reply:Short answer-yes. Don't use too many cedar needles, except around acid-loving plants like azealas and rhododendrons. You can mix in some with the grass clippings, but not a lot. Perennials will grow through mulch, as long as it is not too thick. I usually mulch mine in the fall heavily, to keep from drying out, but leave the stems protruding so I know where they are. Then in early spring, (depending on which plant-some are earlier than others) I check regularly for growth and pull back the mulch from the new growth until it gets well established stems and is above the mulch. Then I put the mulch back closer to the plant for moisture retention and cut down on weeds.

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