Can You Use Conifer Cuttings For Mulch?

Mulching is a gardening process wherein the ground is covered with mulches. This widely-practised gardening method captures moisture and enhances the properties of the soil.

When large trees fall or buckle, they generate a lot of waste. The larger branches are difficult to dispose of but the softer and smaller waste can be dumped in the compost bin.

In such situations, the larger branches and trunks can be burnt, but burning them will not benefit us. Thus, these large-sized woody pieces of waste are chipped or shredded to turn them into mulching material.

But, you have no reason to worry if you do not have a large tree to fall. Many compost suppliers and garden centres sell chipped woody waste for mulching.

What Are Conifer Cuttings?

Conifers are trees that grow cones and needle-shaped or scale-shaped leaves. Some examples of coniferous trees are pine, juniper, fir, cedar, etc.

They can be seen in several landscaping projects and are even used in furniture and construction. But, their uses are not limited to woodwork as conifer cuttings are used in garden care as mulch.

Conifer cuttings or conifer clippings are used as organic mulch due to their long decomposition time. Hence, they are more durable than regular mulch as you will not need to replace them as frequently as with regular mulch.

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Conifer cuttings are also used for holiday decor or home decor as they decompose very slowly.

Why You Shouldn’t Use Conifer Cuttings For Mulch

High Moisture Absorption

Plants thrive in a well-drained and well-moisturized environment. A major disadvantage of mulch is that it absorbs too much moisture.

As the moisture in the soil is absorbed, the soil becomes dry, and plant growth is inhibited.

pH Levels

One of the most common objections to using conifer cuttings for mulch is the acidic nature of the conifer compost. Horticulturists are led to conclude that the pH levels of soil will be disturbed and plant growth will be stifled.

Fire Hazard

Conifer cutting-based mulch might pose a serious health hazard as wood always leaves room for combustion. As heat builds up during summer, mulch piles can cause spontaneous combustion, leading to a large fire.

Why You Should Use Conifer Cuttings For Mulch

Organic-Based Mulch

Conifer cuttings deliver the advantages of organic-based mulch. Whenever a plant shows stress symptoms, seed germination is slowed down by conifer clippings.

Conifer cutting-based mulch is also known to stifle the growth of weed with great success.

Boosts The Health Of The Soil

Contradicting the widely held notion that using conifer cuttings for mulch is acidic and may harm plants, studies have established conifer clippings do not harm plants even if they might be acidic.

Conifer cuttings are found to be acidic only in the initial stage of decomposition. Once they decompose, the conifer cuttings become neutral in nature and even reach 6.5-7 on the pH scale.

Protects The Soil

Conifer-based mulch prevents the erosion of soil as mulch becomes a protective layer above the soil. Using conifer cuttings also prevents the evaporation of water from the soil.

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Conifer clippings take up to five years to decompose due to their larger-than-average size.

Due to their large size and slow decomposition, using conifer cuttings for mulch becomes a natural habitat for bacteria as it increases nitrogen, an essential nutrient that promotes growth in the soil.

According to a publication by the horticulture department of Clemson University, mulches regulate temperature changes and shield the soil and roots from excessive cold in the winter and excessive heat in the summer

How To Gather Conifer Cuttings For Mulch

Before we delve into how to use conifer cuttings for mulch, we must first understand where conifer cuttings can be gathered from.

Young trees can be a great source of mulch as their stems can be cut and applied as fresh mulch in plantations.

Mature and old trees have barks that can be cut into pieces to make mulch. This mulch can later be applied to areas that are both planted and unplanted.

If there are phytotoxic compounds in the barks, they can be rendered safe by aging for 3-4 months.

Finally, coniferous materials like leaves and needles can also be ideal to use as mulch, given that they are provided an adequate amount of time to dry and heat.

How To Use Conifer Cuttings For Mulch

Ageing Conifer Cuttings Before Using As Mulch

Now that you have gathered conifer, ensure that they are shredded and chipped into smaller pieces that can be applied to plants.

Now that they are chipped and cut, store the mulch away till they are ready to be used. It is important for conifer cuttings to be well-dried and warmed before they are used as mulch.

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Preparing The Surface Before Mulching

Weed off the surface with a long-handle hoe or a hand hoe to ensure that no roots are left behind.

Water and moist the soil before applying mulch so that the mulch can be further disintegrated speedily.

Applying Mulch

Now carefully spread one layer of conifer cuttings around the entire plant bed.

Do not apply mulch too close to the stems of plants so that decay and rodent damage will not occur.

Generally, mulches are at least two inches away from the stems.

If they are piled high, the water will not be able to reach the roots and they’ll not be able to retain water so pile the mulch accordingly.

Keeping the mulch well-watered

Next, keep the area well watered so that the mulch can be broken down further into smaller pieces so that their nutrients can be released into the soil.

Horticulturists recommend mixing conifer cuttings with equal amounts of grass cuttings as they make for better mulch.

Conclusion

We are taken back to the subject of this literature: Can You Use Conifer Cuttings For Mulch? The answer has been explained in simple terms describing both the advantages and disadvantages of using conifer-based mulch.

Rather than disposing of conifer wood, they can be reused as organic mulch to enhance the properties of the soil and maintain a healthy landscape.

References

  • Kluepfel, M., Polomski, R. F., Williamson, J., & Scott, J. M. (2016, June 20). Mulch. Home & Garden Information Center | Clemson University, South Carolina. https://hgic.clemson.edu/factsheet/mulch/
  • Using arborist wood chips as a landscape mulch (Home Garden series). (n.d.). Extension Publications. Retrieved January 22, 2023, from https://pubs.extension.wsu.edu/using-arborist-wood-chips-as-a-landscape-mulch-home-garden-series