Makin' Mulch

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Make Your Own Mulch

We have a limb shredder. What do I add to it to make environment friendly mulch?

The Do's and Don'ts of Composting

To make good mulch you need a 3-1 ratio of carbon to nitrogen, air and water. Put your chipped limbs into a long fairly narrow compose pile, put your grass clippings on top, run the leaves from your yard through the chipper in the fall and put them on top and stir this mixture together. The ideal would be to "turn it" every week. But anything between one week to once a month would be sufficient. Make sure it is damp or moist like a sponge but you can't ring water out of it. You will have mulch for your flowerbeds, garden or any other place you want to amend your soil.

Other things you can put in your mulch pile are organic kitchen scraps. But no milk, fish, meat, or bones because these things call all kinds of rodents, coons, cats, dogs or whatever else happens to be in your neighborhood. You can put coffee filters, shredded newspaper or anything else that will decompose in the pile too.

Or if you want to just use the wood chips as is, put them as mulch around your trees and shrubs. Compost happens, how fast it happens depends on how much you choose to massage the process.

The Makings of a Healthy Compost Pile

In order to make good, healthy mulch, use the waste you already have! When you trim branches off the trees, run them through the shredder and add them to your compost pile. Add leaves, grass clippings, all except live weeds and their seeds. Get a mixture of wet materials (high in Nitrogen), and dry materials (High in Carbon), wet them down until they are about the moisture content of a damp but not soaking sponge, and let it compost for a while. Most kitchen wastes are wet, or "green" materials, and newspaper can be torn into pieces for dry or "brown" materials.

If you turn it often, a few times a day, and keep it at the correct moisture level, it will compost faster and you will soon have good smelling, nice-looking mulch, which shouldn't introduce weeds into the landscape! Of course, you can always just run branches through the shredder, and directly mulch with these.

Start With Shredding

To make wood-chip type mulch, just shred the healthy limbs and put them where you want the mulch. If they're not sprayed, it's probably better for the environment. Remember that if you use wood chip mulch on a garden, the plants in the garden will have less nitrogen to work with, since the nitrogen will be going to help decompose the wood. So either add extra nitrogen, or put the wood chips where it doesn't matter, like around trees or as a pathway.

If you're looking to make compost with the chips, you'll want to put them with a good supply of 'green' waste (i.e. anything with a fairly good supply of nitrogen), such as grass clippings or horse manure. The standard 30-to-1 ratio is good for this. Just remember the ratio means 'by weight' not 'by volume'. In practice, this means that for each bag of wood chips, you'll want about 3 of manure.

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