willow mulch good or bad for hosta?

almosthookedFebruary 26, 2013

I was looking out the window and they are trimming and grinding the large branches from a wheeping willow that is a hydro line hazard. Would it be good for the hosta bests in spring or would it be better to compost first? I can have it if I want it. I know cedar was not good but thiis could possibly be a good weed control and water saver too.

This post was edited by almosthooked on Tue, Feb 26, 13 at 20:22

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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

i know of NO wood chips that arent NOT good ... oh crikey.. 3 negatives.. here this will be better


any leaf free wood.. is perfect in my world ...

and i cant think why cedar is no good.. since i used to pay thousands of dollars for cedar chips.. in another life ...

you are way overthinking FREE WOOD CHIPS ...


ps: you said mulch ... i am not talking about incorporating various woods INTO THE SOIL ... on top.. it matters not.. ever ..

    Bookmark   February 26, 2013 at 5:10PM
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In other words Ken. The 3 tri drive truck loads from the cedar mill we got for resting area for out critters can be used on my hosta too? Whats with all the people saying the cedar is toxic for them ? Now I am confused! We can have as many loads of that for free too( except for the trucking and my husband drives the truck and nothing a 24 pack would cost( lol 3 times the price as in the US but what the heck!) Maybe should stock pile it with all the manure I got last year too! They should grow like giants in no time flat as long as the water is used too
Thanks Ken

    Bookmark   February 26, 2013 at 5:32PM
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gogirlterri(5 IL)

I would never turn down ANY chipped wood or leafs I could use as mulch for hostas. It isn't the material but the sap that might be toxic but the sap and even the juglone in walnut sap is not toxic to hostas. Cedar is not toxic: they just have a huge amount of surface roots that suck up every drop of moisture that prevents other plants from surviving under tgen-I think.

Just keep in mind that uncomposted plant matter absorbes nitrogen while it composts, then returns it back to the soil. So if you use non-composted willow, or cedar materials in planted areas, add some nitrogen until it composts. In the meantime its value as mulch is wonderful. :o)
Theresa Ann

    Bookmark   February 26, 2013 at 6:38PM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

i would NEVER take millings.. shaving.. or grindings..
UNLESS i was able to turn them from RAW WOOD to compost ....

they create an impervious mat after wetting.. think paper mache' ... that does not allow water in.. or air out ...

now.. mix that all in with some manure.. and turn it a couple times.. you its called BLACK GOLD.. compost .... but it isnt called mulch ...

the key here .. as in a lot of my replies.. is that words mean things ...

mulch is on top... crikey.. you can use rubber tires ground up ... not that i recommend it ...

and compost can be a mulch.. but it disappears.. as it amends the soil ... it can also be worked into the soil ... heck.. its almost soil as it is ...

so dont confuse a covering of mulch.. with compost.. each has its own function and use ...

the ONLY downside to willow.. is that a lot of those wispy branches might not grind up well.. and make pretty mulch .. but i can put up with a lot for FREE!!! ....


ps: i will not accept trees killed by the systemic imprellis ...

    Bookmark   February 26, 2013 at 6:52PM
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bernd ny zone5(5)

Here in my area the people who I hire to cut down trees charge big bucks, chip up the branches, sell my tree trunks to a paper mill probably (load them on logging trucks), and do not leave any wood chips for my use, even when I asked.
I would take any wood chips. Bernd

    Bookmark   February 26, 2013 at 7:03PM
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tsugajunkie z5 SE WI

Cedar mulch is fine. The only caveat is in wildfire prone areas where it is not recommended.

The willow will contain rooting hormones so you might start a "cutting" garden. ;-)

"keep in mind that uncomposted plant matter absorbes nitrogen while it composts, then returns it back to the soil"

Only if the material is high in carbon and only if its mixed into the soil. Even then, if the high carbon stuff is also high in lignin (pine bark and needles, for example) it will tend to favor beneficial fungi which don't tie up nitrogen like bacteria. In this case, whether not composted, half composted or all composted, willow chips would make a great mulch.


    Bookmark   February 26, 2013 at 7:46PM
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I see in another posting refering to stone dust. Ken Is this the same as crusher grit from crushing gravel in a gravel pit? If so we have friend in this business too so if mixed with willow mulch, cedar mulch, leaves and manure it will make some great improvement to our clay soil . Such great ideas come from such great gardeners and I need all the information and input from the best of you. Thanks

    Bookmark   February 26, 2013 at 11:11PM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

i have no idea about stone ...

but on words alone.. grit is tiny pieces.. chickens eat it for some reason unknown to me.. lol ..

and dust is dust ...

google both terms and flip to IMAGES.. you should see the difference ...

i would think that wetted dust IS!!! clay ... again.. on words alone ...

i think ed elslager was famous for using some type of grit in his pots.. i have no idea why.. his one gal pots weighed a ton ... but boy could he grown hosta ...


    Bookmark   February 27, 2013 at 8:06AM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5


first off.. when you make the bargain ... you bargain for the chips.. and tell the guy if he doesnt dump them.. you will find someone else to do the job ...

but i do know.. that its a space issue... they are leery of dumping in congested suburbia... as compared to places like mine ... some guys have turned me down.. until i tell them there is easy access for a big truck etc .... might be ordinances about dumping in front of the house.. etc ....


    Bookmark   February 27, 2013 at 8:09AM
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bernd ny zone5(5)

Ken, these are 10 or so guys with several trucks, a wood chipper and a remotely controlled stump grinder who take down trees in a very short time. They have a very efficient and clean operation, know what they are doing, and do not want anyone to confuse their routine, so I accept it.

Mixing some sharp gravel like chicken grit around hostas (like 10 inches deep) is good to mix into the soil when you have a problem with voles, they will not dig through that.

I get my mulch from Home Depot, use it only as a 1 inch top dressing. I use only small chips because I do not want slugs to hide under, only 1 inch because I want to see if rodents tunnel under it.

    Bookmark   February 27, 2013 at 9:14AM
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Stone dust is often called crusher fines ... and is used as the base material for setting paving stones or flags. It is very fine having been put through a seive - as Ken said when mixed with a bit of water it sets up very hard like clay.

I would not recommend it as a soil amendment but depending on your soil I would suggest coarser gravel. . Keep in mind it is still stone.

To amend the soil here, I generally use ashes from the firepit from burning brush, mushroom compost, grass clippings bagged from cutting 3 acres of grass, topsoil brought in ... there is a ready supply of pine needles but they do make the soil acid. The garbage dump locally recycles organic material and sells composted topsoil very cheaply - the catch is you must load it yourself. I have shovelled many pickup loads in and then later out in building hosta planting beds. And it all beats using stone dust or any other form of stones.

I think we all agree that organic matter available free (or very cheaply) is well worth the effort to obtain and put to use.

    Bookmark   February 28, 2013 at 8:42AM
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Sounds like it would be best to leave the stone finds where they are then as we have no paver stones to set. I have leaves that I also stock pile for my composter and we do burn wood(by choice over gas) It was some one that told me the minerals were good in the rock finds but if they pack like cementI sure don't need that. One good thing about our clay soil is I could water 24/7 and would not have water sitting on the surface but would sink up to my knees in the mud!

This post was edited by almosthooked on Thu, Feb 28, 13 at 11:58

    Bookmark   February 28, 2013 at 10:24AM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5


you keep calling it finDs ...

its FINES ... as in crushed and screened fine ...

think of it as cement.. without the binder ... aka the portland ... whatever the hell that is.. lol ...

its used under brick ... because water goes thru it... for drainage.. as compared to putting patio bricks ON cement ... bricks need to flex.. and drain ... [especially up here in the great white north.. with ground freeze and all ... i mean really.. if i had to pour cement for a brick patio.. i may as well just put in a cement patio.. and skip the expensive brick .... which is what i did the second time ...]


    Bookmark   February 28, 2013 at 7:00PM
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Sorry Ken and shoot me for typing the wrong word !... are you ever going to forgive me? FINES dust sandground rock .. tomato pototo :)))
We do use concrete for our patio but then again it too is cement

    Bookmark   February 28, 2013 at 7:49PM
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Hehehehe, this is a fine topic.
Willow mulch, might keep the hosta from getting a headache. That's where aspirin comes from, the willows. I do not think a beaver ever had a headache because that is a favorite tree for them. :)

Since chickens do not chew their food, they ingest grit which goes to the craw or gizzard and it grinds up the hard corn etc which they swallow whole. My grandma killed her chickens and I saw how she cut open the gizzard to clean it out, a very tough (almost rubbery substance) liner inside she removed so we could cook and eat the gizzards. Fried, of course. :)

Oops, I reached my quota of trivia for the day.

    Bookmark   March 3, 2013 at 1:39AM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

hey almost.. i was just trying make sure your knowledge was set.. regardless of what your fingers typed ...

i am not one to discuss perfection of typiong techniques.. lol ..

forgive me if i choose the worng woprds .... and upset you ....

will you forgive me.. or should i go sit in the courner for a few days ???


ps: thats how it comes out .. before corrections.. lol ..

    Bookmark   March 3, 2013 at 8:54AM
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donrawson(Z 5)

All wood shavings, chips and shredded bark would be good for mulching hostas with the exception of Black Walnut. And I would avoid chipped-up Poison Ivy and Poison Sumac if you are going to be working in it with your hands.

As far as applying the mulch, a thin layer is generally better, as a thick layer will mat down and become somewhat impervious to water. The finer the material, the thinner it should be applied and the faster it will mat down. Coarse mulch can be applied a little thicker, but a thick layer of mulch (especially leaf mould) may encourage vole activity.

Cedar bark and shavings is acceptable for the garden, but be aware that it takes much longer to break down. This is an advantage in that you won't have to replace it nearly as often. However, the drawback is that the sunlight will fade it out the cedar over the period of one season, so to keep it looking good, you will have to stir it up and flip it over. If you simply add another layer of cedar on top each year, your mulch may get very thick in just a few years and you may have to remove some before adding new mulch over it.

Avoid placing the mulch directly over the crown of the hosta. Stay out around the drip line. Also avoid "volcano mulching" around tree, which encourages disease.

Stone dust is the finest material produced when gravel is crushed and screened at a gravel pit. (Not all gravel pits have a crusher, but most large pits do.) Stone dust is collected at the bottom of the crusher. Some uses for stone dust are for building hard-packed surfaces for driveways, sidewalks and trails as well as for laying pavers. It is also used for the base plates on a baseball field. (Stone dust is generally too expensive for use on road beds. And it is superseded by dolomite for top dressing road surfaces.)

Stone dust, if added to the garden soil, would provide minerals, but there are better products available for doing this.

For the garden, stone dust would be of no value unless installing in a walkway. However, finely crushed stone (3/8 inch stone chips) is beneficial for vole control when applied over and around plants and bulbs.

If you desire to improve drainage (in a flowerbed or potted plant), I recommend using pea stone, which is much cheaper than crushed stone.

    Bookmark   March 3, 2013 at 12:38PM
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Babka NorCal 9b

We have a product called rock powder around here. (Used to be called stone meal) I use it to add minerals to our soil. I sprinkle a few spoonfuls in each hosta pot a couple times a year. It looks like gray baby powder, not gritty, but weighs a lot more. It is used here for citrus to make them sweeter, but helps everything else too.


Here is a link that might be useful: Rock Powder at Wikipedia

This post was edited by babka on Mon, Mar 4, 13 at 2:21

    Bookmark   March 4, 2013 at 2:11AM
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gogirlterri(5 IL)

don r; have you experience using chipped or shredded black walnut? If so I am surprised. I had black walnut trees in Arkansas and grew hostas under them. Hostas seem impervious to the juglone. My brother's 'Theresa's Angel [hosta] Garden' (which like myself is named after our great grandmother: I am no angel!) is under one and with little weed competition because weeds don't like juglone, are doing great.The black walnut is deep rooted and doesn't compete with the hostas.
It is also my experiece that slugs dont like juglone because I have never been bothered with slug damage under them.
I have never used chipped or shredded black walnut as mulch though.
I might experiment with some. Soaking chips in water and dunking a few slimy slugs in ir should give fast results. If anyone has a different experience with black walnut trees, I would like to hear it: maybe start a differeent post.

    Bookmark   March 4, 2013 at 8:02AM
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donrawson(Z 5)

Hi Theresa,

I don't have any experience growing hostas under Black Walnut trees, but I have heard that they will tolerate it fairly well, as will a few other plants. However, I'm skeptical that the juglone has no effect on them. We'd actually have to do a test (using walnut mulch compared to other mulches) to see if the hostas prefer one type over the others. I would think that chipped-up walnut would leave a high concentration of juglone in the top few inches of the soil, particularly when you consider that walnut deteriates fairly quickly when compared to other kinds of wood.

Babka commented on the benefits of using rock powder to replace minerals in the soil. The rock powder she uses probably is pulverized very finely (more finely than stone dust from the gravel pit), so the minerals can be absorbed by the plants more readily. Stone dust from the gravel pit may have some value for re-mineralization in the garden, but should be limited if it causes compaction.

Here are some links which may be helpful:
"Rockdust" on Wikipedia
"Stone Dust", article from Progressive Review

    Bookmark   March 4, 2013 at 1:01PM
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donrawson(Z 5)


Have you ever used green sand to add trace minerals to the garden? I have used it a few times, but don't know if I really needed to or if it really helped. I would be curious if any gardener on the forum has compared using rock powder to green sand on hostas? Which one produced better results?

Here's a link: What the heck is green sand?

    Bookmark   March 4, 2013 at 1:15PM
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tsugajunkie z5 SE WI

Juglone will dissipate quite quickly when exposed to the open air and shouldn't be an issue. The roots of the BW have the highest concentration, leaves, twigs and bark the next highest and the wood itself the least. I, too, grow hosta under BW without issue and, unfortunately, it hasn't deterred my slugs although my mulch is pine needles not walnut chips.


    Bookmark   March 4, 2013 at 5:06PM
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