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Q & A: Sawdust in the Garden?

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Q & A: Sawdust in the Garden?

 

Q:

I spend as much time tending plants in the garden as making sawdust in my shop.Are there any problems with using the sawdust and chips in my dust-collector bag as mulch in the garden?



A:

Go for it! A one- to 2-in.-thick layer of shavings and sawdust is excellent mulch. It holds moisture well, keeps down the soil temperature and prevents weeds from sprouting.Cedar, walnut and treated lumber, however, contain chemicals that plants don’t like, so avoid putting their chips or sawdust on the garden.

Contrary to popular belief, sawdust mulch will not leach nitrogen from the soil (and turn your plants a sickly yellow) as long as the mulch is left alone on the surface of your garden. It’s true that the microbes feasting on your shop waste will seek an additional source of nitrogen to flourish,but they won’t rob much nitrogen from the soil below if the mulch above is a separate layer. However, if you mix your sawdust with compost or dirt,or turn over last year’s layer of mulch into the dirt around your plants, add some high nitrogen (21-0-0) fertilizer to prevent nitrogen leaching.




This story originally appeared in American Woodworker February 2002, issue #92.

February 2002, issue #92

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