Northeast Gardening forum: Sawdust: How badly did I screw up?

Views: 615, Replies: 7 » Jump to the end
Name: Rachael
NY (Zone 5a)
Plant Lover: Loves 'em all!
Image
EyeDelight
May 1, 2016 10:24 AM CST
Edit : I think I posted this in the wrong forum, my apologies. I'm not sure how to move it >.<

The sawdust is about a year old. I have no idea what type of wood it is, I don't even really know how it got there but I think the state was doing some clean up on the edge of the road and deposited it where it was most convenient. I have some low spots where I wanted to plant some things. One planter is for mostly poppies of a few varieties, a couple lavenders, nasturtiums and chinese forget me nots. This one planter was a very low spot that collected water, so being of small means I used what I had available. Which was a little sand, a little black dirt, twigs and leaves at the bottom ( to make a base of sorts ) then sawdust mixed with a large bag of miracle grow garden soil. There's a whole layer of sawdust between the twigs/leaves and the sawdust/garden soil mix on top. I needed volume :-\ The first throw down of seeds did not take off, got eaten up/ put out too early. No harm no foul, so I have to replant the bed anyway. A picture of the poppy bed: http://garden.org/pics/2016-04...

I also used a similar mixture of sawdust, leaves, twigs and peat for my lilies. There are a few of the orientals but they are mostly ditch lillies and they were free. Again, I needed more volume than I can afford. A picture of a portion of the lily bed : http://garden.org/pics/2016-04... .Yes they are up against a fence with nothing but twigs holding them there, lol. At the very least I haven't destroyed a bed of prized iris' or roses or my vegetable garden ( which is devoid of the sawdust and plants since it's too early ).

Only WAY after the fact did I look it up, partially because I didn't want to know. Well, I guess I did the worst possible thing I could have done besides use fresh sawdust. Sawdust evidently eats all the nitrogen, ugh.

Can I remedy this with raking in a bag of compost on the small bed ( where the poppy seeds etc will go ) and maybe sprinkle some blood meal on the lilly planter/border? The lilies are already planted so I don't want to burn them . I've only used basic 10-10-10 fertilizer before . Should I use something quick release or slow release or both? I read fish meal is immediate and blood meal is slow release?
[Last edited by EyeDelight - May 1, 2016 10:34 AM (+)]
Give a thumbs up | Quote | Post #1134436 (1)
Name: Ronnie
Southeastern PA (Zone 6b)
Zinnias Morning Glories Million Pollinator Garden Challenge Annuals Bee Lover Dragonflies
Butterflies Hummingbirder Birds Bookworm Region: Pennsylvania Garden Photography
Image
luvsgrtdanes
May 1, 2016 1:01 PM CST
You can always just add coffee grounds and they are free if you drink coffee but you can ask coffe shops to save them for you. Some farms give away free manure too. Did you do a soil test? It may be fine.
It happens in a flash, but the memory of it last forever. It can not be borrowed or stolen, and it is of no earthly good until it is given away. So if in your hurry you meet someone who is too weary to smile, leave him one of yours, for no one needs a smile quite as much as he who has none to give...

Name: Marilyn
CT (Zone 5b)
Birds Daylilies Dog Lover Garden Art Heucheras
Image
RobinD
May 1, 2016 6:15 PM CST
I would add compost like Ronnie suggested.....can't hurt.....
Name: Meredith
New Hampshire (Zone 5b)
Region: New Hampshire Cat Lover Butterflies Hummingbirder Keeper of Poultry Roses
Lilies Native Plants and Wildflowers Daylilies Bee Lover Irises Seed Starter
Image
Meredith79
May 16, 2016 5:14 PM CST
I just want to say I don't think you put the poppy seed out too early. They usually recommend early so they even get a light snow on them is perfect. They may have been eaten by birds or washed away when it rained. I always have these problems myself.

MichaelYang
Jun 10, 2016 4:47 AM CST
I think you should do soil test first, because the experts can only suggest the best remedy. My friend was going through the same problem, I don't know what he did but he solved his problem.
Name: Rick Corey
Everett WA 98204 (Zone 8a)
Sunset Zone 5. Koppen Csb. Eco 2f
Frugal Gardener Garden Procrastinator I helped beta test the first seed swap Plant and/or Seed Trader Seed Starter Region: Pacific Northwest
Photo Contest Winner: 2014 Avid Green Pages Reviewer Garden Ideas: Master Level Garden Sages I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! I helped plan and beta test the plant database.
Image
RickCorey
Aug 11, 2017 12:58 AM CST
EyeDelight said: ...
This one planter was a very low spot that collected water, so being of small means I used what I had available. Which was a little sand, a little black dirt, twigs and leaves at the bottom ( to make a base of sorts ) then sawdust mixed with a large bag of miracle grow garden soil. There's a whole layer of sawdust between the twigs/leaves and the sawdust/garden soil mix on top. I needed volume :-\
...
Can I remedy this with raking in a bag of compost on the small bed ... and maybe sprinkle some blood meal ...? ... Should I use something quick release or slow release or both? I read fish meal is immediate and blood meal is slow release?


EyeDelight, I realize this has no value at all for you, a year later, but I just saw this. I've read that it's tough to overcome that kind of sawdust / nitrogen-deficit.

I added too much wood to a bed once and tilled it in. It's a slight exaggeration to say that "nothing would grow there for a year", but almost. And I tried to add lots of N after I, like you, read about what I had just done. Then I dug back to the woody layer and had the ugliest mess of white powdery nastiness I never expected to see in soil!

Force-feeding N for a year DID let the bed recover, but I was never able to get ahead of the decomposing sawdust.

I think the things growing in a sawdust-rich mix would have needed frequent, fairly heavy additions of soluble nitrogen to grow at all well. (Or a lot of other fast-release sources).

I guess you could use either soluble chemical fertilizers, perhaps even daily, or so much slower-release sources like compost that they release enough N every DAY that the root hairs get at least a little before the fungi get it all.

That sawdust and the fungus population explosion it caused will suck up every ion or molecule of nitrogen almost as fast as you add it. They're just that good and that omnipresent in soil.

Being single-celled or in very thin mycelia, fungi have much faster and closer access to nutrients than root hairs.

The fungi would be like 100,000 hungry rats packed shoulder to shoulder on a football field. The closest root hair would be like one hungry cow somewhere on that football field.

Now you scatter a handful of grain over that football field.
The rats get most it ALL in the first few seconds.
The cow is lucky to get ANY.

Similarly, any given nitrate ion is almost certain to encounter a fungal mycelium before meeting a root hair.
Name: Rick Corey
Everett WA 98204 (Zone 8a)
Sunset Zone 5. Koppen Csb. Eco 2f
Frugal Gardener Garden Procrastinator I helped beta test the first seed swap Plant and/or Seed Trader Seed Starter Region: Pacific Northwest
Photo Contest Winner: 2014 Avid Green Pages Reviewer Garden Ideas: Master Level Garden Sages I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! I helped plan and beta test the plant database.
Image
RickCorey
Aug 11, 2017 1:17 AM CST
Also, the whole volume of sawdust that you added will first be converted into around 1/4 or maybe 1/2 that volume of fungus, then somehow that fungus will mostly "disappear". After the organics in the sawdust and bagged soil are consumed, the soil surface will subside.

The permanent part of your solution was the sand and mineral portion of the bagged soil.

If I was rich, the first thing I would buy would be a few cubic yards of finely crushed stone (and a team of stout lads to wheelbarrow it around and till it in).

After establishing good drainage and grading over the whole yard, I'd invest in compost. Lots and LOTS of compost.

But neither of us is rich.

It sounds as if merely raking the old soil level would not have solved your problem either, because then the whole bed would have been "below grade" or "sometimes underwater".

I like to dig, so I leap towards solutions like "Make a raised bed out of some of that area (you called it a planter?). Make a sunken pathway out of the low spot (that's where you get the soil to add to your raised part). Dig a slit trench from the lowest spot of your sunken walkway to whatever lower spot you want water to drain down and away to."

That may be too much work or take too many months for most people.

In fact the only solution I know that requires more work would be to re-grade the entire AREA so that low spots are averaged with high spots and the soil surface all drains away (to some lower spot) without any low spots walled off from lower spots.

But most important, whether you like to dig or not, is that every low spot where you DON'T want a pond, needs a way to drain to a LOWER spot.

(I'm used to poorly draining clay and yards that slope at least a little everywhere. I guess that places where soil can drain rapidly straight DOWN, or here are no slopes to work with, need other solutions.)

Name: Rick Corey
Everett WA 98204 (Zone 8a)
Sunset Zone 5. Koppen Csb. Eco 2f
Frugal Gardener Garden Procrastinator I helped beta test the first seed swap Plant and/or Seed Trader Seed Starter Region: Pacific Northwest
Photo Contest Winner: 2014 Avid Green Pages Reviewer Garden Ideas: Master Level Garden Sages I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! I helped plan and beta test the plant database.
Image
RickCorey
Aug 11, 2017 1:27 AM CST
P.S.

I was going to say that most gardens and all containers benefit from having all their soil MIXED vertically so that capillary action can work with gravity and pull water DOWN and out of soil pores so that air can come back in after a heavy watering. When there are very distinct layers (like peat over gravel) , the water "perches" in the peat since the coarse gravel can't "exert" as much capillary "grip" as the peat.

In that view, you would have been better off mixing all your layers and fighting N deficit as best you can, to get one good season out of it before it subsides.

BUT, if the wood had mostly been buried a little DEEPLY, and everything over it well mixed, it would have been more like hugelculture. Somehow that avoids the problem of N deficit.

(Maybe because the root hairs (and N) stay in the top 12-18 inches, and the fungi thrive two feet down. In that system, the spongy wood holds lots of water that is slowly drawn back towards the surface as the upper layers dry out.)

« Garden.org Homepage
« Back to the top
« Forums List
« Northeast Gardening forum
You must first create a username and login before you can reply to this thread.

Member Login:

Username:

Password:

[ Join now ]

Today's site banner is by dirtdorphins and is called "aster and hummingbird trumpet"