Ask a Question forum: Use of non-composted wood chips.

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Pa.os Heights Illinois. (Chica
Mar 4, 2018 9:36 PM CST
In February of this year we had a massive white oak removed. (It was well upwards of 100 years old). It was partially dead but still had leafed out on at least 50% of limbs the previous season. The workers ground out the stump leaving a huge pile of very fine wood chips— practically sawdust! My question is whether I can use the wood chips this spring as mulch in my garden beds or whether they need to be composted for some length of time first. Also, can I immediately plant in the area where the tree was growing? At its base the trunk was about 2 feet across. The tree service recommended leaving the wood chips in place to fill the depression left by the void.
Name: Sue
Ontario, Canada (Zone 4a)
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Mar 5, 2018 6:37 AM CST

I don't think I would fill the void with wood chips, the change in surface could trip someone unless nobody walks there, but in any case as the chips decompose there will be an increasingly deep depression re-appearing there again over time.

As for using the chips as mulch, for established plants it should be OK unless perhaps they are very fine (do you have a picture?). Where there may be a nitrogen depletion problem is at the soil/mulch interface and it should only affect shallowly rooted plants like seedlings if at all. If you are concerned about it, apply some nitrogen fertilizer before you put on the wood chips. Incorporating them into the soil when fresh is more likley to be a problem than mulching with them.

I don't see why you couldn't plant where the tree was unless it died of certain diseases. If there are big roots left in the ground there could be some subsidence over time.
Name: Sally
central Maryland
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Mar 5, 2018 7:22 AM CST
I agree with the above.
And, we had a big maple removed and stump ground in February 2016. I used the chips to make a new vegetable garden spring 2016, over the stump and surrounding grass. It did great.
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Name: Rick R.
near Minneapolis, MN, USA zon
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Mar 5, 2018 7:28 AM CST
Right. No problem using it as a mulch, as long as it is applied as a surface covering and not mixed into the soil. If you are planing on fertilizing this spring or summer, do it before the sawdust is put down. Fertilizer put down on top of the saw dust will be absorbed by the wood and most all would not reach the soil below.

Even if you fill the depression with just dirt, over the next 1-2 years the loose soil you put in will settle a lot. For a one foot depth of new soil, cover 4 inches above what you want to be the final grade. If you have some organic materials incorporated (i.e. wood chips) you will need to go 5-6 inches above your final grade. If you mix half soil and half wood chips, you would need to double it (12 inches).
Minnesota (Zone 3b)
Mar 5, 2018 9:51 AM CST
How deep did they grind the stump?

Is it ground out or just ground down?

If it is just ground down, over time you will have a depression.
If you want to plant there, to avoid as many later annoyances as you can put chips-saw dust else where and put straight soil in there.
When I do my own tree stump, I actually dig out what is left so I not longer have to worry about soild sinking soil but when we just filled in partially removed stumps for other people, removed not by us, we would put fresh soil in and compact it till it did not settle.
Then you can till the top for planting.

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