Tree clippings as mulch, yea or nay?


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Old 10-18-10, 06:13 PM
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Tree clippings as mulch, yea or nay?

Every now and then Iíll see local tree company truck with a full load of freshly chipped trees. And some will give you the chippings for free. Any reason I shouldnít use tree chippings as mulch?

My main concern is roaches. Iíve had different experience with bugs when using different types of mulch material. One year I used pine needles and it attracted them. The following year I choose not to re-mulch with pine needles and the problem went away.

Two years later and it's time again to re-mulch and Iím contemplating tree clippings.

Thoughts, opinions, comments.
 
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Old 10-19-10, 04:55 AM
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I tried it once and thought it looked like crap

Fortunately, I had only added a couple five gallon pails worth, so it wasn't tough to take it back out
 
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Old 10-19-10, 07:09 AM
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From my experiences in using bulk mulch from arborists as well as using bagged mulch, I donít believe there is one answer that applies to all situations.

If you have a small property (under 1 acre) and only need a truck load or two to do your landscape beds, I say give it a trial test to see how it works out for you. If you only have experience using bagged mulch, you should increase your estimated labor time for spreading bulk material by about 50% more than what it took you to spread bagged material. Most of this increased time occurs from loading/unloading material to transport it to the landscape beds. It is considerably faster to throw bagged mulch onto the transport carrier than it is to use a pitch fork (a 10 tine manure fork works better) to load the material. In terms of off-loading, if you have a good number of very wide (deep) landscape beds, that too adds labor time to spreading bulk vs. bagged material as it only takes seconds to throw a bag or two of bagged mulch on shoulders to carry into a wide landscape bed. For bulk material, I found an added step of having to fill 25-gal. or larger potting containers in order to then move the bulk mulch from transport carrier into deeper landscape beds. If you have a BobCat w/ a front loader, that will help shave off transport time.

Be cautious about the quality of material being delivered. What you see on top may not be what you get when the entire load is dumped. Iíve had mixed results ranging from excellent to poor quality. The poor quality loads came about before figuring out a way to influence the quality of delivered material. Later, I arranged w/ my power company to get on their list when their contract tree trimmers were working my area. I would get a call from the tree company ahead of time, and this allowed me to talk w/ the job supervisor to specify what I was looking for. I was only interested in loads largely comprised of chipped hardwood trees such as oak and pines. I was not interested in loads involving large amounts of palm fronds, invasive trees (mainly seed concerns), or small branches which yields lots of ground-up leaves that rapidly deteriorate. With respect to invasive trees, I have not experienced any seedling problems months later as I thought might occur. If you end up with low quality material, youíll realize that Ďfreeí comes with a large hidden cost of wasted labor hours as the mulching will have to be re-done more frequently (about 9 months if lots of leaves and soft wood is delivered) on top of a considerably longer time to apply bulk vs. bag mulch. Another issue is finding trash in the bulk material such as metal cans and plastic/glass bottles. This is caused by the ground crew pitching trash into the back of the truck rather than putting it into a separate trash bucket. You wonít see it if inspecting the load as it will be covered up by chipped wood. The supervisor was helpful in this regard by talking w/ crew members so the amount of trash was less in latter loads. You might wonder why the tree company will go the extra effort to deliver better quality material. The answer lies in having to go longer distances if transporting the material to an approved site (lost man hours for crew) as well as direct savings by not paying a tipping fee.

With respect to roaches and bugs, I have not found that to be a problem but believe that is because of being selective of what I put down. Stuff like a thick layer of pine needles or shredded palm fronds are more likely to cause bug problems than chipped wood. Arguably, there may be a higher risk of termites with chipped-up wood from a tree service as they may be grinding up decayed wood and stumps (the same may apply to low-quality bagged mulch). However, Iíve not experienced a problem w/ termites but careful in how itís placed adjacent to my home.

Give some thought ahead of time about where to dump the chipped wood. If dumped on your lawn, it will kill the grass unless you quickly spread it. Youíre best option is to dump a load at a landscape bed if one is open enough to accept that much material w/o damaging plants.

In terms of longevity, I find pine nuggets to be the longest lasting and less weed issues. Chipped-up oak seems to out last pine by several months. In terms of negotiating price w/ owner of mulching company in 2009, he advised that his cost of pine nuggets had sky rocketed and blamed the construction slowdown as the culprit since pine nuggets are a by-product of saw mills cutting lumber. With the production of board feet of lumber significantly down, the demand for pine nuggets at earlier low price was outstripping the supply of trees being cut for building construction, and, according to him, it doesnít make economic sense to cut down pine trees for the sole purpose of supplying mulch.

I have 12 acres with many large and small landscaping beds. In the early days of owning this property, I went through two rounds of bulk mulching the property. It took about 8-10 large, full arborist trucks to fully mulch the property. After collecting data as to the number of man hours involved to transport and spread this mulch, I decided it was more cost effective and far less back-breaking work to buy bag mulch. About every 18-24 months, I bring in a 53' tractor trailer w/ 24 pallets (1,800-2 cu. ft. bags). The trucker uses a fork lift to set the pallets wherever I want them placed which saves considerable time as compared to moving bulk mulch around the property. The company I use offers no price break for buying 3 cu. ft. bags so I find its easier to work w/ the regular sized bags. Because Iím buying by the truck load, Iím able to get very favorable wholesale pricing. Since no info was provided about your site, if you have a large property, you might want to trial test several loads before taking this too far.
 
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Old 10-19-10, 04:49 PM
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Any idea what your per yard price is when you buy the bag mulch in bulk like that?
 
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Old 10-19-10, 07:31 PM
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Any idea what your per yard price is when you buy the bag mulch in bulk like that?
Drooplug - I mainly buy Certified Enviro Mulch (oak & pine) at $1.30/2 cu. ft. bag {2009 pricing}. If my math is correct, that works out to $17.55/cu. yd.

Iíve also priced the same mulch if delivered in bulk (i.e., not bagged). A full truck load is 110 cu. yds., or the equivalent of 1,485/2 cu. ft. bags. In that case, the price works out to be $12.50/cu. yd. Therefore, Iím paying a premium of 40% for bagged vs. bulk delivered mulch. The 40% higher cost of using bags is largely offset by significantly reduced labor hours to spread the bagged mulch. In 2007, I comparatively priced blow mulch at $32/cu. yd. from a different company. However, this mulch is ground-up much finer, and I was not satisfied w/ longevity of this mulch based on inspecting two sites which had been done about 6-9 months before.
 
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Old 10-20-10, 06:43 AM
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Thanks gents for your reply

mitch17
What exactly was it that you didn't like the look of chip tree as mulch?

Rob R. -
I have 3/4 acre and in the past I've always used bag mulch instead of bulk. I usually wait until the big box stores have bag mulch on sale, then I'll buy about 3 pallets, rent their truck for 1hr, unload the pallets in the driveway, the return the truck.

Just like yourself, I usually do a cost comparison between buying bag or bulk. For my size mulching area, bag always comes out cheaper (including truck rental) It's not cheaper by a large number, usually $60-70 cheaper. The best part is if I have a few bags left over, I'll just put it in the shed until the next time or use it through out the year when needed.

So I called my local tree company and they put me on their list.
 
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Old 10-22-10, 04:30 AM
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We are lucky to have a timber product company close by who sells bark, mushroom compost, stone, etc in bulk. I usually buy 2 yards at a time to satisfy wifey's need to mulch everything. I, like Rob, would never use fresh cut bark or chips, mainly for the seed factor. The mulch must be composted to a degree. That heat will kill the seeds and prevent unwanted growth.
I learned early on about this. A horse rancher gave me all the horse manure mixed with shavings I wanted. Little did I know his "shavings" consisted of fresh chips. The seeds buried within the fertilized medium made gardening impossible for years. I finally had to let it grow and burn it off twice to get rid of the weeds. I'm talking weeds that would grow 6' high with stalks 1" in diameter in a matter of months!! Older - wiser.
 
 

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