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How Long Does Mulch Need to Age? (Plus 5 Steps to Speed Up the Process)

How Long Does Mulch Need to Age? (Plus 5 Steps to Speed Up the Process)

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Instead of buying synthetic mulch, did you know you can make mulch out of your tree trimmings? The only problem is that the trimmings would take some time to transform into beneficial mulch.

So, how long does mulch need to age?

In this article, we’ll tell you everything about the aging process of mulch and how you can speed it up. So, let’s dive in!

How Long Does Mulch Need to Age?

Recycling your garden components is every green thumb’s dream. Not only is it an affordable way to maintain your garden, but it’s incredibly environmentally friendly.

Still, you don’t want to recycle your tree trimmings into mulch only to harm your precious garden. After all, the role of mulch is to protect the surface of your lawn from the environment.

Unfortunately, you can’t spread tree trimmings onto your garden, expecting them to act as mulch. That’s because fresh trimmings contain volatile compounds that might be toxic to your plants.

While your garden needs plenty of micronutrients, leaves, and wood chips don’t contain nearly enough nourishment for your plants. Typically, plants need plenty of nitrogen, while fresh wood chips “steal” nitrogen from the soil.

Typically, you should age the trimmings for at least six to twelve months. That said, aging time depends on the following:

The Type of Mulch

You must pay attention to the type of wood you use in your mulch. If you’re using organic wood from your garden, aging it for six months should be sufficient.

In contrast, if you’re getting wood chips, make sure the wood isn’t from construction material that has been treated with chemicals.

Furthermore, coniferous trees, such as pine, are more likely to contain phytotoxins. Accordingly, the trimmings should be aged for longer.

The Size of Wood Chips

Naturally, chunky mulch will take longer to compost than small wood shreds. This doesn’t mean you should stay away from wood chunks when aging mulch, though! They might take longer to age, but the resulting mulch also lasts longer.

Purpose of the Mulch

If you’re using mulch to curb the growth of weeds and other undesirable vegetation, then using fresh wood trimmings should do the trick.

On the other hand, if you want to add some nutrition to the soil as well as lock moisture in it, you should fully compost the wood. The mulch should be dark, crumbly, with no visible wood chips. This way, the mulch will be a good source of nitrogen.

How to Quickly Age Mulch

If you want to use fresh wood chips to mulch your garden, you’ll have to wait months. Fortunately, you can age mulch quickly by following these steps:

1 – Decrease the Size of the Wood

Since smaller pieces of wood decompose faster than large logs, you can quickly turn your wood into mulch by making it as small as possible.

2 – Pile Up the Wood Chips

Once you’re happy with the size of your wood chips, you must rack them up into a pile. Then, place the wood pile away from your lawn. This way, you prevent the wood from sucking up nitrogen from your garden soil.

Furthermore, to avoid mold, the wood must be in direct sunlight for at least six hours a day.

3 – Compost the Wood

Naturally, when you leave the wood in the sun, it’ll compost on its own. However, you can speed up the process by adding a source of nitrogen to your wood pile.

This can be as simple as piling up your wood chips on top of an established wood chip mulch pile. If it’s your first time aging mulch, the following are excellent sources of nitrogen:

  • Animal manure
  • Coffee grounds
  • Grass clippings
  • Kitchen scraps

4 – Moisten the Wood

Moistening the wood pile is crucial to help the organic material seep into the wood. It also helps dissolve larger wood pieces, hastening the composting process.

5 – Mix the Mulch

Lastly, the mulch in the middle of the pile will likely decompose faster. For this reason, you should mix the pile once every two weeks. This will help turn the wood chips into usable mulch in only three months.

Final Thoughts

How long does mulch need to age?

Typically, mulch will take anywhere between six months to a year to become usable. If you mulch using your garden clippings earlier, they might pull nitrogen from the soil instead of adding nutrients.

Luckily, you can hasten the aging process of mulch in numerous ways such as adding a nitrogen source to your wood so it composts faster. You must also ensure the wood chips are relatively small, as large wood logs will take much longer to decompose.

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