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Old 03-06-2012, 02:01 PM
 
Location: Virginia
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People tell me old mulch eventually decomposes and becomes soil. Anyone know how long that takes? I've been putting a thin layer of mulch on this garden for about ten years now--do you think the first few layers have decomposed yet?
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Old 03-06-2012, 02:24 PM
Status: "Mr. Frou-Frou man." (set 24 days ago)
 
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Without going into the thousands of factors that would affect the outcome of your question- 2-3years for small to medium size mulch pieces undisturbed in direct contact with soil that received regular moisture.

Again your going to get a variety of answers and opinions because there just to many variables to give to a definitive answer.
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Old 03-06-2012, 03:02 PM
 
Location: rain city
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Yep, depends on the climate and conditions and kind of mulch too.

We've been using free wood chips from an arborist (not treated). I've been quite surprised that a thick layer of these chopped up tree bits are all but gone in 4 or 5 months. The stuff is breaking down much faster than I'd expected.
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Old 03-09-2012, 05:59 AM
 
Location: Virginia
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We have cypress mulch bought at Lowes that I would very much love to see decompose (especially if it gets just a little bit dark as it does so). It's been there about 9 months--any hope that it will breakdown soon? It's not dyed but the pieces are fairly big and it's not a very attractive mulch. Not bad enough to go to the effort to remove it, but I'd love to see it decompose (plus it would be good for my plants for it to decompose, right?).
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Old 03-09-2012, 06:25 AM
 
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Wood chip and bark mulch consumes all of the nitrogen in your garden. Like sucking it out with a vacuum hose. That is how it decomposes. It is not good for the plants. It disappears in months, decomposes in years. Just how long depends on how much nitrogen there is and how warm and moist the ground is.
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Old 03-09-2012, 07:27 AM
Status: "Mr. Frou-Frou man." (set 24 days ago)
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Caladium View Post
We have cypress mulch bought at Lowes that I would very much love to see decompose (especially if it gets just a little bit dark as it does so). It's been there about 9 months--any hope that it will breakdown soon? It's not dyed but the pieces are fairly big and it's not a very attractive mulch. Not bad enough to go to the effort to remove it, but I'd love to see it decompose (plus it would be good for my plants for it to decompose, right?).

How long does it take old mulch to decompose into soil?
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Old 03-09-2012, 07:43 AM
 
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Cypress "mulch" is really just shredded cypress from land clearing. It is just like wood chips:


Wood Chip Backyard Biology


Basic biology of wood chip usage.

(condensed from a discussion supplied by Ferry County Solid Waste)

Wood Chip Carbon and Nitrogen
The micro-organisms that decompose wood chips require nitrogen in amounts greater than are available in the wood chips alone. If additional nitrogen is not mixed with the wood chips, the micro-organisms will get the nitrogen they need from the soil, competing with plant roots for the nitrogen available in the soil. This is why bark mulch works to keep weeds down.


Wood Chips as a Soil Amendment:
You can use wood chips to add organic material to soil. The process will take four or more years. You will need to add nitrogen along with the wood chips to facilitate decomposition of the wood chips without depleting the available nitrogen in the soil.

For each 10 X 10 area:
Year One: add one pound of ammonium sulfate for each one inch layer of wood chips.
Year Two: add one half pound of ammonium sulfate for each one inch layer of wood chips.
Year Three: add one quarter pound of ammonium sulfate for each one inch layer of wood chips.
Year Four: add one eighth pound of ammonium sulfate for each one inch layer of wood chips.


Wood Chip Backyard Biology
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Old 03-09-2012, 08:02 AM
 
Location: Virginia
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Do I just sprinkle the ammonium sulfate on top? Since I've been adding mulch to this garden every year for about ten years (not just this year), do I follow the amount for the first year?
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Old 03-09-2012, 03:29 PM
 
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Originally Posted by Caladium View Post
Do I just sprinkle the ammonium sulfate on top? Since I've been adding mulch to this garden every year for about ten years (not just this year), do I follow the amount for the first year?
I assume you just sprinkle it on and water it in. I don't use mulch except to keep down weeds. When I was a serious gardener, I would plant a cover crop of rye and till it in in the spring. I just think bark, shredded wood and chips are just not for the garden. You can use plastic or landscaping paper. Just till it up good, amend the soil and start over.

If you need to add organic material use peat moss. Add composted manure and a ton of gypsum.
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Old 03-11-2012, 10:59 AM
 
Location: Virginia
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Another question about nitrogen--if the problem is that the mulch sucks nitrogen out of the soil, should I assume that when the mulch decomposes it then becomes nitrogen rich?
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