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Tips For Turning Your Dead Tree Into Garden Mulch

Wood chips are used to cover flower gardens for both a better appearance and to help keep down weeds and conserve moisture. If you need to get a dead or diseased tree removed, you have access to a low cost source of durable and attractive wood mulch. Know the basics of using your removed trees in the garden so you can avoid any problems.

Have a Plan

A single dead tree will likely produce more wood chips than you can use in your garden alone. Your options are to only keep a portion of the chips after removal, or to share them with a neighbor.

When the removal company arrives, have an area set aside for the mulch. Choose an area that the tree company can easily access with the chipper, such as on the driveway. Lay down a tarp for the wood chips, which will keep them contained and make cleanup easier.

Keep It Fresh

It's best to spread the wood chips in the garden beds as soon as possible. Leaving them to sit in a large pile can lead to the production of toxic chemicals. These chemicals are a normal part of the decomposition process of wood, but they can build up without dissipating if not enough oxygen reaches the center of the chip pile. The result is a sour mulch, which smells like rotten eggs or sulfur.

If you can't lay the wood chips immediately, turn the pile every two or three days so the mulch doesn't turn sour. Once the wood goes sour, you will have to spread it out into a thin layer and let it air out for several days, otherwise it can kill your garden plants.

Know the Tree

Diseased trees can pose a concern, but they usually are safe for garden use. If your tree died of verticilium wilt or another aggressive fungal disease, you may want to age the wood chips for a year before applying them, but otherwise the chips rarely carry disease with them to healthy trees.

The main tree to avoid is black walnut. These trees produce a toxic chemical, called juglone, that kills all other plants nearby. Black walnut chips are only suitable for mulching around other black walnut trees.

In most cases, your tree removal company can't spread the mulch for you in the garden, although they can place it in a single bed for you to spread around. Once the tree is down, it doesn't take long to turn it into mulch, so you can get a tree removed and your gardens covered in a single day.