Do I need to "age" mulch?

My county gives away free mulch. People bring in downed trees, branches, etc. to the county dump, where it is ground up and put in huge piles. Up here in Appalacia, there's lots of downed wood.
Thus, we have an essentially limitless source of free mulch. The mulch isn't all that pretty, and is probably considered low quality; it is mostly ground hardwood with a sizeable minority of pine and a sprinkling of random woody brush.
The other day I was down there shoveling the stuff into the back of my pickup (the county has a frontloader that provides a filling service on an irregular basis, but I always seem to miss it), and the caretaker came running out of his shady spot yelling at me to stop.
He said that I was taking the mulch from the wrong pile -- that the stuff I was loading had just been ground that day and would kill my plants, particularly if there was a lot of pine in it. He said that mulch had to sit for a couple of weeks and ferment a little before it could safely be used. He strongly suggested that if I was using the mulch for flower garden that I use the next pile over, which had been sitting for a couple of weeks. He said that the pile I was digging from would be good for driveways and walkways, but that I should be careful about using it around plants.
I had never heard of that. Is that so? Does mulch have to "age?"
billo
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Bill Oliver wrote:

We only use fresh chips for walkways and along fence lines to keep weeds down a bit.    Since we chip our own, we can do a batch that's just  -  long dead if we want to put it around trees.    New wood, especially pine has always been termed..................turpentiny......................not my word believe me. But no one uses it in garens.
Ma    
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When using new wood chip as mulch, nitrogen starvation may happen, this will weaken your plant and may cause dead to it.
Some plant(wood chip) contain chemical(allelopathy) that inhibit the growth of other plants.
Ageing will solve these two problem.
Regards, Wong
-- Latitude: 06.10N Longitude: 102.17E Altitude: 5m
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wrote:

Wong - I dig the latitude and longitude but altitude is 5 meters? Is that correct?
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Not able to understand your question. :-(
If you refer to is't the m in the 5m of my email signitures are stand for meter, I suppose it's. From what I notice, those places near sea are having lower value of m in the listing. But up to now, I donot check it up for confirmation.
Regards, Wong
-- Latitude: 06.10N Longitude: 102.17E Altitude: 5m
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If you plan to use wood chips around actively growing plants, it's best to let them sit for a year or so. The surface area of the raw wood chips begins to decompose and the microbes that do the decomposing need nitrogen to do their job. The nitrogen they use is not available to the plants. After a year or so, most of the surface area has a layer of decomposed material and decomposition proceeds more slowly.
Some people have had luck with mixing some nitrogen fertilizer in with the raw wood chips. I prefer to let nature do the work.
The more finely ground the material, the greater the surface area, the greater the problem. A certain highway department on the East Coast lost hundreds of thousands of dollars of trees and shrubs along highways when they used green-tinted pallet sawdust for mulch. Between the fine texture and the chemical preservatives, their plants were toast.
I find most people tend to use too much mulch. Mulching deeply may suppress weeds and conserve moisture, but it will also keep any but the heaviest rain from penetrating down to the root zone where it's needed. In areas with plentiful rain and poorly-drained soils, mulch can contribute to root rot and fungus problems.
-- Karen
The Garden Gate http://garden-gate.prairienet.org =================================================================="If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need." ^and cats -- Cicero ==================================================================On the Web since 1994 Forbes Best of Web 2002
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Maybe. I have noticed in the four months since I started this that the areas where I have mulched heavily and planted have *never* been dry under the mulch. When I noticed that the soil was always moist, even when it hadn't rained for awhile, I wondered to myself if I hadn't bought myself a fungus problem down the line. It's been raining in the afternoon for two weeks straight and I am seeing crops of mushrooms sprouting up through the mulch.
But... The plants seem to be thriving, and there are lots of worms and bugs and such in soil where I turned it, so I'm crossing my fingers and moving on.
billo
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wrote:

If you look hard and long enough you may find Jesus under there also! ;-)
John
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OH NO NOT FUNGUS AMOUNGUS!!!
Come on Mr. Science there's losts of data on the important relationships plants have with fungi. You've got a good thing going, worms are likely the best indicator of a healthy soil food web.
On Tue, 29 Jun 2004 01:33:56 -0000, snipped-for-privacy@radix.net (Bill Oliver) wrote:

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snipped-for-privacy@radix.net (Bill Oliver) wrote in message

It depends upon how thickly it is applied, and what material it is. Initially the fresh stuff goes through some heating as it ferments and some wide swings in Ph. This can be fatal to plants. Also there are a lot of volatiles like terpenes and such which are not plant friendly. Given a choice take the aged stuff.
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