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Landscaping & Design/use for ground up willow stump


QUESTION: I have a lot of garden space, peach trees, grapes and raspberries along with misc flowering shrubs. My mom had her globe willows removed and all that remains is the ground up stump. I was wondering if the mulch would be too high in acid for my garden? How could it be used? I don't want to throw it out. Will the three foot pile of mulch get diseased until spring when I can get a truck to place it around the garden?

ANSWER: Hello,

Any organic matter will increase soil acidity. Willow mulch would not make the soil more acid than other organic material.

The drier the pile is the less likely it will begin to compost. Place the pile on a crowned surface if possible, to drain water away at the bottom or place it over a gravel bed to drain water away. A composted or semi-composted mulch is still usable and is in a form that can be better digested by the soil.

During the process of composting a temperature of about 180F is reached and this kills harmful pathogens but in order to insure an even temperature throughout, the pile must be regularly turned.

Keeping the pile covered with a tarp would also help reduce the moisture content. There should be air gaps to keep down the condensation that will form since heat will increase under a cover.

Arrange the pile in a slope of about 45 degrees. This will shed water much better than simply laying it flat.

When wood chips decompose they deplete the soil of nitrogen. This is not so much of a problem with wood chips that are just sitting on the surface. To compensate for this nitrogen depletion use fertilizer or legumes (plants that contain nitrogen,such as beans,peas and lentils).

Mulch is mainly used for weed control and moisture retention and it can make a good organic fertilizer. Good luck. Let me know if I can be of further help.

Mark Harshman

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Will the ground up willow bark hurt my plants,shrubs, trees, grapes, raspberries, and strawberries if I place in down as a mulch to keep the weeds out? Is it too acidy (too much acid) for my garden and flower beds?


Mulch in storage will begin to compost to some degree and in order to avoid pathogens,odors and fungus,it should be properly managed by following the guidelines I mentioned.

The salicylic acid in the willow mulch will not harm your plants because not enough of it will leach out and the plants have a defense against excess acid by storing it in their tissues,isolated from their systemic (circulatory system). There is evidence that some salicylic acid,chemically similar to aspirin, is even beneficial to plants in that it repels insects. That is its primary purpose in plants.

The acid content of the willow bark will not substantially alter your soil pH. Simply treat it as any other organic material. You must balance organic and inorganic material,such as lime and calcium to achieve a pH right for your plants.

Mark Harshman  

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Design of landscape structures and design of planting arrangements in the landscape. I usually do not answer questions of a horticultural nature or about growing plants or gardening unless they are related to design. I will answer these questions at my discretion. I will answer maintenance questions at my discretion,usually when they are related to design. I am a landscape designer. I am not a contractor or a gardener. Although I will describe how something is built I do not provide detailed installation or construction instructions. Here are example categories of problems I can help you with: Design of residential walks,low walls,low retaining walls,fences,drainage systems,arbors,plant selection,xeriscapes (low water use landscapes),rain garden design,rain water harvesting,permeable paving,sustainable drainage. No advise on an architectural or engineering level. I DO NOT PERFORM ACTUAL DESIGN WORK THROUGH THIS SITE. I only provide suggestions and advice. For more comprehensive help check out my website at:


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