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How to Use Fresh Hardwood Mulch

Fresh hardwood mulch has a woody smell that brings to mind fresh cut trees and the great outdoors. Before deciding how to use fresh hardwood mulch, it's important to understand how this type of mulch differs from mulch. Aged mulch has cured for six or more months to reduce the ability of the mulch to draw nitrogen from garden soil. In addition, aging mulch properly allows plenty of time for microbes, molds and weeds to die to prevent spreading to other gardens. Some landscapers use fresh hardwood mulch and experience no problems with trees, shrubs or flowers. Since there's no consensus on whether fresh mulch draws too much nitrogen from the soil, gardeners should amend fresh mulch with nitrogen to avoid any difficulties.

Locate a spot on your driveway or in your yard away from plants, shrubs and trees. This location will be your mixing bowl to creating usable mulch from fresh ground mulch.

Dump the pile of mulch onto the ground and turn over the entire pile. The mulch will have a fresh woody smell like new sawdust. Fresh hardwood mulch hasn't been cured to allow time for the wood to decompose. This process involves microflora that consume nitrogen to decompose woody materials. Cured mulch has gone through the process and as a result, nitrogen stores benefit the plant instead of the microflora causing decomposition.

Add nitrogen to the pile at a rate of 0.15 pound per 3 cubic feet. Stir this into the pile of mulch to promote the early stages of decomposition of the wood materials. Natural materials include manure, blood meal, soil or finished compost. These additives contain nitrogen at acceptable levels to promote the proper transfer of nitrogen to benefits garden plantings. Remember that we want mulch to provide nitrogen to the plants instead of using nitrogen to decompose the wood ingredients.

Allow the pile of mulch to sit for at least six weeks to age. This period of time might seem excessive but will allow the mulch pile time to compost slightly. Turn over the pile every four to five days to promote composting. This waiting period will also kill molds, fungus, disease, insect eggs and weeds in the new mulch.

Apply the mulch to your garden areas sparingly in a 3- to 4-inch layer as you would regular cured mulch.

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