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Sawdust is inexpensive, readily available, and has many practical uses in the garden. It often gets a bad rap for "stealing" nitrogen from growing plants, but when used properly it can actually support the growth of your plants by helping to improve your soil. Sawdust can also be used to store crops, repel pests, deter weeds, and is handy for cleaning up accidental spills.
Using sawdust in the garden is not without its problems. Like other wood products, as sawdust breaks down and decays it locks up important nutrients in the soil - namely nitrogen. Spreading raw or "green" sawdust in the garden can lead to a nitrogen deficiency resulting in the malnutrition of your plants. Fortunately, there are a couple of ways around this:
Walnut, cedar, and chemically treated wood should never be used on garden plants, but may be suitable for soaking up spills or creating garden paths. To source sawdust in your area, check with local lumberyards and tree removal companies. Many will offer sawdust for free (or at least very inexpensively), especially if you're willing to pick it up and haul it home yourself.
Slugs can easily eat lots of you plant leaves. There are many types of slug deterrents, sawdust is one all natural option. This is a guide about sawdust to deter slugs.
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Have I made a major mistake in my flower bed? I just backfilled some holes in my flower bed with the sawdust and dirt from some ground up stumps from pine trees. The oldest of the stumps may have been five or 10 years old. The newest just three weeks old. I didn't think about the effect that the sawdust would have on the soil until I was about finished with the last hole which happened to be from a small cedar tree stump from about two years. At this point, I panicked and I decided to get some information on what effect this may have on the flower bed and any future plants. I had been piling grounded up leaves in this bed, so I have mixed them in also. I read you article about using sawdust in the garden. I am not feeling great about what I have done to my flower bed. Will I have to wait a year to plant? Will cow manure help?
Cedar is a type of pine. You should be ok.
As long as the bed is not next to the foundation of the house you are ok. You don't want termites.
I'm not sure anyone is really addressing the question you asked.
Most true gardeners will say not to mix more than a very small amount of sawdust in your flower/garden bed as it is slow to breakdown and robs nitrogen from your soil. Maybe the fact that most of the stumps were 10 years old may shorten the breakdown period but that is questionable. A small amount of cedar may not be a problem but still - there is still a breakdown period.
You may be able to add nitrogenous fertilizer and it may help it break down faster and give back to the soil some nitrogen. Then again, you may have to wait a year to plant your flowers.
I believe you should call or visit your agriculture agency and tell them what you have done and ask them for help. Google agriculture agency and your zip code for information. You may be able to get your soil tested and get recommendations on how to save your flower bed.
What? Can you elaborate on how cedar is a type of pine?
Cedar isn't a type of pine. Trying to learn about the relationships among plants by using common names is confusing. There are several trees called cedar that aren't closely related. If you're interested in the fascinating topic of botanical classification, you might audit a course at your local university or learn from a local botanical or native plant society.
Can I use any kind of saw dust on the garden or is some saw dust bad for it?
Here's a great article on ThriftyFun about sawdust and your garden:
I would not use it near the house. It could have or attract termites.
I use some saw dust in my garden/yard but I am careful about where it came from. I believe the garden sites say not to use saw dust from treated wood but here is an excellent site for lots of information (I love Mother Earth articles):
Can I use cherry sawdust around my berry plants?