Planting in Camphor Laurel saw dust and wood chips

DaveBraveJuly 22, 2014

Hi All

We recently had couple of very large Camphor Laurel trees removed from our yard. I would like to plant couple of hibiscus where the trees used to be but stump grinding left a lot of saw dust and wood chips that are now mixed in with the earth. I read that camphor laurel is toxic to other plants so wondering if I can plant into soil thats mixed with wood chips?


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Camphor laurel has been proved to NOT be allelopathic to other plants, and is commonly used shredded/chipped as a useful mulch.

However, it's undesirable to mix sawdust or chips from any tree into the soil, as its high carbon content robs the soil of the nitrogen needed to grow your plants.

It would be good if you could sift your soil as much as practicable to get rid of the worst, or replace that soil with clean soil from somewhere else in the garden, or add compost to the planting hole to provide some nitrogen.

It's not recommended to add nitrogen fertilser to any new plants when you first put them in the ground, because of possible shock or root burn. Once you see new growth, fine. But that won't be until Spring now!

    Bookmark   July 22, 2014 at 11:44AM
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I agree with Shax that by itself the camphor sawdust and chips are unlikely to exude anything toxic.
You don't say where in Australia you are? Or when you are planning on planting the hibiscus?
I'd also agree that too much of that material probably wouldn't be great but I assume you are planning on digging some holes for the new plants.
I'd simply rake up and put to one side (if you have room) as much of the chippings as is reasonable now, it won't compost in the soil as fast as straw or even pine chips. But it l will be a great surface mulch later and probably more termite-proof.

    Bookmark   July 23, 2014 at 2:22AM
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Thanks alison and shax for the information.
I am in Sydney. I have moved as much of the soil as possible to other parts of the yard that I dont intend to plant anything for now. But I have run out of other areas I could move more of it.

Ultimately i would like to plant hibiscus, pink jasmine and Happy Wanderer climber along the fence where the camphor trees were. The jasmine is in a big pot right now so no hurry to put that into ground for a while. Hibiscus is small and doesnt seem too happy in the tiny pot it came in and the happy wanderer is tube stock. I would like to plant both of them as soon as possible as they dont seem very happy in their pots. Do you recommend waiting till spring?

    Bookmark   July 23, 2014 at 7:01AM
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shaxhome for planting now, do you get heavy frosts where you are? If so, for the hibiscus, (unless it's H. syriacus), I'd wait until Spring maybe, but the 2 climbers should be fine in the ground now (well mulched).

Presumably you'll be putting something on the fence for them to twine/climb?

The Hardenbergia is a good, tough native.

Is the "pink jasmine" the invasive Jasminum polyanthum or the Oz native Pandorea jasminoides?

    Bookmark   July 23, 2014 at 2:00PM
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funnelweb(NSW Aust)

I did the same with a huge Jackaranda tree about 12 months or more ago after the remnants of cyclone Oswald split it in two. I had the stump ground and it left perhaps more chips through the soil than there was soil. I left it for a about 2 months and then planted a couple of Allamanda cathartica in the area into fresh, mostly composted soil (from the compost bins) after digging holes about twice or a bit more larger than the size of the pots I had the allamandes in. Through last summer's growing period they thrived.

    Bookmark   July 24, 2014 at 3:44AM
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Regarding the wood chip folks, I had a truck load dumped in my yard several years ago. I used it away slowly as it became beautiful as the years went by.

Always full of worms, not complete of course, we added potting mix in pots or dug it into soil in the garden.

I have another small load but will take the advice above while it is fresh. Pity we can't speed up the decomposing cycle hey.


    Bookmark   July 24, 2014 at 7:29AM
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funnelweb(NSW Aust)

Yeah, gardening, Nod, takes patience, something I sometimes lack.


    Bookmark   July 25, 2014 at 4:08AM
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arthurm(Sydney, NSW AUST)

Had the sad experience last august of having to remove the 50+ year old lemon scented gum after it was badly damaged in a gale. Those stump grinders produce a big mess, so I spread the sawdust and chips around the yard and even put some in the compost heap.
Didn't notice any really bad effects though re, the Nitrogen /Carbon thing on the one hand you hear that carbon is an essential part of good soil, on the other hand too much carbon depletes Nitrogen.
Maybe you should fertilise with high Nitrogen to get past these problems.

    Bookmark   July 25, 2014 at 4:46AM
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Thanks everyone for the advise. I will try planting in large holes with fresh soil and compost.

Shax, we get some light frosts but not heavy frosts in Sydney. Yes they are h. syriacus and Jasminum polyanthum. I wasnt aware that the jasmine was invasive as I bought it in bunnings. I didnt think they would sell invasive weeds.

    Bookmark   July 25, 2014 at 9:20PM
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arthurm(Sydney, NSW AUST)

Jasminum polyanthum will go rampant so do not plant it in a place where it will escape into the rest of the garden and then be hard to contain. Mine is surrounded by paths, the lawn and the house.
Worth growing and just coming into bloom and it will look and smell lovely for a month or so.

    Bookmark   July 25, 2014 at 10:05PM
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I'm going to have tonnes of woodchip soon as I'm getting rid of several large African Mahoganys. I use a lot of leaves and woodchips to protect the soil during the rainy season. It more than compensates for the small amount of nitrogen draw down. The trees provided a lot of the leaves I used but their chips will last longer. In any case, I've still plenty more Mahoganys (and other trees) to keep up a good supply of leaves. And the new piles of wood chip should keep me going a number of years as well. It's important to keep that organic cycle going.

(BTW Funnelweb, I finally got GW to change me back into an Australian male. Guess if you whinge enough .... "It's the squeeky wheel that gets the oil". My first squeek was back in January.)

    Bookmark   July 26, 2014 at 12:02AM
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funnelweb(NSW Aust)

Noted, Tropi...., thanks for that.


    Bookmark   July 27, 2014 at 4:25AM
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