After pruning a living fence of Eastern White Cedar (Thuja), is there anything I can do with the branches? Are these prunings OK to use for mulch on young maple trees?
Mulch is typically made up of organic material spread on the soil surface to protect roots from extremes in temperature, conserve soil moisture, control weeds and as the mulch decomposes, it improves soil structure & fertility. Using mulch around trees also protects them from lawn mower damage if they are planted within an expanse of grass.
Cedar boughs can definitely be used under the base of trees. As with any mulch application under a tree, make sure the material is away from the trunk base, creating a doughnut hole rather than a mound around the trunk. The mulch should extend to the tree drip line and be 3-4″ in height.
Because Cedar decomposes relatively slowly, it is advisable to mix the cuttings with other organic material for composting before use. Shredding the boughs will also speed up the break down process. The resulting composted material can then be used as mulch in other areas of the garden too. This slow decomposition rate can be advantageous, in that repeated applications will be needed relatively infrequently.
Fresh cedar mulch, with little or no composting, may add acid to the soil and may create a problem if the soil already has a low pH level. This isn’t usually a consideration when the mulch rests on top of the soil but if you suspect an issue, it would be advisable to have a soil test done. Composting before use or adding lime to the beds periodically, can negate any potential Ph change.
Hopefully these suggestions will allow you to recycle the cedar branches to your garden’s advantage.