We have a couple of very large wild Autumn olives that we keep for fruit and one needed trimming this year because of some die-back. Some of it had decent little logs, and I wonder if the wood is good for anything such as tensile strength (handles/etcs) , mushrooms, or?
I have loads of autumn olive trees around me and I hate to say it, but they are not the most useful tree. They are a fairly soft wood so I would not count on their strength for much. They don’t burn very long so I would look to other woods for firewood.
All that being said, about the only thing I find them good for is rotting—and that can be a mighty fine option if you do it right.
I take my excess autumn olive and chip it up once per year. I then use those chips as a mulch which will last 2-3 years, or more recently I have inoculated them with mushrooms (wine caps) and converted them to a nice, crumbly, fertile garden bedding that has a much better tilthe than my dense, hard clay.
To do this I take a couple of packages of mushroom spawn, mix into a bed 6”-1’ thick of wood chips and cover with straw and water thoroughly and often.
In addition to this I planted tomatoes in fertile holes. The tomatoes help to shade the mulch and manage moisture. Further, I found that wine cap mycelium loves to wrap itself around roots, so I also poke a bunch of peas and beans into the bed. The peas/beans serve the following purposes.
1) they add nitrogen to the chips via their roots.
2) as they grow they add some shade for the growing fungi
3) fungi LOVE roots and really grow well when in contact with them. The plants benefit as well from the relationship.
4) when the peas/beans die, the plant matter will add even more nitrogen to the mushroom bedding
If you keep on adding in additional vegetable matter, the resulting mushroom compost will be a nice, fertile bed.
So while autumn olive is not exactly the most useful tree crop, it does make a good mulch and if you are willing to invest the time and energy, it can be a great substrate to make a wonderful mushroom compost in about a year or two.
I hope this helps and if you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask.
Yeah, I agree that the wood itself is pretty much just hugelbeet fodder. It is great as pollinator food, fodder and habitat for deer and wildlife, and it fixes nitrogen, making it really useful for soil-building in degraded soil. In addition, I would imagine that, in a temperate environment, the seasonal leaf-drop would be of ongoing benefit to soil generation, and chop-and-drop of prunings and whole trees likewise.
But I don't think it's my favourite thorny nitrogen-fixing tree. That honour goes to black locust, at least in theory.
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