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What to plant after a stump is ground out?

 
pollinator
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Location: Lehigh Valley, PA zone 6b
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An ancient Japanese maple perished in our front yard to to veri.... vera....very bad wilting disease. We had it removed (I saved the wood for future projects), and the stump, about 3 feet in diameter, is being ground tomorrow. They’re going to backfill with wood chips, and I’m going to load it with compost and as much fungus as I can find. My question is what should I plant in that spot? Another tree will go there in the future, but it’ll be a year or three before it’s decomposed enough for that to have a good chance of success. Could be a short-lived perennial, some annual flowers or vegetables.... as long as it’s attractive. I was thinking about maybe an herb spiral.

Any ideas for something that might speed the decay of our dear departed maple?

Thanks,
D
 
pollinator
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Location: Toronto, Ontario
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Hi Daniel.

Fungi are your best decomposers. Winecaps are apparently the most forgiving wood eaters out there. Oyster mushrooms are likewise voracious, but I don't have a clear idea if one is better than the other in your situation.

To avoid the "I just had a tree removed" look some despise, I would look to fast-growing tall annuals. Russian Mammoth Sunflowers come to mind. I have grown them to over twice my height in Toronto, Ontario, so I think you might be able to manage it in Pennsylvania. There are other options, and you can do many tall annuals that can do a variety of things, from feeding pollinators and attracting predatory insects to growing sacrificial crops that drop seed on the ground at harvest for scavenging birds and growing pretty biomass for haylage, silage, or mulch.

You might also consider if your soil will support alfalfa and comfrey, and consider adding those. Comfrey is a nutrient hyperaccumulator, and alfalfa drops tap roots six feet or deeper and loves to break up hardpan. I could see the root systems following the dead maple roots down, opening the dead organic matter up to air and water, and accelerating the cycling of organic matter into soil.

Lastly, I would think about what will end up there ultimately. There is no point in transitioning to a prairie analog system (or microsystem) if you're just going to plant another tree there; it would make sense just to keep it in winecaps, comfrey, alfalfa, clovers, and sunflowers, or whatever will grow in pockets of soil in a mostly woodchip mix until there's enough former woodchip more easily recognisable as soil for you to plant your forest guild. You might, in fact, start with winecaps and your forest guild understory.

If, however, this spot is to become pasture, you might look to a prairie or savannah analog, including some of the grasses, big and little bluestem and indian grass, for instance, that you might not want to see in an intensive garden setting.

Please let us know how it goes. I would love to see pictures. Good luck.

-CK
 
Daniel Ackerman
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Location: Lehigh Valley, PA zone 6b
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Thanks Chris. I thought about doing edible mushrooms a little too late. Before we decided to grind out the stump, I’d planned on letting it decay, with a little help. I used an auger drill to bore about 30 huge holes in it (nearly breaking my wrist once or twice), and I stuffed the holes full of seemingly aggressive wild mushrooms I gathered from a neighbor’s dead tree. Toxicity is thus a worry. So, it will be further innoculated with more fungus, but it doesn’t seem like there’s much point in buying winecap spawn. It feels like an opportunity wasted. Oh well.

Alfalfa’s a neat idea. Comfrey too, but it’s a bit hard to get rid of once I’m ready to put in the new tree. We can definitely grow some sunflowers. I plant something resembling a hedge of them along our front fence line....mostly to detract from the sorry state of our fence. Heh heh. 2021’s project.

As I type this, I’ve got a plan coming together in my mind. I’ll make some sketches and put them up when I get a moment.

Cheers! And thanks again.
D
 
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Comfree
 
Chris Kott
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Location: Toronto, Ontario
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You could conceivably wrap the stump in a tarp and try to cook the life out of it, in an attempt to sterilise extant fungi. But winecaps and oysters are truly aggressive. If you mixed out the inoculant in grain or wood-based media and poured them into those holes afterwards, I have little doubt that they'd succeed in outcompeting everything else.

You could also do a slow drench monthly of actively aerated compost extract directly on top of and into the stump. This would speed things up as well.

Another thing you could do is to chip out a basin or bowl in the stump. If you sealed it, you could put a fountain in it, but I would use it as a garden bed and plant into it. The action of living things would also take care of the stump while obscuring it from view until it becomes soil for you to replant into.

-CK
 
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Location: Northern Maine, USA (zone 3b-4a)
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we also removed a 4ft. wide tree. a black willow. i added some compost then put down a perennial flower mix with some red sorba japenese buckwheat.  the flowers were nice but the red stalked , red flowered sorba were spectacular! buckwheat fixes nitrogen. if the seeds don't come back on its own, ill plant more. seeds were from rareseeds.com.
 
Daniel Ackerman
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Location: Lehigh Valley, PA zone 6b
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Thanks for input, everyone! It all became a big fat moot.

The tree service that took down the tree showed back up a few weeks later and ground out the stump. I’m left with a well-aerated mound of extremely hard wood chips and shavings, and some really clumpy mud. Could be worse. I dug a hole in it and gave the carcasses of our thanksgiving turkeys a decent burial (after they gave us three huge pots of stock). I’ve been dumping coffee grounds on it, and when I can get around to it, I’m going to shred up a bunch of leaves and add them, then top with more wood chips. I’m hoping I can keep the kids from compacting it. Not too much to work about now that the grounds frozen.

So now, the plan is to build a dry-laid stone raised bed around it, plant some deep rooted annuals for a year, then stick a tree in. It’s in our front yard, and I’m trying to decide which one. I’d like it to be productive, but also attractive. The removed tree was dramatic. It’s a tough decision.

D
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Daniel Ackerman
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Location: Lehigh Valley, PA zone 6b
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I unexpectedly ended up with 5 hours of free time today, so I went to spots I know and made a few trips in the minivan for some rocks. Here’s the result, and it’s not a bad afternoon’s work! Next step is to fill it in with shredded leaves and some mulch (from the tree that was removed), and then get some annuals or movable perennials in!

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