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Breaking down Leyland cypress (leylandii) chips

 
Posts: 8
Location: Piedmont, NC, USA
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I've recently received about 10 cubic yards of leyland cypress wood chips (from a free chip drop from an arborist). I've been spreading wood chips to build my soil, rehabilitating about 1/2 acre of nearly-pure clay, and I was excited for the big chip drop until I started reading about how slowly cypress breaks down (one site says "more than one human lifetime", though it's unclear if that refers to chips or logs). Three questions,

1. Does anyone here have experience with breaking down cypress chips; how long did it take?

2. Any tips to speed decomposition? Previous posts suggest adding nitrogen (yep, I pee daily) or mushroom spawn. Any specific mushroom species you'd recommend?

3. Given the source (residential area in NC) the cypress was probably afflicted by cypress canker disease. Should I be concerned about this spreading to other tree species? (The wikipedia article on cypress canker suggests only cypress, cedar, and juniper are affected, but wanted to verify if others have had adverse experiences with disease from free chip drops...)

Thanks!
Rob
 
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Never noticed a problem with it. Some of our loads have been leylandii.

Here in the UK we have a pretty wet climate which helps.  Our chips are mostly used on paths and need topping up every year
 
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Our Leyland cypress wood chips took about a year to completely decay. We got them from the arborist who was cutting back around power lines for the utility company. It was a mix of leylandii leaves and branches ranging from fine pieces to large shreds. Before I spread them on the ground, I first threw down a cover crop of wheat, oats, winter peas, Daikon radishes, and crimson clover. Then I covered the seed with aged manure from our old goat barn. The chips covered that.



Our cover crop began to sprout a week later.



The chips were mostly decomposed when I planted the next fall cover crop. I just went out to check and can find no trace of the leylandii chip mulch 16 months later.

We used a lot of manure, so that obviously helped. The other thing that helps decomposition is mycorrhizal fungi. Mycorrhizae love wood chips. These fungi need living roots, however, so if you haven't already planted one, maybe a cover crop would help.
 
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We've tried using logs from an old hedge as posts, they rotted pretty fast like 2-3 years to rot through enough to be useless, so I don't think you'll have any issues with chips.
 
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Leylandii cypress is not structured like Bald Cypress (the one that you see in swamps and lake borders, which is very rot resistant), Leylandii is closer in wood structure to redwoods.

I noticed that those who mentioned theirs broke down in a year were setting up a nearly perfect fungi environment so it would be natural that the lignin of those chips would break down rather quickly from the enzymatic actions of the fungi.

Any of the wood rotting fungi will work here, jew's ear, lion's mane, Shitake, etc. will work for breaking down Leylandii wood.
Slurries are the easy way to inoculate any wood chips, just blend up, dilute and pour where you want it.

Redhawk
 
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I have always tried to separate fast rotting chips from those that are very durable. The durable stuff goes on pathways and the quick stuff goes on the garden. Not so easy to do if they deliver a big load that is a mixture of whatever was cut that day.

Chicken manure has proven an excellent way to break them down quickly.
 
Robert Werth
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Location: Piedmont, NC, USA
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Leigh Tate wrote:Our Leyland cypress wood chips took about a year to completely decay. We got them from the arborist who was cutting back around power lines for the utility company. It was a mix of leylandii leaves and branches ranging from fine pieces to large shreds. Before I spread them on the ground, I first threw down a cover crop of wheat, oats, winter peas, Daikon radishes, and crimson clover. Then I covered the seed with aged manure from our old goat barn. The chips covered that. Our cover crop began to sprout a week later. The chips were mostly decomposed when I planted the next fall cover crop. I just went out to check and can find no trace of the leylandii chip mulch 16 months later.



@Leigh Tate - This is really useful, and sounds like a great plan. What was the approximate ratio of chips to manure?

(It's a little late for me to put down a fall cover crop (daytime temps typically 45-50, nighttime often 30-35) so I might just have to rely on whatever is on the ground now. Fortunately we have ladino clover on much of the target area already.)
 
Leigh Tate
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Robert Werth wrote:What was the approximate ratio of chips to manure?

(It's a little late for me to put down a fall cover crop (daytime temps typically 45-50, nighttime often 30-35) so I might just have to rely on whatever is on the ground now. Fortunately we have ladino clover on much of the target area already.)


Oh gosh, Robert, I'll have to make a guess. And probably add a little more information because we did have other sources of carbon involved.

The area we targeted was a strip of next to the garden where we'd planted fruit trees years before. It had been growing sorghum-sudan grass (and weeds!) all summer for hay. I broadcast the seed mix first, and then my husband cut the grass with our mulching mower to cover the seed.



It looks like it's been tilled, but it hasn't. The brown is the sorghum-sudan grass that dried out very quickly.

Then the manure. It contained quite a bit of old straw. I tried to pretty much cover the area with about an inch of manure.



Then the chips, as in the picture I already showed you. If I had to guess, I'd say it was roughly 40% manure and 60% wood chips plus the other sources of carbon I mentioned. Still heavy on the nitrogen and not a very scientific way to do it. It was an experiment, and I just used what I had!

I agree it's not a good time of year to plant, but that that often seems to be the way of it. We do what we can, when we can. That ladino clover is a plus. Every little bit helps!
 
Robert Werth
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Location: Piedmont, NC, USA
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Thanks, all, for this extremely useful information. Looking forward to building our fungal communities...

Rob
 
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id seed those chips with urine/ manure over the winter . by spring it would be ready to be seeded with whatever cover crop you want.
 
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