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How to mulch with larger wood without using a chipper-shredder machine?  RSS feed

 
Kay Gee
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Our farm is on very small road and no wood chippers in this area (not common in this country).

I usually take large branches, diameter 3-20cm, and remove smaller branches and break it all up. then the bigger wood, if not suitable for mushroom growing, i often just bury or place in the deep trenches i dig for irrigation (not enough to block it).

I mulch heavily but problem with tropical regions is non wood type stuff decomposes so fast that it isnt suitable for weed protection, but still good for plant/soil health.

i think if i can find way to use actual thicker wood pieces i can more effectively mulch for weeds. anyone have ideas? right now i am using plastic weave fabric which is nice but i prefer not using plastics and having lots of non renewables on the farm.
 
Guy De Pompignac
Posts: 192
Location: SW of France
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What about making biochar out of wood ?

It surely work to build soil as ramial woodchip. But maybe it can make a great mulch (functionning like a rock mulch ?). I never heard of such use but i'm not an expert ...
 
Matu Collins
Posts: 1976
Location: Southern New England, seaside, avg yearly rainfall 41.91 in, zone 6b
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bee books chicken forest garden fungi trees
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It's incredibly labor intensive but I used loppers and a friend or two to break down a pile of branches without a chipper.

Last hurricane season and winter each had storms here in New England that ravaged our trees. Lot of big old trees came down (and part of my barn blew off)- a lot of mulch and nurse trees, a lot of new sunlight coming through.

Lots of piles of branches. Invasives are such a battle around here that we can't leave piles, it has to go away. I'm getting great results from the hugels I built in the spring, but so far they are labor intensive.

Mulch is what I need. An army of people chopping branches one at a time?

I wonder what this upcoming hurricane season and winter will bring
 
Alder Burns
pollinator
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Location: northern California
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I have had good result laying branches and sticks in my pathways that I walk on in the gardens. Sticks and limbs laid out flat, in contact with the soil, will begin to compost quickly in a humid climate. By the time a year or two goes by, they are broken up and half composted and I rake them up into the planting beds to either side. I mostly did this in Georgia. Here in CA in this drier climate hugel beds seem to be a better idea, and any larger sticks are valuable as firewood....
 
Alder Burns
pollinator
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Location: northern California
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I would imagine that rough slash could work as a topcovering for cardboard and other sheet mulch. You need a dense smothering effect for weed control, such that coarse sticks won't provide, unless they are very deep. I've also used brush around new trees to prevent chickens from scratching too close to the stems....
 
Kay Gee
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Sorry one thing i didn't understand was what is a "hugel".

Sounds like some have similar weather as were, seasonal wet/dry season with incredibly bad storms and also a big bag exotic weed problem. Mikea I am especially at odds with.

I havent thought of biochar before, I like it and will add it for soil, but i dont think it would work better than raw sticks because same problem arise with labor and making it small.

I have had good result laying branches and sticks in my pathways that I walk on in the gardens. Sticks and limbs laid out flat, in contact with the soil, will begin to compost quickly in a humid climate. By the time a year or two goes by, they are broken up and half composted and I rake them up into the planting beds to either side


I have also start this, works good. but like mention above i think wood sticks are not enough because weeds grow through the spaces easily. on our farm we can have it flat plowed and brown and in 1 month the entire thing, including up to 15' trees, will be literally covered in weeds. mostly vines, grasses and a few night shades and legumes. Sometimes i wonder if our soil is a good percentage seed by volume.

right now in very important spots we use a good quality black plastic weave sheeting that holds up in the sun for years (8 and counting). but even that some plants grow right through it. plants are amazing.


i am hesitant about using things like cardboard because this country has very poor record for pollution and contamination. thats the entire reason i am farming now, to eat clean. but slash is what i normally do. i practice the "slash and mulch" system religiously and my other farm went from anaerobic clay farm that would dry and could not even get the shovel depth in. now there is 1-2 feet of quality soil you can dig with your hands and also a good 3-12 inch layer of composting organic stuff. very lovely dirt now and it smells so good. but that was accomplish by letting weeds grow and i mow them down, for 5 years. this farm is veggie farm too and cant let weeds do that here.

but i do notice even a solid compacted 1 meter layer of dead grasses and weeds, leafy wastes, they are rotted and growing weeds in about 3-4 months, very rapid. This why i think wood may be my answer, at least take a few years.



i just found another option, and looking for opinions. here when storms come (this season now) there are lots of trees down, landslides etcs. people here take big trucks and collect them and often make sawdust for industry. I am wondering, these trees mostly being park, street, mountain or farm trees, would that sawdust be appropriate for my purpose? or should it really be chips with bigger air pockets? I was also wondering if you think there would be high levels of pollution in the trees, lots of heavy metals float around here in sprays. If you guys think this would be good, i can at least get this. not cheap but hopefully well suited?
 
Guy De Pompignac
Posts: 192
Location: SW of France
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Kay Gee wrote:
I havent thought of biochar before, I like it and will add it for soil, but i dont think it would work better than raw sticks because same problem arise with labor and making it small.


I've not done it yet, but i think you can char quite big piece of wood, and then it is much more easy to break
 
Miles Flansburg
steward
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Location: Zones 2-4 Wyoming and 4-5 Colorado
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Kay, here is a link to some threads about Hugels, It is basically piling up the wood and covering it with soil.

http://www.permies.com/forums/f-117/hugelkultur
 
Kay Gee
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OK, thank you that makes sense. the hugel method is how i have been farming for a while. this farm i have been using banana trees and the odd woody thing. Banana isnt very woody so it breaks down faster than i would prefer, but it' whats available.

Next step will be chainsaw, i decided to use larger logs along bed rows and grow mushrooms.
 
Guy De Pompignac
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Location: SW of France
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Dont get it ... i though you would like t use this wood to supress weeds, how hugerkulture does that ?
 
Miles Flansburg
steward
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Guy, sorry to derail the weed suppression thoughts. In the post above Kay had asked what a hugel was so I just showed her that. Not for weeds per say but for her knowledge.
 
Kay Gee
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I am not using wood to suppress weeds, i am using it to fill trenches and line beds. overtime it will compost nicely. i also put some under beds when i dig them.

Right now i have completely covered the raised areas with banana leaves, which will probably only last a month, and from there i think i am going to use straw/grass. a test spot of sawdust has just shown serious rot, fungal and bacterial, after 2 days...so i think not good for vegetables?

here is a picture before i did the wood. this the idea of our beds. the trenches will fill with stuff for composting and they also go deep to allow more water to soak in and retain. this was result from our first farm after trying many different ways. with flooding and dry, this worked well with constant mulching. but weeds were still huge problem

 
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