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Cedar shavings in a home compost heap  RSS feed

 
              
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Just curious if that would be a good idea. I know people say not to use cedar planks for raised beds because something in the wood inhibits some plant growth.  Just wondering if putting the cedar shavings from my dogs bed in the compost would be a bad idea.

I can always toss them into the yard debris bin and let the local waste management company worry about it.
 
                
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Cedar is the preferred wood for outdoor construction because it resists decay.  In compost, you want decay, so cedar is a poor material for composting.  Red cedar more so than yellow cedar.
 
Joel Hollingsworth
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How long will it be until you use this compost?

If you're on a long-term schedule and won't turn it often, cedar shavings would help it retain loft (and so, good ventilation) longer. Shavings are thin, too, and I bet they break down completely after a while, especially if they aren't too concentrated.

They'd be excellent in a humanure compost system, for example, but many people make compost on a one or two year cycle for other reasons.
 
Brenda Groth
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oh hog wash..cedar is fine in compost.

we get horse manure/bedding mix from a farm..and they use cedar bedding for their horses and then there is the straw and hay in the mix as well as the horse manure..and it is some of the sweetest smelling most lovely compost you could get.

i'm allergic to cedar so i do have to be careful with it..it causes me breathing problems..but i still use it as it is so good in the garden !

when we put it down the first year..we even had a huge crop of morel mushrooms in it the following spring..
 
paul wheaton
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Brenda, I'm gonna see your hogwash and raise you a hogwash. 

Cedar is not fine in compost.  Well, in a way it is fine and in a way it is not fine.  Suppose you have two compost piles, one is a mix of manure and straw and the other is a mix of manure and cedar.  The first pile will compost fast and hot and when it is done it will look like soil.  The other pile will resemble poop covered cedar.

Cedar does compost, but it does it slowly.  Further, cedar duff is loaded with allelopathic stuff that makes growies sad.  So when you go to use that cedar loaded it compost it's as if it has some natural herbicide in it.  Some stuff will die, some stuff will get sick and a few things won't mind all that much.

I know that some people that keep horses refuse to use cedar because there is something in it that does something to the eyes of the horses. 

I think cedar duff is best used to mulch cedar trees.

 
Joel Hollingsworth
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Brenda Groth wrote: they use cedar bedding for their horses and then there is the straw and hay in the mix as well as the horse manure..and it is some of the sweetest smelling most lovely compost you could get.


Paul, I think that's the important point.

Everything in moderation. And I was assuming that david c had enough other stuff in his compost pile to allow good decomposition of the cedar, allelopathic chemicals and all.
 
                              
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Location: Inland Central Florida, USA
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I expect everything is a matter of scale, it is all relative.

I've had people tell me not to use cypress mulch around veggies because cypress is a kind of cedar and the cedar would kill the plants with the allelopathic chemicals and stuff.

Then again, I'd already have prefect success growing such veggies in cypress mulch as the media in hydroponics?!?!?!  So I won't buy it killing off the plants after composting for a year or two if straight mulch didn't kill my plants fresh.

However, I will support that cedar is a slow to rot wood and therefore won't promote fast hot composting.  If it is just a small amount of cedar shavings being sprinkled on a compost pile on occasion, it won't hurt your compost.

Another note about composting, from one place to the next, composting is likely to act a bit different.  One climate might be dry another wet and then the heat or cold will also affect it.  I get away with composting a lot of cedar and pine sawdust but I live in a climate that eats organic matter for a snack.  It is often hot and wet here so having some slow to rot stuff mixed into the rest is probably a good thing.  In a cool dry climate, cedar shavings might act more like fossils in a compost pile and would perhaps be better avoided.

Try it and see, it isn't like you can break compost, worst things that might happen would be 1-a pile that is too slow to compost or 2-a stinky pile that needs more carbon cover material.  Either way, it can be fixed.
 
paul wheaton
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I remember a patch of soil with a couple of inches of cedar + horse manure compost.  All of the plants looked pathetic and the owner of this patch insisted that nothing is better and the plants must be suffering from some other problem.  Her thinking was that some ninny had come through and accidentally sprayed her growies with herbicide. 

I think it is possible for cedar based compost to smell wonderful.  And I think it is possible that you can have a plant struggling in plain dirt and a sister plant in the same crap dirt mulched with cedar compost looking far better.  My point is that you could have a third plant mulched with good compost doing five times better than the plant mulched with cedar compost. 

If a person loves the cedar compost, I'm not gonna stop them.  Party on!  However, I choose to avoid cedar compost on my own stuff.  Except, maybe, cedar trees.

 
Brenda Groth
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well as i said it was a mix of cedar, manure, straw and hay..so there was a heavy mix in it..but i had really really great gardens when i used it..and plan to get some more of it this year..we weren't able to get it for a while as they had a buyer for it..but when we can get it free from them we do..

i always let it rot for a year before i use it..and i also mixed it heavily with rye straw..so that might be why it worked well for us? don't know..just know there was not any ill effects that i was aware of..(even though i am allergic to cedar..)
 
                        
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I don't think all wood is fine in compost.

I once had the "opportunity" of getting all the 50 year old sawdust I wanted from an old saw mill.

I hauled loads and loads of it.  It turned out to be walnut and it poisoned the soil.  It killed plants like lilies and was just plain poison.  Not good.
 
Joel Hollingsworth
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wombat wrote:
I don't think all wood is fine in compost.

I once had the "opportunity" of getting all the 50 year old sawdust I wanted from an old saw mill.

I hauled loads and loads of it.  It turned out to be walnut and it poisoned the soil.  It killed plants like lilies and was just plain poison.  Not good.


That's sad. If you had the same opportunity again, do you suppose you'd grow mushrooms?
 
Ken Peavey
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Cedar in compost is undesirable.  The resin in the cedar makes it smell nice, gives it resistance to decay, repels some insects (particularly fleas and moths), and has some allelopathic properties, not just to plants, but to the microbes in your compost heap. 

You can throw it in if you wish, its your compost and the stuff will decay eventually.  However, you should expect slow, cool decay, mediocre results in the crops grown in it, and continued similar results for several years.

Other species to avoid include walnut, cherry, chinaberry, mahogany, cyprus and teak, for most of the same reasons as cedar.

Options other than compost
-use the stuff as a mulch.  With the dog doo in there, you can let it sit in a heap of its own for a few months to let the doo decompose.  As a mulch, don't use it on your plants, but on an area where nothing is intended to grow.  A path to the moonshine cabin, perhaps, or maybe some brambles or creeping vines beside the shed.  Underneath the firewood stack is a fine use.
-burn the stuff.  Get the potassium/ash out of it and some heat use.
 
                        
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Joel Hollingsworth:  Would I grow mushrooms in walnut compost?

Id have to check out if that's a good idea.  I would think mushrooms like apple, poplar, or elm -- but them Im mostly familiar with morels.

Would you grow mushrooms in walnut sawdust?  I notice woodworms like it very much as evidence by their presence in my stash of walnut cabinet wood.
 
Levente Andras
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Question to Ken Peavey or anyone else knowledgeable about allelopathic properties of these trees:

I have not used wood chips / shavings / sawdust on my veg beds (although used plenty of Cypress & Pine wood chip on the paths between beds).  However...

I have structures made from raw Cypress logs near some of my plants.  The logs are from trees that were cut not very long ago (about 1 year) and still oozing resin.  So far I have not noticed anything amiss with the plants (most of them already established when the logs were placed there, others recently planted). 

Is there any risk in having the Cypress logs near plants?
 
Ken Peavey
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Different trees with allelopathic properties will have different effects.  There are plants which are immune to the pathogens and will grow right up to the trunk.  Living trees would be more damaging than logs, as they are still producing the toxins whereas logs only have a finite supply.  Logs are also dry and less able to move the stuff around.

I can not give you a list of what plants may suffer from exposure to cypress.  I have not studied the species.  I'm sure there is some information online, but for that, you'll have to do your homework.

 
Brenda Groth
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for two years..in a row..several years ago we used cedar animal bedding as a mulch on sevearl hundred square feet of perennial beds..about 3 " thick on the top around them..and it caused no ill effects, as a matter of fact, it seemed to make the soil super fertile..although we also did add some composted manure to combat any nitrogen robbing.

i really liked it as a mulch other than the color was bright for a few weeks until it faded..which i didn't care for, and i'm allergic to cedar so i had respitory problems while i was putting it on..but once it was down and wet i was ok ..seems to be the fumes or dust that bother me most
 
Susanna de Villareal-Quintela
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My business is to manage horse manure.  In all my years of horse manure management I have yet to find a farm that composts manure.  When people ask me about using "horse manure compost" I extend a couple of words of caution: 

    1)  "Horse manure" from today's equine facilities is more wood than manure by a ratio of about 85% wood, 8% uneaten forage, and 7% manure & urine.  You should expect lovely and poisonous mushrooms (unless you're really fortunate and get morels!).
    2)  "Horse manure" that has been sitting in a pile for a while (years) is NOT compost it is rotted manure that can vary wildly in nutrient composition.  Also, from within a single manure pile the top, middle and bottom of the pile have vastly different qualities.  Be careful.   
    3)  Expect weeds... lots and lots of weeds.

On a positive note, rotted manure and decomposing wood have some beneficial qualities, too.  Also, generally, the wood found in horse manure is pine.  Aromatic wood, hardwoods, walnut, maple, fruiting wood, etc are, typically, avoided for use as horse bedding due to their potential toxicity to equines. 




 
 
                          
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The names woods are marketed under can be misleading and confusing. Just in the name of accuracy:

The kind of cedar that some people say may be toxic is the kind used for shavings, which is Eastern Red Cedar, or Aromatic Cedar. It's actually not a cedar, it's a juniper - Juniperus virginiana.

Things like siding and shingles are usually Western Red Cedar, a different species, Thuja plicata. It's not a true cedar, either.
 
                                      
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Oblio13 wrote:
The names woods are marketed under can be misleading and confusing. Just in the name of accuracy:

The kind of cedar that some people say may be toxic is the kind used for shavings, which is Eastern Red Cedar, or Aromatic Cedar. It's actually not a cedar, it's a juniper - Juniperus virginiana.



Thank you for clarifying, Oblio.  I have an unlimited supply of Eastern Red Cedar, much of which I want to cut over the next few years, and was hoping to find a use for it, or a market for it.  Can I mill it into planks for cooking fish?  Cutting little planks for drawers and closets is an idea.  And it sounds like I can use it for paths, and maybe on the driveway.

Are there any guilds where it would be useful?  What about a blueberry/acid lovers guild?
 
Jimbo Mathews
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How about black walnut shavings? Just dumped out grandpa's old shop vac and it was FULL of black walnut and pine sawdust and chips. Tons more very finely ground in his shop all free for the taking. Right now my new compost pile is way heavy on the greens, pulsing with more maggots than I've seen in my life and smelling pretty ripe. Not sure I have enough mass to get enough heat to cook seeds so short of throwing in weeds these old wood shavings are my main potential source of browns to balance things out.
 
Matt Baker
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It seems there are multiple families of trees called "cedar" with allelopathic (make plants sad) properties. They come from the pine and cypress plant families. I've done a little research to clarify it but I'm not an expert so please correct me if I'm wrong.

Plants belonging to the genus "Cedrus" are part of the plant family (Pinaceae) which includes fir, hemlock, pine and spruce. True cedars are decay resistant and perhaps allelopathic.

Plants commonly called cedars actually belong to the "Cupressaceae" or Cypress family which include the Juniperus and Thuja genus. Common varieties of the Thuja genus are Western Red-cedar and White cedar, both commonly used in 'cedar' hedges. The Thuja genus of plants seem to be what Paul advises avoiding. Is this right Paul?

 
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