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Regenerating Soils with Ramial [twig] Wood

 
T Phillips
Posts: 34
Location: Colorado Springs, CO zone 5A / Canon City, CO zone 5B
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While looking for information as to how to heal the alkaline, overgrazed, drought frequented, organic matter deficient, heavy clay soil on our homestead land, I found this interesting article on using chipped twig wood (smaller than 2.75" in diameter) from deciduous trees to help start dormant or missing processes. Here is the link: http://www.thesoilguy.com/SG/RegeneratingSoilsWithRamialTwigWood

I was disappointed to see that conifers are not to be used because their chemistry is not valuable in this treatment. We have only cottonwoods, scrub oak and tamarisk in the deciduous group, and I'm not sure the tamarisk should be used. All the rest of our trees are juniper, pinion and a bit of ponderosa. If anyone has used this treatment, particularly on a large scale, I love to hear about it. we have about 8 acres of non-rocky hillside to work with.
 
John Saltveit
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Posts: 2007
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Regenerating soils with ramial wood is a very well researched and proven technique. It kind of mimics what happens in a forest-limbs and trees fall and rot into the soil making it richer. We live in a suburban lot in a cool, wet acidic forest, but we have used it consistently.
John S
PDX OR
 
Su Ba
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Location: Big Island, Hawaii (2300' elevation, 60" avg. annual rainfall, temp range 55-80 degrees F)
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I've been using chipped branches and twigs as part of my mulch for ten years now. Between each crop the mulch gets lightly tilled in and fresh mulch is applied as needed to the next crop. Part of my reasons for doing this is to build soil. My soil was a very thin layer atop lava rock. When I started I had an average of 2" soil. It now averages 8"-10" in the main garden.

It has been a gradual ongoing project. I didn't try to do a quick fix because of the lack of input materials and lack of time. I do the labor all myself. So the wood/twig material was added gradually with light tilling frequently during the year.

Wood/twig material isn't my only mulch or input material. It is just part of the whole picture. But as I cleared some of my wooded area to make pasture, the branches were there, so I utilized them. I used all tree species, including conifers. Mother Nature uses them all, so I followed her example.

I have no experience with your type of soil, nor with trying to work with that much ground at one time. While I have 20 acres on the homestead, I only use about two acres for food production at this time. I'm gradually expanding the food production area, adding amendments and derocking as I go.
 
T Phillips
Posts: 34
Location: Colorado Springs, CO zone 5A / Canon City, CO zone 5B
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Thank you both for your timely replies. It would appear this is a valuable technique, but it seems I might have to scale back my intentions a bit. : )
 
Mike Haych
Posts: 227
Location: Eastern Canada, Zone 5a
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T Phillips wrote:I was disappointed to see that conifers are not to be used because their chemistry is not valuable in this treatment. We have only cottonwoods, scrub oak and tamarisk in the deciduous group, and I'm not sure the tamarisk should be used. All the rest of our trees are juniper, pinion and a bit of ponderosa. If anyone has used this treatment, particularly on a large scale, I love to hear about it. we have about 8 acres of non-rocky hillside to work with.


We use cedar, white pine but we let them sit for a year or more to allow leaching and decomposition to occur. We also add in some leafy deciduous material to help with the decay process. We've never had a problem.
 
T Phillips
Posts: 34
Location: Colorado Springs, CO zone 5A / Canon City, CO zone 5B
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Mike, do you use that cedar/pine/leaf combo as a mulch or till it in?
 
Mike Haych
Posts: 227
Location: Eastern Canada, Zone 5a
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I don't till anything in. Everything is applied as a surface mulch. In the edge between the soil and the mulch, there's a very diverse life zone that decomposes the mulch and draws it into the soil. Lots of red wrigglers, sow bugs, centipedes. The micro-population is probably even more diverse. I choose to do it this way because this is what Nature is doing on the forest floor. I just do more of what Nature does.
 
Tim Wells
Posts: 119
Location: Essex, England, 51 deg
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I use leylandii a lot and ph tested 6.5-7. I would use tamarisk for sure, that will rot down nice, cant speak for pines. Ph test under the tree mulch.
 
T Phillips
Posts: 34
Location: Colorado Springs, CO zone 5A / Canon City, CO zone 5B
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Thanks, Mike and Tim, for your input. I really appreciate everyone's time and experience.

Just found out one of the dogs has a serious kidney issue, so everything is going on the back burner for a while. But it is good to have this info for the future. Thanks again, everyone.
 
Miles Flansburg
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Here is a lecture that Paul and Jocelyn posted a while back, He talks a little about using wood to regenerate soils.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TRE2EEdI4x0
 
Dale Hodgins
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Location: Victoria British Columbia-Canada
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People pay me to gather my raw materials. Whenever I trim a deciduous tree or hedge, I chop up the smaller stuff with the hedge cutter and broadcast it on the garden. The ground is crawling with agents of decay. They don't bother the living plants.
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T Phillips
Posts: 34
Location: Colorado Springs, CO zone 5A / Canon City, CO zone 5B
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Miles and Dale - thanks for broadening my thinking. I've got to take a more relaxed attitude toward this. Something on the bare soil is better than nothing.
 
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