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Sweet Gum balls

 
Annastefka Bolton
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Hey Permies friends....I live in Georgia and have a ton of sweet gum balls each year. I know they must have a purpose. They break down slow and I don't have a mulcher. What is the best way for me to use all these sweet gum balls. I have thought about using them as a fire starter...I heat with wood. Any thoughts?
 
D. Logan
gardener
Posts: 562
Location: Soutwest Ohio
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Well, here is some interesting information about them: http://www.eattheweeds.com/sweet-gum-tree/

Other ideas might be to use them to create drainage at the bottom of your pots instead of stones or broken pots. Also, you might gather them in bulk and surround your gardens with thick piles of them to deter any of the softer footed animals from crossing them into the garden. I doubt it would bother deer, but just about everything else is disinclined to connect the pointed fruits to a tender foot pad.
 
Annastefka Bolton
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Wow....thank you. I just have that Permi idea that every plant that shows it's face to me....does so for a reason. I did not know about the connection with tamiflu ($125.00 for a treatment). I had the bad flu that was going around and ended up at the hospital. I told my kids...I'm getting too old for that....and I was worried that the next time I get the flu I might not be able to kick it. I think I'm going to add some of this and the elderberry treatment as part of a healthy living treatment. I am really surprised at how much alike the "ball" and the flu virus look alike.
flu virus.png
[Thumbnail for flu virus.png]
Flu Virus (is the sweetgum ball trying to tell us something?)
 
Alder Burns
pollinator
Posts: 1341
Location: northern California
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At one of the communities I lived at in GA, we put these into a tub for processing greywater, thinking that their large surface area would provide plenty of habitat for beneficial microbes. As I recall the whole thing was too small and quickly flooded over. Perhaps their use in an in-ground mulch pit, instead of woodchips, would have worked better. Gathering them for fire-starter would seem to be pretty inefficient, unless you have a situation where they could be raked up, without including too much leafy mulch, which would be better composted than burnt. I always used to consider it an achievement of a barefoot summer to be able to walk on them when they drop in the fall without puncturing my toughened feet !
 
Bryant RedHawk
gardener
Posts: 2002
Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
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I make sweetgum tincture with the unripe fruits like my ancestors did. I have four stunted (on purpose) sweetgum trees on my farm, I harvest the green stickerballs and chop them in halves. I then fill a quart mason jar with these halves, pack them down and then fill with corn whisky to cover, slap the lid on and wait for a month or so, when the liquid is as dark as it will get, I pour the contents through a big, fine mesh strainer into another quart mason jar, top off with fresh corn whisky and seal a new lid on. It keeps for several years in the dark. Every year we take a jigger of this tincture and mix it with ginger ale and drink it. No flu or colds since we started doing this about 10 years ago.
 
Jesse D Henderson
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I'm in North Carolina and have 5 sweet gum trees in my yard. Some are close to my house. I'm selectively cutting off branches, and I'm using the wood to grow shiitake mushrooms! Also, I have a low spot in my yard that has been collecting water. I'm planning on digging out the topsoil in the low spot (and use it for gardening elsewhere on my property), and I'll rake my plethora of sweet gum balls to fill the hole. I'll let you know how the "sweet gum ball hugelkultur" works out.

 
Ronnie Ugulano
Posts: 50
Location: Zone 9, CA
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If you vermicompost, redworms love these things! We once collected a bunch of these prickly balls (as we call them) and piled them up in the compost pile. The worms had a field day crawling in and out of the holes and generally using them as a jungle gym.
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