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Free mulch from the utility crew! (The good, the bad, and the ugly)  RSS feed

 
Dan Boone
gardener
Posts: 1770
Location: Central Oklahoma (zone 7a)
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forest garden trees woodworking
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The contractors who maintain a twenty-foot clearing under the power line easement across our property are here today.

The good: They have promised me at least one truckload of shredded trees later in the day, which I need so badly. Mulch to me is anything (mostly fallen leaves or dead winter grass) that I can rake together by hand. There's never enough. A big pile of shredded local tree branches will be amazingly useful. I'll be wheel-barrowing it all over the place for sure. First stop: the mucky path in front of my garden bench and largest raised bed. We're gonna be high-and-dry with no more squelchy feet while we transplant seedlings!

Also good: there aren't any trees I care about in the line of fire. This is an every-four-year event and the last crew was very thorough. Mostly they will be pruning newer growth off some huge Osage Orange trees this time around. Not only do we have (oh so many) more of those trees, but this crew seems to be very careful and professional about their work. They are giving haircuts, not cutting heads off.

The bad: My dogs do not enjoy their presence. They want to go outside and bark at the tree vandals. Probably, if not prevented, they want to stand directly under the bucket truck and bark straight up at the dude in the bucket dropping tree limbs on them. These are outside dogs; eventually I am going to have to let them out.

Also, the ground here is wet and soft, so the trimming crew may have to dump my load of shreddings in a less-than-perfectly-convenient place.

The ugly: It's too wet today, but they will be back in a few days with the backback sprayers full of toxic gick. I've seen the sprayer guys at work; it's not as bad as it could be. They mostly do point applications to tree stumps and new tree seedlings with a wand held close to the ground. Not a lot of potential for overspray. And I keep my plantings well away from this right-of-way for just this reason.

However there are maybe half-a-dozen new volunteer fruit and nut tree seedlings that I've identified in their target zone. If those seedling survive today's mechanical clearing activities (which I expect they will, they are very small and quite peripheral to the area of interest) I'm gonna have to get out there and do some rescue transplanting and relocation before the weather dries up and the backpack sprayers arrive.
 
Dan Boone
gardener
Posts: 1770
Location: Central Oklahoma (zone 7a)
193
forest garden trees woodworking
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The nice fellows on this Davey chipping crew really came through for me. One full truckload of shredded trees delivered exactly where I wanted it, no more than twenty feet from my container garden and tree nursery area (offscreen to the right).



These are hyperlocal chips, too; the shredder and truck was never out sight of this property while they filled it. And their toxic gick team wasn't even out today, they only work when it's dry. So there's no risk of herbicide in this load.



The driver apologized for the fact that their shredder is overdue to have its blades flipped and sharpened. It's true that these chips and shreds are many of them larger and longer than would be ideal; the heap is mix of lovely finger-sized stuff with longer chunks of the twiggier material, some of which is 18" long. But the longer stuff will be just fine for garden paths and mulching around trees.

In chatting with the driver, I learned that this particular crew counts itself lucky not to have had to take a single load of chips to the landfill on the current job. They much prefer to find volunteers like me to take their chips, mostly because it's just more convenient to drop the chips nearby once the truck is full. One lady in a town near me has gotten ten loads from them. That's a lot of wood chips!
 
John Polk
steward
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Location: Currently in Lake Stevens, WA. Home in Spokane
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Davey is a nation wide tree service company (U.S., and Canada).
They were here in my neighborhood last spring trying to get locked into the power company's annual trimming contracts. I chatted with the crew, and they seemed very friendly and professional.

You may also want to check out this permies thread http://www.permies.com/t/39157/mulch/Chip-Drop-Free-wood-chips which is about a nation wide free wood chip service.



 
Craig Dobbson
master steward
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Location: Maine (zone 5)
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Every time I pass a road crew chipping, I'll stop and ask them to drop it at my house. I'm usually closer than their dump site so I get a lot of chips every couple years. They only chips every couple years. They do mow the "grass" every year though.
As far as I know nothing here is sprayed except maybe giant hogweed. I do however find plastic and metal debris mixed in with the chips from time to time. I suspect that it's roadside trash that gets picked up as the crew works along the road. One time there was a huge chunk of steel that must have broken off of a tractor attachment or something. Weighs like 30 pounds. I'll find a use for it someday. Right now it's holding down a tarp.

I've added lots of the chips in the paths of my gardens and along the walkways to the house and animal shelters. They are also great for bedding in animal shelters depending on what's being chipped.

 
Kelly Smith
Posts: 704
Location: In a rain shadow - Fremont County, Southern CO
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we have the cell phone numbers of the local tree cutting foremen in our area

in my area, it seems they are having no problem finding places to dump chips. they mention they havent had to pay to dump them in a LONG time.
so naturally i rewarded the guys with some beer when they are able to deliver chips.

as Dan said - i have had the guys drop chips in the perfect spot . . . like in the cow yard. saves 10+ trips with the wheelbarrow/cart.


the other day, my wife stopped the chippers after they had just left our house ~ 5 mins earlier, lol. they mentioned they just came from here
 
Dan Boone
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Posts: 1770
Location: Central Oklahoma (zone 7a)
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forest garden trees woodworking
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We've had lots of warm weather and heavy rains since this pile was delivered. Today I was digging into it and was surprised and delighted to find it full of fungal growth already -- the same white powdery spots and threads (mecelium-looking) that you find in damp layers of forest leaves and duff.

I didn't know I was getting a mycelium mine, but I'll take it!
 
Dan Boone
gardener
Posts: 1770
Location: Central Oklahoma (zone 7a)
193
forest garden trees woodworking
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I got another load today!

Astonishing as this may sound, the old pile was reduced by half to two-thirds in the four months since I got it. I've been screening it to make fine mulch for my container garden, using it by the wheelbarrow-load to suppress weeds on pathways and fill in mud-holes, and distributing it in my orchard area as I find the energy. It's also been very wet, so there's been a lot of decomposition and compaction going on in the pile, which reduced its size considerably.

About two weeks ago, the Davy Tree guys were on the property with clipboards. These guys looked like supervisors or inspectors, and said they were checking the work of the earlier crews. I said "tell your guys I could use another load" not thinking anything would come of it. (The trucks I've seen lately have been working several miles away.) The white-hard-hat guys assured me they'd pass it on.

No chips appeared, and I was not surprised. Then today, suddenly, here's a truck. Turns out it's the very same crew that dropped the last load, and they did get the word, but they've had an easier closer place to dump chips. Until today, which is the first clear day after three days of epic rains. They were getting stuck at their current chip-dump site, and remembered that my site had driveway access of a sort. So here they are!

The good: This load of chips is much finer than the last load, which was winter wood broken up into a lot of finger-sized chips and shreds up to a couple of feet long. This stuff is full of green leaves and wood fines, more like sawdust. Lots of green mixed with the brown, it's much richer stuff and much more mulchy in texture than the last load. It's going to be a lot easier to use, with a lower nitrogen demand as it breaks down.

The bad: It's a wet green/brown mix that's well-aerated; it wants to compost and was already hot to the touch when it came out of the truck. That's good in the long run but I'm going to have to watch it closely to make sure it doesn't catch on fire.

The ugly: This batch isn't hyperlocal; I didn't see the guys cutting the trees that went into it, as I mostly did with the previous batch. This batch, I don't know for certain comes from unsprayed areas, the way I did with the first batch. However, we got more than five inches of rain in the last three days; whatever they were cutting and chipping today was at least well-washed. I'm not too worried. But I definitely am starting to feel that queasiness others have reported about bringing unknown inputs into my systems.

Still, I'm delighted. I had been looking at my dwindling pile and thinking "This winter when it's cool enough to work, I'm going to be spreading this stuff like mad and there's a risk of running out." Now, I think I'm set for the 2016 growing season.

I wasn't in a position to tip these guys in cash, but I thanked them nicely, told them how much good the chips were doing my garden, and gave them a big handful of fresh thumb-sized Juliette salad tomatoes. They exclaimed cheerfully among themselves in Mexican about the tomatoes and stored them carefully away in their various pockets, which I am choosing to interpret as a positive reaction.
 
Sheala Heala
Posts: 15
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It is so nice to have fellowship with other tree truck mulchers!

I don't think many people in my city take advantage of these filled trucks because every time I've called my favorite driver they want to bring more than one load. I've had four Asplundh truckloads of chips dumped on top of my front-lawn-being-converted-to-woodland-wildflowers in the past year, and would have more except my husband has all kinds of nature phobias so the piles must disappear as quickly as possible. I do the vast majority of the spreading and he will come out to help just because it hurts his pride to see me working so hard! We MUST wear respirators! We should wear goggles too. The woody loads aren't so bad, but the leafy ones seem to start composting as soon as they get into those trucks. I take care not to pile it on thick around trees and on their drip lines.




These pix are a month old now so the areas have since been completely covered. These images were from a post I made on garden.web (houzz) about "removing" Bermuda grass. the thread on gardenweb about removing Bermuda grass

I've done this at previous homes, suffocating/steam-cooking the majority of the grass under heavy mulch in mid summer and then easily yanking up whatever survives in the fall and next spring.

 
Well behaved women rarely make history - Eleanor Roosevelt. tiny ad:
learn permaculture through a little hard work and get an acre of land
https://permies.com/t/59706/permaculture-bootcamp-boots-roots
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