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Fuel wood, whats the best to grow?  RSS feed

 
Thekla McDaniels
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There are so many variables, climate, rate of growth, other benefits (alders and russian olives are both nitrogen fixers, I think), fruit trees? Trees that are coppiced or pollarded and generate poles and posts, bow wood, and I don't know what else! I know the ginko and linden provide medicinal herb material and tea and salad, but how do they burn?

I still have room for trees at my place and just don't know what to plant.
 
Tyler Ludens
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Our native Live Oak coppices well - is there an oak native to your region? I would definitely also plant Osage Orange.


https://www.permaculturereflections.com/top-10-fuel-trees-for-zone-5-and-above/

http://tcpermaculture.com/site/2013/12/03/permaculture-plants-osage-orange/

 
Thekla McDaniels
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We do have an oak that grows in the region, but it is scrubby and very slow growing.

But it looks like osage orange would be great. I have a common fence with a neighbor, and I could plant OO along it and though their sheep would probably eat the leaves, a couple of sources say even goats don't eat the bark. It looks like OO has beautiful wood too.



thanks Tyler
 
Guerric Kendall
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Have you looked at poplars? Some people discourage them because they don't produce the same amount of BTUs as hardwoods by volume, since everyone looks at things by cord. But if you consider them by weight, they do very well.

http://www.hybridpoplars.com/heat.htm

There's a bit of competition with paulownia, but for cold climates, they're probably the best tree for coppicing, regrowing without replanting, fast new growth, and a nice size that can fit into an easily manageable plot. Of course you can probably decrease the necessary trees if you have an RMH, or just a good efficient stove.
 
S Bengi
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Location: Massachusetts, Zone:6/7, AHS:4, Rainfall:48in even distribution
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I think most trees have the same conversion rate for sunlight if given optimal conditions. Some are less dense and occupy more volume (seem to grow faster), others are less dense and so seem to grow slower. When we don't have optimal conditions there is huge difference in growth rate. aka if the soil lacks nitrogen, then legumes will grow faster. If the soil is high in sodium, then salt tolerant plants will grow alot fast. Others are temperature dependent, the growth rate of oranges in zone 11 is alot faster than in zone 8/7.

Overall I would say that nitrogen fixers are the best, they unlock one of the biggest limiters.....nitrogen, and they are relatively drought tolerant.
 
Mike Cantrell
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Location: Mid-Michigan
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The only exception I know of to the rule the "dense woods grow slowly and fluffy woods grow quickly" is black locust.

I'm planting mine in the next couple months.
 
steve bossie
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Location: Northern Maine (zone 3b-4a)
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i second the black locust! its got higher btus than sugar maple. can grow 30ft. in 15yrs. regrows when cut. i planted 3 4in. bareroot black locusts in my crappy, poor , rocky soil last early may. by frost time in early oct. these trees were already 7ft. tall! i didn't even fertilize them! and I'm in zone 3b! imagine in warmer climes! they have very thin small leaves so you can grow other things under them and they're nitrogen fixers so they richen the soil around them as they grow.
 
Andrew Parker
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Location: Salt Lake Valley, Utah, hardiness zone 6b/7a
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I would recommend looking around at what grows in your area. Higher altitudes stunts the growth of many trees. My father planted a maple in our front yard in the early 60's. Forty years later, it was barely 12 inches in diameter and about 15 feet tall. My brother's in-laws from Massachusetts were visiting and thought it was only a few years old.

In this part of Intermountain West, the trees that grow more or less quickly are poplars (poplar, aspen, cottonwood) and box elder. I have not seen osage orange here, but that is probably because early settlers were not familiar with it. Though not nearly as fast growing as poplars and box elder, and never as big, scrub oak, choke cherry, rocky mountain maple, bigtooth maple and western river birch will grow fairly quickly with irrigation. As a side-benefit, you can vacuum tap the fresh stumps of box elders, or most any maple, and birches in late winter/early spring to make syrup. The leaves of poplars make good forage, early in the season. Aspen is prone to disease in the lower valleys, even with irrigation.

Russian olive and siberian elm both do well in the suburbs here and there is a lot of russian olive in rural areas used in windbreaks.
 
steve bossie
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Location: Northern Maine (zone 3b-4a)
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thornless honey locust is also a fast grower with a fairly dense wood like the blacks . theres some the town put in 15yrs ago lining main street. they're 25-35ft. with no aftercare other than a ton of road salts sprayed on them by the snowplows in the winter. the edges of the roads are really gravelly so id imagine they would do well in a sandy , more arid area with some mulch and irrigation. they coppice also and fix nitrogen like the black locust. they have small leaves that turn a bright yellow in the fall. they are more cold hardy than the black locusts. they are also more readily available than the blacks. white birch grows like crazy up here but it is a water loving tree and the wood doesn't burn much better than poplar. red oak is pretty drought tolerant and grows pretty fast but doesn't coppice as far as i know.
 
Thekla McDaniels
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so, locusts and the list of intermountain west natives "scrub oak, choke cherry, rocky mountain maple, bigtooth maple and western river birch will grow fairly quickly with irrigation." I have irrigation and light sandy soil, 'young" soil with lots of minerals, says the local extension guy, but all the people in the region who raise goats say the soil is mineral deficient. Maybe when those mycorhizae get going...

anyway, I just wonder about "vacuum tapping", and about aspen in the valleys. Do birch in the valleys have as many problems as aspen? I planted 3 "aspens" a few years ago. One died, one was not an aspen and the other is now 15 tall and I think has a few side aspen coming up. The one that was not an aspen may have been a birch. I cut it down, but think it is likely going to put up at least one shoot this year.
 
David Livingston
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I think it might be an idea to define Best
For me oak is hottest chestnut easiest to Cleve ash to burn ( green or treen fit for a queen ) willow fastest etc
And the stuff I collect from the park well that's free !

David
 
Thekla McDaniels
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C'est vrai mon ami! It all depends on what a person't priorities are as well as the local growing conditions!

Funny, I started in French, and wehn I switched to English, then all the words that were not also French were highlighted as misspelled. When there was more English than French, then all the French words were underlined. No Franglish allowed by the spell checker!
 
steve bossie
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from what i read and from talking to others from other states the hybrid poplars seem to grow everywhere in all but the most severe conditions. but the wood is light and burns fast! in the extreme north east here, we average 6-7 cord per winter of maple-beechnut mix which is more than double the btu's of hybrid poplar. so its not viable for us to burn. but someone in a warmer climate might be able to get away with it as they won't need to burn as much. our native quaking aspen grow REALLY fast and from what I've heard hybrid poplar grow even faster. it dries faster than other hardwoods and is easily split with minimum effort w a axe. you can't do it easily with beech or maple. so i agree it depends on your needs.
 
Andrew Parker
pollinator
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Location: Salt Lake Valley, Utah, hardiness zone 6b/7a
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Once aspen is established, it is very hard to get rid of, even if the trees are scraggly and diseased. River birch also grows in clumps or thickets. You would know it is western river birch because the bark is dark red.

My parents had tall healthy aspen on their suburban lot on the bench in Bountiful (at about 5,000 ft), as did most of our neighbors. When I moved to the bottom of the valley, around 4,200 ft, most of the aspen I have seen are scraggly and prone to disease. They seem to do better on the north east side of homes.

Besides box elder, I have maple (mountain, bigtooth and Norway), and a variety of scrub oak. With any of the scrubby trees, if you plant in a row, say along a swale, you would end up with a long thicket of seedlings and suckers with a single trunk or cluster dominating at regular intervals. where you cut down a tree, another will grow to fill the space, whether from the stump, the root clone or a separate seedling, depending on species and variety. Aspen, river birch and scrub oak often grow in clumps that sucker out like a single organism. The largest living organism, Pando, is an 80,000+ year old aspen stand in Central Utah.

I got the list below from Utah State Universlty's Tree Browser, searching for "firewood". There are other trees that would make good firewood, but whose wood may have greater value for other uses. Many of the other trees mentioned in this discussion are described at that site.

Apple
Malus pumila

Birch, Water or River
Betula occidentalis

Cliffrose or Quininebush
Cowania (Purshia) mexicana

Honeylocust
Gleditsia triacanthos

Juniper, Utah
Juniperus osteosperma

Maple, Canyon or Bigtooth
Acer grandidentatum

Maple, Tatarian
Acer tataricum

Mesquite, Honey
Prosopis juliflora

Mountain-mahogany, Curlleaf
Cercocarpus ledifolius

Mulberry, Red
Morus rubra

Oak, Gambel or Scrub or Rocky Mtn. White
Quercus gambelii

Osage-orange
Maclura pomifera

Pine, Mugo or Swiss Mountain
Pinus mugo

Pinyon or Colorado Pinyon
Pinus edulis
 
Thekla McDaniels
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Thanks for that great resource. I'm so near Utah, seems like what's true there will be true here.
 
Hans Quistorff
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I think It should be pointe out that fuel wood for a RMH is the inverse of what is used for a box heater. The main reason hard woods are prefered is they burn slower with less volatiles making high flames and produce more radiant heat from the burning carbon.
RMH on the other hand is burning volatiles and storing the flame heat in the mass to be radiated later. Therefor the ideal fuel for RMH is high in volatiles and low in ash and high non volatizing carbon is undesirable. Observing the burn characteristics of wood I have available The popular which is considered undesirable because it burns so hot and fast should be best for RMH and it leaves very little ash.  The certified stove i am using right now has secondary draft tubes under the smoke shelf to burn the wood smoke. For it to work properly I need to operate it with light weight volatile wood with high flames until the secondary air tubes and smoke shelf is hot enough for secondary combustion.
I can load it up with hard wood for a longer burn after it is up to temperature but I have noticed that when active flames stop the smoke shelf cools down and secondary combustion is not complete the smell of unburned hydrocarbons is much stronger when I go up the hill to get more wood.
This is cross posted from Paul's experiment https://permies.com/t/59974/heat-montana-home-winter-cord#517678
 
Thekla McDaniels
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Hans Quistorff wrote:I think It should be pointe out that fuel wood for a RMH is the inverse of what is used for a box heater. The main reason hard woods are prefered is they burn slower with less volatiles making high flames and produce more radiant heat from the burning carbon. 


Hi Hans,
This is a little confusing to me, and maybe I am missing the point.  In either case I can probably learn something new about this if you will  clarify.  Do the hard woods really burn "slower"?  I thought they lasted longer because of their density, not because they are burning more slowly.
 
Kyrt Ryder
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Location: Graham, Washington [Zone 7b, 47.041 Latitude] 41inches average annual rainfall, cool summer drought
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Thekla McDaniels wrote:
Hans Quistorff wrote:I think It should be pointe out that fuel wood for a RMH is the inverse of what is used for a box heater. The main reason hard woods are prefered is they burn slower with less volatiles making high flames and produce more radiant heat from the burning carbon. 


Hi Hans,
This is a little confusing to me, and maybe I am missing the point.  In either case I can probably learn something new about this if you will  clarify.  Do the hard woods really burn "slower"?  I thought they lasted longer because of their density, not because they are burning more slowly.

There is a bit of both, the soft-woods typically have more volatile compounds in them that are further fuel for the fire. Pine pitch, for example.

Now, there are some hardwoods [such as Eucalyptus] that have similar properties that complicate the discussion, but the typical northern hemisphere 'fuel woods' of Oak, Ash, Hickory, Maple.... they do not.
 
Hans Quistorff
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What I was refering to is that once the volatiles have pyrolyzed from hard wood there is much more carbon left than with many softer woods. This charcoal burns slower and most of the heat radiates locally in contrast to the volatils that radiate heat along the path of the flame. The object of a rocket burner is to retain the heat of the flame in an insulated path until all the volatiles are consumed and become H2O and CO2.
If the temperature of the carbon drops to low not enough oxygen combines with it producing CO carbon monoxide which is poisonous.  Also the volatils when cooled before complete combustion become poisonous compounds.
Therefor the answer to what is the best wood to grow depends a lot on how you plan to burn it or conversely how you plan to burn wood could be influenced by the wood you grow.
Note the difference between the L tube, J tube and batch box rocket stoves. In the L tube the charcoal gets pushed to the angle of the L where it ignites the wood pushed against it. In the J tube the weight of the wood pushes it down on the charcoal where it ignites and is drawn sideways to burn horizontally then vertically. The bach box heats up a lot of wood without enough air and heated secondary air is introduced to burn the volatiles in the riser..  Not that the design calls for a V shape in the bottom of the burn chamber to concentrate the charcoal so that it completes its burn.
So you can mach your burn metode to what is easy to grow or you can try to grow what best matches your prefered burn method which can also vary with your heating need.
 
Devin Lavign
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Mike Cantrell wrote:The only exception I know of to the rule the "dense woods grow slowly and fluffy woods grow quickly" is black locust.

I'm planting mine in the next couple months.


The fastest growing hard wood is the paulownia, with the added bonus you can actually cut it down and it will regrow from the root repeatedly. The roots can keep doing this for 70 or so yrs. Here is a great info site for paulownia for heating wood http://microcrop.eu/index.php/uses/for-heating

Paulonia is also good for other uses like furniture, as shade for gardens/house/etc, fence poles, and on it goes.

Big draw back is it is considered invasive in some regions and you should really make sure it would not be a problem plant if you introduce it into your ecosystem.
 
Michael Cox
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This question is only well answered by giving information about how you intend to process it.

For example, commercial biomass producers love short cycle willow coppice - it produces the most BTUs per acre, and the thin stems can be harvested easily by machine. However this is not a very person friendly approach. Each stem is very light and needs a lot of handling; probably substantially more effort per BTU than a nice dense slower growing hardwood.

Denser woods need less manual handling at every stage.

That said in our setup we are still burning what falls and needs clearing up, rather than planting and harvesting. As a result we burn a huge mix of things. Chestnut, oak, pine, linden, leylandii etc... If I had to plant something deliberately I would probably go for something like Ash that can be pollarded, can provide spring/summer fodder and is dense and still fast growing. I prefer pollarding to coppicing, as you can still use the ground beneath for something else.
 
Thekla McDaniels
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Michael Cox wrote: I prefer pollarding to coppicing, as you can still use the ground beneath for something else.


And you get the shade!
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