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Can I use Christmas Trees for Hugelkultur?  RSS feed

 
Pascal Paoli
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Location: North East Ohio
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Hi,

when I was walking down the streets I saw all these christmas trees being dumped out. So I was wondering if you think they could be used for hugelkultur.
I read that pine trees are not good for a hugelkultur. Also I am not sure what kind those christmas trees are, but I guess the all have some kind of pine oil in them.

Well, do you think its worth trying? Otherwise I might compost some of the material. There are just so much out there right now.
 
Casie Becker
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Location: Just northwest of Austin, TX
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You can absolutely use them for hugelculture. Evergreen trees frequently have allelopathic compounds, but soil biology quickly breaks those down with no long term damage to your soil or plants. I actually think those green needles would be a valuable addition of nitrogen if you get them early enough.
 
Travis Johnson
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Well it kind of depends upon your time-frame.

Evergreens like the Balsam Fir that makes up most of the Christmas Trees produced will lower your PH levels some, but depending upon what you are growing, that could be good or bad. The real problem is not what the trees are made of, it is that they are freshly cut.

The problem with freshly cut wood is that as it decays, it actually robs the soil of nitrogen in order for the breakdown of its cellular structure to happen. But this only happens for a few years, after that, as the breakdown is in full swing, it goes the other way and gives off that nitrogen thus feeding your plants. This is both good and bad. Because you are using fresh cut wood, it takes longer for the released nitrogen to happen, but your hugelkultur stays intact longer. The preferred method is actually to use decayed wood because the breakdown is already happening and thus you will get nitrogen into your plantings sooner. However, you are also going to have to renew your hugelkultur sooner.

The great thing about Christmas trees...fir especially is that it is not rot resistant at all. In fact it is one of the first woods to rot in the forest, so in a hugelkultur, if you must use fresh cut wood, Christmas trees would be your best choice.
 
Pascal Paoli
Posts: 34
Location: North East Ohio
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Good input, thanks a lot!
You have encouraged me to reclaim those trees.

Do you think chicken manure will help with the nitrogen absorption?

Since you said that they break down fast, maybe I should instead compost them with my chickens?

 
Travis Johnson
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If it was me, I would test my chicken manure first just to see what else was in it. By that I mean, there is nothing wrong with adding nitrogen like chicken manure to overcome the loss in the first few years, but you also do not want to overdose the area on say copper or zinc in doing so.

When I convert a forest back into field, I get this issue and so we get crops to grow by the use of fertilizer (cow manure mostly), but we also have the soil and manure tested so we know we are not in danger of over-fertilizing.

There is a saying: it is just a guess unless you test. Soil and manure testing is only $18 so its not prohibitively expensive.
 
Tj Jefferson
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Location: Virginia USDA 7a/b
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Kind of off topic but here goes, you guys are chemistry savvy. Is anyone using a home test kit? I have one for pH and have been thinking of upgrading, but the pH tester is not super accurate IMO. It was totally different than the lab tests I have run. And our lab tests are only $8! If there are decent ones out there what is the outlay? I think i can figure out the composition of sand/clay/organic from some of the videos but I'm interested in boron and some other stuff that didn't come with my sample (maybe why it was cheap, this was basically an NPK assessment for traditional ag). I'm setting up my microscope to do the soil analysis stuff, but trying to figure out if I can do it all in-house. I could also do samples for my local network.
 
Travis Johnson
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I think the cheap one here is $12, but then to get the nitrogen numbers you have to pay more. Its not a big deal, but my testing seems to be done when I see something is wrong and need to fix it to get a good crop. In mid-growing season, I want the advanced nitrogen testing simply because nitrogen is so volatile.

As for home test kit, I am chuckling because I learned "the old timers way" of determining soil PH levels, my grandfather had me taste weeds, and then from how sweet or sour they were, I quickly learned which weeds identified what the PH was. It is surprisingly accurate. I did however, learn that chewing gum grows on Spruce Trees (a natural gum) and takes the nasty taste of disgusting weeds away.

As for weeds themselves; they can tell you a lot about your soil without having to get a soil test. Its just that pesky nitrogen level that makes the soil sampling really worth the price.


 
I agree. Here's the link: http://richsoil.com/email
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