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Poison Hemlock in compost?  RSS feed

 
Libbie Hawker
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Hey, everybody! I've got a big patch of hemlock growing on a part of the property I'd like to use for grazing my geese. I'm sure the geese aren't likely to eat hemlock, but I'd like to maximize my use of the space by getting the hemlock out and a nice mix of tasty goose edibles in.

Is there any danger involved in composting a large quantity of hemlock, and then using that compost on one's vegetable beds? I suspect I'm better off disposing of the hemlock some other way, but I thought I'd ask. Composting would certainly be easiest, but I don't want to try it if it's going to be a problem for my veggies.

Thanks!
 
Tyler Ludens
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The main danger is in the handling of the fresh Hemlock, which can cause severe phytodermatitis.  I ended up with a scarred arm from clearing Hemlock plants.
 
Libbie Hawker
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Tyler Ludens wrote:The main danger is in the handling of the fresh Hemlock, which can cause severe phytodermatitis.  I ended up with a scarred arm from clearing Hemlock plants.


Ouch! Thanks, I'll keep that in mind. Gloves and long sleeves only!
 
Wes Hunter
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I'd just hoe it and leave it for dead.  Let it 'compost' to enrich the soil where it is currently growing.
 
Gilbert Fritz
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I'd add that it is hard to remove. It has a deep and vigorous taproot, and can spreads seeds abundantly. So just hoeing it down, or even digging it out, is unlikely to eradicate it for several years.
 
Wes Hunter
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Gilbert Fritz wrote:I'd add that it is hard to remove. It has a deep and vigorous taproot, and can spreads seeds abundantly. So just hoeing it down, or even digging it out, is unlikely to eradicate it for several years.


Hmm.  I've had pretty good success thinning patches with a hoe.  Sure, it'll take time to get rid of all the new seedlings, but it's certainly not insurmountable.
 
Libbie Hawker
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Wes Hunter wrote:I'd just hoe it and leave it for dead.  Let it 'compost' to enrich the soil where it is currently growing.


Thank you for the suggestions, everybody.

This particular patch is growing directly over our septic tank (it appears to have moved in quickly after the new/larger tank was installed, taking advantage of the bare ground.) I'm hoping that will make this patch a bit easier to hoe down.

So my real dilemma is this: I'd like to turn that spot into goose pasture. If I chop and drop the hemlock and let it compost in place for a year or whatever, would the pasture in that spot be safe for my birds to eat? I know nothing about hemlock and I'm having a hard time finding info on whether it can transmit its poison to other plants while it's composting. (Maybe that means it can't!)

Any advice or experience you can share is most welcome!
 
Bryant RedHawk
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Hemlock's poisonous compounds degrade rather quickly, but they also leach out in water, so if you compost it for a year you should not have to worry about your geese eating what you grow for them in that spot.
Digging is the fastest method of removal but as mentioned, small roots will eventually regrow so it will be like removing blackberries, a multi year project.

I would recommend a hot composting rather than a rot in place approach.

Redhawk
 
Libbie Hawker
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Bryant RedHawk wrote:Hemlock's poisonous compounds degrade rather quickly, but they also leach out in water, so if you compost it for a year you should not have to worry about your geese eating what you grow for them in that spot.
Digging is the fastest method of removal but as mentioned, small roots will eventually regrow so it will be like removing blackberries, a multi year project.

I would recommend a hot composting rather than a rot in place approach.

Redhawk


Thanks, Bryant! I'll give it a shot.
 
Eric Hammond
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I'd like to know how your compost turned out.  I have a bunch of poison hemlock at my place and I must admit...I kind of really like the plant. Everywhere there is a patch of it this soil is an incredible moist crumb structure...I just can't help but think it would make excellent compost. It grows so fast and make so much material thats easy to cut and harvest. ( I haven't had any adverse skin reactions, I used to take naps in it till I learned what it was) when I had goats they used to mow the stuff down....it clearly was not poisonous to goats.  I just built a compost pile with a bunch of it to try my luck but it really didn't have enough manure. Now I'm just rambling....I'm thinking about spreading more poison hemlock around the place!
 
Wes Hunter
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Eric Hammond wrote:I'd like to know how your compost turned out.  I have a bunch of poison hemlock at my place and I must admit...I kind of really like the plant. Everywhere there is a patch of it this soil is an incredible moist crumb structure...I just can't help but think it would make excellent compost. It grows so fast and make so much material thats easy to cut and harvest. ( I haven't had any adverse skin reactions, I used to take naps in it till I learned what it was) when I had goats they used to mow the stuff down....it clearly was not poisonous to goats.  I just built a compost pile with a bunch of it to try my luck but it really didn't have enough manure. Now I'm just rambling....I'm thinking about spreading more poison hemlock around the place!


I suspect what you're noticing with soil structure is not the result of the hemlock, but rather that hemlock likes to grow in such areas.  Everywhere I've found it on my place is a relatively damp location.

Like your goats, my cows eat the stuff like candy.  I tend to wonder if it might have some deworming properties.
 
Bryant RedHawk
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Yes Wes, in ruminants, hemlock is a natural wormer, it also contains some compounds their bodies need to help with insect bite protection apparently. I have noticed that goats bothered by flies will eat a good amount of hemlock and after a couple of days, there are not as many files bothering them.
I have not done any testing but the observation is enough to warrant a study in my future.
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