What do you do with old trees?

sf_rhinoFebruary 3, 2014

I often see orchards planting new trees but I never see older trees getting taken out. When an orchard is full of trees that are old/have diminished productivity, what do you do with the trees and the wood? Does it all go into a wood chipper or does it have a second life as hardwood flooring? Also what is the typical productive lifespan for commercial trees (I'm guessing it varies wildly by species)?

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Apple makes great firewood.

    Bookmark   February 3, 2014 at 7:13PM
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drew51 SE MI Z5b/6a

I think about any fruit is good for firewood, or to season your meat in grills, like hickory or mesquite. Oak is better, but you could inoculate logs with mushroom spores too.
Many mushroom kits are designed to use on logs.
What I do with cut down wood is hugelkultur.
All my raised beds have fresh pruned branches (1 to 5 inch diameter branches from 60 foot tree that was pruned), scrap untreated lumber, and leaves at the bottom. Garden soil, discarded potting soil, compost, and peat were added on top.

I also add cardboard, coffee grounds, and anything else that is organic I need to get rid of. I have not found any nitrogen problems occurring, but the soil on top is rich,compost and organic fertilizer is added. The buried compost will supply nutrients for years to come.
The plants as you can see are growing like crazy! I will add fresh compost, organic fertilizer, trace minerals this spring, then top with mulch. I also add beneficial fungi, and bacteria every spring, and in fresh plantings.
More beds will be build this spring. the same technique will be used. I cut a couple more branches off the 60 foot Mountain Ash in my backyard. So I have a pile of logs to put in the new beds.

Here is a link that might be useful: hugelkultur

This post was edited by Drew51 on Mon, Feb 3, 14 at 23:03

    Bookmark   February 3, 2014 at 10:27PM
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In the case of Pacific Northwest filbert orchards afflicted with the Eastern Blight, one could see over the past decades large piles of cut trees that were then lit on fire.

    Bookmark   February 3, 2014 at 10:39PM
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alan haigh

Pile and burn is the usual approach in large commercial orchards, I believe, as much for convenience as sanitation.

Some orchards with direct marketing stores sell the wood at a premium for fire wood.

The longevity of commercial orchard trees does depend on the species- in the case of apples, a lot on the type of rootstock- more dwarfing, shorter lived. Also region and even soil come into play.

In the east, peaches are often replaced after 10 to 15 years of productivity, but in a home orchard may last over 40 years.

I don't know the duration of apple trees on various root stocks in commercial orchards, only that full dwarfs are not in production for more than 15-20 years.

The difference between home and commercial orcharding is so great that we have no commercial apple growers that participate in this forum lately.

I prune and help manage a couple of small commercial orchards, but they are not typical operations, more hobby than commercial although fruit is sold from less than 10 acres of trees and at least a small profit is required.

    Bookmark   February 4, 2014 at 5:40AM
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Thanks all. That is too bad that so much of it gets burned. I can understand diseased trees, but it seems like a lot of that wood could have a higher value with some other type of use.

Drew, I like the hugelkultur thing--plus it is an interesting vocab word. Can you also get mushrooms out of those or does burying them prevent the mushrooms from growing?


    Bookmark   February 4, 2014 at 3:05PM
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franktank232(z5 WI)

I think I've read that at least with apples, the wood is very difficult to work with (as in woodworking)? I would imagine its all excellent for smoking and at least for firewood.

Nothing is really wasted, even when its burnt its going to be recycled (ash). I've always thought its amazing how you can take a cord of firewood and after a season of wood burning, its reduced to a small pile of ash...

    Bookmark   February 4, 2014 at 3:26PM
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alan haigh

All the trees I prune and cut down end up in my wood burner, I'll tell you that. I've a fire going constantly for about 5 months of the year (sporadically in early fall and late spring). Apple wood is very nice and creates lots of coals that burn quite a while. All the fruit wood burns well- plum is the hardest, I think.

It is interesting how much difference there is between apple varieties in terms of denseness of wood. Today I was pruning Macintosh and Baldwin trees and the Macs have much harder wood.

    Bookmark   February 4, 2014 at 6:58PM
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drew51 SE MI Z5b/6a

Yeah apple wood is cool. it's as good as oak! SF, i do get mushrooms, but not the kind you want! They don't hurt anything. With the plugs you take green oak logs, drill holes, put spore plugs in, cover with wax on some, and pile in a shady spot and wait a few years. They produce for years. It's neat! Better know your mushrooms though. Make sure it is the ones you used. I have oak, and lot's of shade at my cottage. One thing I can actually grow well there! Your thought of using them this way may very well work too! It should work! But lot's of other mushrooms come up, so again you need to know your mushrooms.

    Bookmark   February 4, 2014 at 8:17PM
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Apple wood will not take plugs. Been there, done that although the jury is still out for oyster plugs on wild apple (they would be fruiting after 2.5 yrs though). Some spawn selling sites even warn you not to use fruit wood. Pear wood is not great either. Prunus serotinus (black cherry) works fine.

    Bookmark   February 4, 2014 at 10:04PM
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Here in Nor Cal you can get almond wood for firewood delivered to you. I asked the guy where it came from he said spent almond orchards, they chop em up for firewood and replant new trees...

    Bookmark   February 5, 2014 at 12:10AM
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