Twigs, sticks, branches galore

taureanJuly 16, 2008

My garden is COVERED in them. And all the sticks from the rest of the yard is behind our shed in a massive pile. Its 7' high and its 10' by 10'. Tons upon tons of sticks and branches from the giant oak tree, 3 massive maple trees, ALL the free lance seedlings growing in the hedges, the pine tree. Earlier this year we took out a 8' tall apple tree that was growing in the hedges along with an oak tree that was producing acorns. Its a pretty old lot here.

Anyway! Back to the topic. What the frick do I do with all of this wood. There are no fireplaces or bbq pits people can use them for, lots are too small. We already used a fraction of it to border the rest of the gardens. And for some reason, some of the trees are growing while they are just laying there. No roots or anything. My woodland looks trashy with this amount of litter. This year I took down tons of dead dried up branches from the dogwoods, black cherries, oaks and maples and just let them lay there.

How long do you suspect these to begin to rot? Is there anything I can do to speed up the process? And these sticks are not very thick. Biggest one if 4" in diameter. The rest is thinner than my wrist. Thats pretty small to begin with.

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We are in the country and, if it is not too dry, we can get a burning permit. I like to break anything small enough to break into pieces by hand and throw back into the woods. They rot faster if they are in small pieces, but that is really time if you have a problem to mull over and just need to keep doing something repetative with your hands. I have also seen small woodpiles stacked up like a teepee with the slightly larger sticks. All of this involves work, dragging the pieces to a central location, etc. We have had quite a few wind storms this season, and I also have stick problems. I have learned NOT to be outside when the storms come as some limbs are large enough to do great damage if they were to hit you. Luck to you in your project/work.

    Bookmark   July 16, 2008 at 9:30PM
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A 7 foot high, ten by ten pile is too big to be left near a structure so it's got to go somewhere else. If you have a very small lot you might end up having to have it hauled away since you don't need fire wood. If you or a neighbor happen to have a tree service coming in to do some work, ask them to grind up your pile while they are at it for a few expra bucks. You can buy or rent a chipper but just remember it is a little bit dangerous - especially when it jams and you want to clear the jam. The wood chips would make good mulch for shrubs, trees, and perrenials and for paths. You can take the wood out a bit at a time and stomp on it with heavy boots to break it up and then distribute it whereever if nothing else works for you. The boots method is what I do out in the woods that I am helping with. I stomp on the pieces to break them up and to get them to lay more flat on the soil. Maybe someone else in your town would like a pile of free firewood? If you are into food gardening and have a big lot then look up "Hugelkultur" or "German Mound" composting. I have seen uprooted and cut trees continue to grow for a while but doing that in the heat of July is impressive. The rotting has begun on the other pieces but it won't be noticeable for a while and won't be done for at least several months. Wood will rot quicker in contact with the soil (but not buried) and a little bit of moisture. The piled wood will be dryer and will rot slower.

    Bookmark   July 17, 2008 at 5:46PM
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ladyslppr(z6 PA)

I have a bunch of lare brush piles around and they are important for birds (especially in the winter) and small animals. I would try to find a way to leave at least part of the pile for wildlife. If you can't leave it, maybe get a chipper for smaller stuff (under an inch diameter), and cut the larger stuff up and burn it. If you can't burn a big pile, cut the larger pieces like firewood, stack them up, and use them in a fire pit or even one of those clay chimineas. We build camp fires all the time with wood that is only a couple of inches in diameter, and cook hotdogs over the flames. A lot of your wood is perfectly suited to a campfire even though it may be sort of small for heating a building in a wood stove or fireplace.

    Bookmark   July 26, 2008 at 2:27PM
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karen_b(6a s.c. PA)

Everyone elses suggestions are best, but you also wanted to know how long a pile like this would take to rot...10+ years. We live in a mostly oak forest and every spring & fall cleanup piles of twigs, sticks and limbs. In the fall, after leaf removal is over, we pile up the twigs, sticks & limbs for winter cover for birds and wildlife (and believe me they really appreciate it). In the spring when we clean up after winter ice storm damage we burn the piles (before any of the birds can build nests...cardinals love these piles). But that may not be an option where you live. If you can burn garbage and have a burn barrel you could also pile broken up pieces into the bottom of the barrel and then on top of the trash before burning, you'll actually get a hotter burn. But back to your question about how long it will take for a pile to rot. Our house was 9 years old when we bought it 5 years ago and there are still wood piles strewn around the lot. Each year we pull off some of the piles to add to our own piles when we burn, most of the small piles are gone now. But there are 2 with huge stumps and logs that have reduced by half in the past 5 years but not fast enough for me. I keep telling my DH that one winter after a snowshower I'm going to light them both to finally be rid of them...we have a local fire station just down the road.

Does your communitiy have a local recycling/refuse center you could take the piles there? You do need to get rid of the piles on a seasonal basis because they will attrach rodents and I'm sure your neighbors don't appreciate the mess either.

    Bookmark   July 29, 2008 at 10:44AM
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With trees come sticks. We get several five gal. buckets up off the lawn each spring. If there is a brisk wind we get more. When clearing an new area in my woods we get TONS more. We had no luck with rent-able chippers. They were so small they kept getting jammed up. We felt we had to have a large burn pile. I don't really know how anyone living as we do could do with out one, unless you have a lot of money for hauling and dumping yard waste. Some places charge you. What ever your plan it needs to be an on going one was my point.

    Bookmark   August 5, 2008 at 6:55AM
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The DH chipper we got was fantastic. I can definitely recommend them. And the mulch was fantastic. I just bought my first house and I have a woodland area that I need to clear the brush out of and select cut and plant trees in it. I'm looking forward to it but maybe that's just because it's new to me. I'll be posting shortly about my area.

    Bookmark   August 17, 2008 at 6:46AM
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