Happily the storms seem to be abating now and with a bit of luck spring will arrive. It’s quite warm, so things are starting to move but the wind and horizontal rain doesn’t give you much incentive to get out on the plot.
I got an interesting email the other day from someone whose large Leylandii came down in the storms and she is wondering what to do with it. We’ve had a few trees come down in the storms around here as well.
Isolated conifers are particularly at risk. In a forest they’ve lots of other trees around to reduce the wind pressure but out on their own they take the full force of the wind..
With any tree, you can divide the problem into 3 parts. The first part is the trunk and any thick limbs or branches. These can be used for firewood, but will need to be seasoned before burning. Seasoning is simply drying out the wood. When first cut, the wood contains sap and obviously the wetter the wood is, the worse it will burn.
Dry wood burns hotter, giving out more heat, and produces less tars which can cause problems with the chimney catching fire.
The wood should be cut into lengths and stacked in an airy place with some sort of cover over the top to keep the rain off and left for a year or even two. Once the moisture content has fallen it can be used as fuel.
Some types of wood burn better than others but free fuel is free fuel. I’ve heard Leylandii does burn well but it has a reputation for spitting sparks but that doesn’t really matter in a woodburning stove where the sparks are contained.
The next part is the branches that are not really worth the hassle of chopping to length for the stove but are too thick for a domestic garden shredder. If you have access to a good chipper, by which I mean the professional type, then chip them up and use the chippings to cover paths.
They’ll rot down and add to the soil’s humus in a year or two. Don’t use them on the soil as a mulch, especially around crops, as they’ll be sucking in nitrogen to help them rot down.
If you don’t have access to a good chipper, then a bonfire may be in order. The best way is in a galvanised incinerator so that the ashes are constrained. Once the ashes are cool, store them somewhere dry to use around fruit trees or tomatoes as a fertiliser.
They will compost, just add some ground limestone to the heap. 2oz per square yard per 6″ layer should be about right. The more other materials you can mix them with the better. How long it will take to compost depends on the composting method used but once broken down, it’s fine to use anywhere.