rotted tree

jackman1944November 14, 2006

I had a 100 year old oak tree that has been laying on the ground for many years there is no tree trunk left.I would like to know if this black tree rot could be used in the garden?

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I see no reason why not. I have used some that was not quite so far along, most of the shape of the log was still there but you could crumble most of it up by hand, and some was already crumbled up. Perhaps aminals had scratched in it for grubs.

I think that it adds humus to your garden, don't know if there is much or any nutrients left in it, but did not see any adverse or detrimental effects from using it in my garden and compost pile.
Bill P.

    Bookmark   November 14, 2006 at 8:12AM
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Would you be concerned about soil born disease?

    Bookmark   November 14, 2006 at 10:15AM
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I say use it. Wonderful organic matter to add to the soil. Personally, I wouldn't spend a second worrying about possible disease unless I had hard evidence that the tree had some horrid disease.

    Bookmark   November 14, 2006 at 10:18AM
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Rotted trees are called nurse trees in the forest, they decompose and feed other plants.

Use it and forget!

    Bookmark   November 14, 2006 at 10:34AM
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blutranes(z8 Mid Ga)


When I find a rotten tree in the woods I go and get my wheelbarrow. I haul any and all I can find to my compost piles. You will not find a better source of free, ready to use item for your compost pile IMO. Most felled trees end up with grubs in them, and down here, birds and armadillos will dig in the rotten wood for them. Weather it was diseased makes no difference, the microbes will surely take care of that.


Yes, rotted wood is a good start to making humus. When we speak of humus we are "running with the big dogs", and most dont comment on that subject. Creating humus pays dividends well beyond compost; the trouble is the time it takes and the methods one has to use in creating humus. For my time, I would rather make humus than compost. Good for me in order to make humus it must first become compost. For the slow hand, the patience spent will be well worth the harvest.

Of course, this is only my opinion and what I find works in my lowly garden plots. For others, the case may not be the sameƂ


    Bookmark   November 14, 2006 at 11:19AM
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Humus is valuable and more so in the ground than in a compost pile. On the ground much is going on during the process of turning the tree into soil. Not that there is anything wrong with putting it into a compost pile and leaving it for a long time.

As it works out most of the humus in soil is made by fungus located on the roots.
Search Dr Sara Wright.

    Bookmark   November 14, 2006 at 11:57AM
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Is there any danger of termites from the rotted wood? I don't remember the details, but I vaguely recall that there is some bacteria in termite stomachs that digests the cellulose for the termits, and one source of the bacteria for the termites is rotten wood, so they're supposed to be drawn to it. Do I remember correctly? If so, is it a concern in a case like this? I would think it's not too big a concern generally, or wood based mulches would be a problem. I'm just wondering if it's a different store if there is a large quantity like this.

    Bookmark   November 14, 2006 at 12:35PM
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blutranes(z8 Mid Ga)

I am well aware of Dr Sara Wright and her work with Glomalin and the tremendous importance of it in the soil. Not withstanding, the quickest way to create humus is within the compost bin at this time. As I am sure you are aware of, due to the effect of oxygen on humus, creating it within the soil is very limited. Thus one is forced to create humus in a large enough volume to be able to spread it on the ground and protect it in the process from said oxygen. Topping it with compost and covering the amendments with mulch as you have stated can accomplish this.

Search "soil humus"


    Bookmark   November 14, 2006 at 1:16PM
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Blutranes, do I understand you to say that organic matter such as a rotting tree log will make humus better covered in a compost pile absent of oxygen than laying on the ground.

Yes, termites have a symbiotic bacteria in its system that predigests cellulose and makes another "something" that the termite can digest. If termites who are living in the ground are working on a log and you remove the log it will not remove the nest to wherever you move the log.

    Bookmark   November 14, 2006 at 2:35PM
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Thanks everyone for the advice.I have already started to wheelbarrow.

    Bookmark   November 14, 2006 at 2:39PM
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blutranes(z8 Mid Ga)

maggiemae 2006,

I am not exactly saying what you have concluded, for to create humus in the manner you speak will take an even longer amount of time. Wood, leaves, and other fungus loving organic matter makes the best compost for humus, but any compost will make some very good humus. One still wants to start with a 30:1 ratio no matter what type of brown is used. If I may, I will be happy to share with you the way I create humus

Humus comes from organic matter that has composted. Contrary to popular belief ITLBTC is not exactly correct; if done right compost will lead to humus. If you think about it, when you create compost in a large bin, the best compost is found at the bottom of the pile. The reason is because in order to create humus you need four ingredients:
1. Organic Matter (compost)
2. Pressure
3. Water
4. Lack of air (anaerobic)

As you know, when you turn a pile or make compost tea, the microbes use up all the oxygen quickly. However, the nature of organic organisms is to survive in almost all conditions. Thus, the compost at the bottom of the pile has gotten the least amount of oxygen, and it has been under the most amount of pressure. If the pile is wet enough and the pressure strong enough there will be a greater amount of compost at the bottom of the pile. If you take the process a few steps further and give the pile more pressure and time you will end up with a pile of dynamite.

What I do is use one of my bins (4x4x4) and fill it up to the top with finished compost. I water the pile lightly as I build it and place a PVC pipe in the middle to make sure the process spreads to all corners of the pile. Thus all the requirements are met save one; the hardest one, time. One would think that the lack of air would cause the pile to smell, but that is not the case at all. Finished humus smells just as good as finished compost. If there is a smell the humus is not finished yet, give it more time. The top of the pile will be extremely rich compost due to being close to air and the microbes have still been working to lower the C:N ratio. However, the bottom and middle will be a sticky sweet smelling mass that looks like dark clay. The key is to get it on the ground and covered with compost and mulch before it dries. Dried humus is very brittle and streaked with all the minerals and nutrients that are in the compost, almost crystallized so to speak. The dried humus can be used to make humus tea, but it should be diluted well due to the strength of the humus.

Needless to say, in order to do this one must have a large supply of compost. Sadly, most gardeners/farmers lack such a supply. What I do is make compost for next year this year. I suppose one could stash away a little of their compost for use later, then when they have enough make a pile. At first I used 55-gallon drums to store my compost in until I found a way to make large amounts at one time.

Air destroys humus; thus to till, shovel, rake deeply, plow, or disturb the humus layer by introducing too much air is not good. The goal is to put down the humus down, cover it quickly, and then mulch. The longer one lets their humus build up in the soil, the longer will one be gardening in as close to the way nature builds soil.

Humus is very heavy and calls for a great commitment to get into the garden. However, once on the top of the soil you have a champion on your hands. Sorry for being so long winded, I will do better next time..


    Bookmark   November 14, 2006 at 4:29PM
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Blutranes, thank you for the time you took.

Understand better your process.

Left on the ground a tree will become all you say with time, your process will probably speed up the process but is not better or worse than the natural process.

I've made the same argument about putting humus or finished compost on top of the ground where the organisms will carry it down to the levels needed by the plants. The richest area is the place between the natural soil and compost. Eventually this rich area will deepen, I can show you red clay suitable for brick making that is now rich about 12 inches deep. I just put organic matter in various forms on top of the soil and well done compost may have been faster.

The main thing is don't dig, which interferes with the organisms that are required, unless you must.

    Bookmark   November 14, 2006 at 9:36PM
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blutranes(z8 Mid Ga)


To not hijack jackman1944s' thread I started a new thread...


    Bookmark   November 14, 2006 at 11:25PM
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