Another of my odd questions

bob64(6)November 19, 2010

The property I help out at has lots of large woody debris including whole trees toppled by some incredible storms and other pieces from that size on down. I've realized that cutting it all up into manageable wood piles just isn't going to happen and don't really see the need. In any event, I'd like this debris to more quickly grow fungi and moss partly for the sake of speeding up decay, partly for wildlife value and partly because I just like it. Is it better to leave bark on the wood or to strip it off a bit? Would throwing some of the surrounding forest soil on it here and there speed up the colonization by fungi and moss? How about drilling holes or making some saw cuts here and there? How about throwing on some material from my old wood chip piles as an innoculant? The area is a deciduous forest in Westchester County, New York. Unfortunately, some grand old oaks are among the bigger pieces that came down together with lots of tulip tree, some sassafras, various maples and a smattering of other species common to this area. BTW, yes some of the wood will be going to various creative and practical uses like rustic benches, firewood, erosion control, etc. but there will still be lots left over.

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Other than the wood you're going to be using for creative and practical purposes, I would let nature do it's thing. If you try to help nature, you may end up with something that's just going to look like a big mess. Nature will make it beautiful.

Actually, by the sounds of it, it's already beautiful.

    Bookmark   November 19, 2010 at 8:43PM
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I hear ya'. There are some around this area who think a forest is supposed to be "tidy" (think suburban front lawn with a few specimen trees) looking but I think that kinda misses the point of a forest. That said, I just like the look of the moss and fungi on the downed wood and it helps reduce and recycle the volume eventually. Over the last few few years we have had some unusually wicked storms and consequent large-scale damage. We had to do and also hire out some chain saw work since kids also play in this forest (had uprooted trees precariously hanging in the canopy, etc.) but can't afford (in terms of time or money) and don't see the need to turn it all into matchwood. The storms were not tornados like recently happened not so far from here in the City but lots of damage nonetheless.

    Bookmark   November 19, 2010 at 9:16PM
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" Is it better to leave bark on the wood or to strip it off a bit?"

Leave the bark on. It traps moisture and provides shelter for a host of insects.

"How about drilling holes or making some saw cuts here and there?"

That will speed decay. Woodpeckers will make holes getting at the insects.

"How about throwing on some material from my old wood chip piles as an innoculant?"

You're on the right track, but that can be accomplished by making a trap for leaves- wet leaves against species such as birch, tulip, and red maple quickly lead to fungal conditions. ALL woods succumb to that eventually- white oak & black walnut heartwood will take years though.

Have you contacted any woodworkers? "Grand old oaks" may hold some wide quarter sawn material. Value dependent on accessibility.

    Bookmark   November 20, 2010 at 5:57AM
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Some of the storms you mentioned made it up here in Nova Scotia. We are surrounded by woodlands in our area. Everyone has about one to 3 acres where 1/2 to 3/4 acre of their property is used for the home and gardens, but the rest is all forest. Our trees grown on bedrock so the roots are - most times - not anchored firmly.

Some of our neighbours do the chainsaw thing for days on end after wind storms, but others don't and I am so grateful to live adjacent to those who don't. As I look out to the backyard and woodlands, I can see in one area 4 spruces which toppled together last year and are resting at a 30 degree angle. When these trees fell together, the roots came up and created a 'wall'. Where the roots used to be in the ground there is now a small pond where the birds entertained us this past summer with their bathing antics.

We drilled holes in the trunks of the trees for our native bees - they hibernate in the holes for the winter. We also did this to trees which were broken at the trunks 5+ feet. Native bees need all the help they can get. :O)

But it was the bird population which amazed us this year. The 'downed' trees gave them shelter and with the insect population increasing because of the start of decay, their food source was increased greatly.

I applaud you for wanting to leave some to rest. Hopefully you will see the same things we did. :O)

    Bookmark   November 20, 2010 at 9:37AM
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You should be able to find a source of wooden dowels inoculated with edible fungi spawn which you can insert into holes drilled in the wood. If you choose the right species, to suit both the trees and your tastes, you should be able not only speed the process of decay, but also get a delicious bonus in the form of mushrooms.

Here is a link that might be useful: plug spawn for logs

    Bookmark   November 20, 2010 at 12:03PM
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squirejohn zone4 VT

Brush (limbs) scattered on the ground will decay faster than if piled.

    Bookmark   November 20, 2010 at 12:49PM
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I hope you will keep a pictorial 'log' to show the naturalizing progress. Also, wonder if you might interest local schools or Scouts to join in some aspect of the naturalizing process. Would it be possible to place a rest area near/in the wooded area, so that people can enjoy bird watching?

Not sure of the kind of moss in your area, but I've seen beautiful moss-scapes created by bits of moss infused with butter milk and scattered over rocks. Depends on rainfall in your area.

A family near here put a camera in an owl's nest and streamed the video on internet ... was a big hit and raised understanding of a part of nature that is often unseen.

    Bookmark   November 20, 2010 at 1:54PM
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Thanks for all of the comments and tips.

    Bookmark   November 20, 2010 at 4:42PM
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jonas302(central mn 4)

The oak trees will be laying there for a good 50 years but sounds like you like that look nature will take care of it on its own

    Bookmark   November 21, 2010 at 11:33PM
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You might try crumbling moss into beer and pouring it over the bark---a technique I've never seen to fruition, but which I have seen recommended to help grow moss on bricks. I once grew the most interesting moss on a large rock. I had a small braided rug that was in sad shape, but made by my Aunt Jenny, so disposing of it was as impossible as keeping it. I put it on a rock in the woods where it grew what looked like braided green moss. It's been like that for about fifteen or twenty years until a friend tried to pick it up this year and the whole thing pretty much fell apart.

Saw cuts might be a glaring human touch later on, after they begin rotting. The drilled holes sounds better to me.

    Bookmark   November 22, 2010 at 9:50AM
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