I got this load of freshly chipped tree branches from under the power lines along my road. It is almost 100% black locust.
It eventually will become soil in the new garden I made a couple years ago which is in bad need of some new organic material mixed into the heavy clay. It is pretty coarse and will take a couple years or more to completely rot even after I mix it up with soil and chicken poo. Locust fixes nitrogen but I doubt that means the wood itself contains much.
Looking for suggestions on how best to use it in the short term. Would it make decent mulch for tomatoes? Might I hill up potatoes with it? Or do I need to just let it set and cook for a couple years?
We do use wood chips to mulch our tomatoes and other large, spread-out veggies. I was very dubious about it, but it seems to be working quite well. It keeps the weeds down a lot, although once you get a few it can be unpleasant to weed through. We have very sandy soil though. I don't know what would happen if you got it mixed in with clay.
Read a book on black locust trees once. It commented that black locust forests has clean forest floors, because the leaves are higher in protein than most leaves, thus they rot faster. Don't know if that works for the wood too. If I'd aquired them I'd have used them without hesitating. Probably you asked about safety because you're smarter than me. Maybe someday I'll start thinking aboout safety. Maybe not.
I have read that black locust wood makes great untreated fenceposts and mine timbers (I have used it for the former, as well as woodworking projects), because of its high resistance to rot. I wouldn't expect those chips to be an efficient way of putting organic matter in the the soil, but I bet they would be excellent for pathway mulch or weed suppression.
SF Bay Area, Contra Costa County -- Inner Coast Ranges, former Oak Savanna. Hot, dry summers; cool, wet winters. ~240 frost free days. Last/first frost: Mar.15/Nov.15. Avg. annual precip: 17"(432mm).
You should research about toxicity issues regarding black locust. . .
I think it is still a good find, just do some research before using. Would I personally use it fresh on my tomato bed? No.
+1 The allelopathic potential of black locust is an area of active debate. I'd use it on paths but maybe test carefully on your growing beds. Tomatoes and beans might be good sensitive test plants in that regard.
Thanks everyone for the input. Black locust does rot very slowly is why I was looking for possible ways to use it in the mean time. I think I'll experiment with mulching a few things to see how they do but mostly I think I'll just haul it over to the new garden area mixing in a little soil and chicken poo with each cart load. Hopefully that will speed up the process a little. I'v had smaller quantities of it before, it does eventually turn into beautiful black soil.
I never even thought of a plant toxin aspect, I'll heavily mulch a few things and report on what happens. Growing mushrooms in it sounds worth looking into as well.
Nothing ruins a neighborhood like paved roads and water lines.
raymondo could perhaps comment here. He just applies wood chips directly to his garden, no mixing, and just lets it slowly integrate with the soil below. N depletion at first, then it stabilises. I've also seen systems where the paths get a heavy cover of woodchips, which after a few years are then transfered to the growing beds, nad paths refreshed with new chips.
You could let them dry down, then make biochar from them, then add this to the soil - creates increased soil carbon, which doesn't subsequently break down. there's a thread somewhere. youtube florida woodchips biochar - making biochar for small farms - but you need to buy a pith helmet and a floral shirt, apparently
Post by philagardener on Feb 5, 2017 7:44:25 GMT -5
For my paths, I like to underlay the chips with a sheet of cardboard - that does a great job suppressing any weed growth. Looks really great in the garden, and after a few years it is easy to shovel the rich, decomposed material into the bed and redo the walkways.
I've used woodchips directly on the veg beds. It wasn't black locust so can't comment on possible allelopathy. There is often a lot if eucalypt in the woodchips I get but I haven't noticed any issues with it. I only dump it on the bed, not dug in. Over time it creates wonderful black soil. It's getting harder to get now because lots of people have seen the Back to Eden film.
Ray Silty loam over clay, pH 5.5, altitude 1000m, latitude 30deg south, 150 frost free days.
reed, mulching under fruit and nut trees is what I'd do with it. The trees will like it because of the mycelium, the weed suppression, the nutrients... and yes, mushroom growing under those same trees.
Growing in a coastal zone 7a in the Northern Hemisphere. Hot humid summers and cold snowy winters. Plenty of rain. Sandy loam topsoil over clay subsoil, whatever the glacier left behind when it made Long Island.