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Getting rid of bark / sawdust - Compost pile?

Post in 'The Wood Shed' started by Slow1, May 23, 2009.

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  1. Slow1

    Slow1 Minister of Fire

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    Ok - so now that I'm doing a decent amount of cutting and splitting (decent for me - probably piddly for some of you folks) I am building up an excess supply of waste bark and sawdust. I have been tossing this all into a pile at the edge of my woods that I call my compost pile, but somehow I suspect it isn't really composting, rather it is more piling.

    Anyone have ideas on how to jump start the composting process to get this pile to start shrinking? I have tossed my lawn clippings in there too (I only bag the lawn clippings once in the spring though so there won't be any more of those thankfully).

    Any productive ideas that have worked for others would be appreciated.

    Thanks.

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  2. summit

    summit Minister of Fire

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    quart of oil and a match will turn this into fine fine ash that makes a great mixer into your compost pile.
  3. Slow1

    Slow1 Minister of Fire

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    I'm afraid that really isn't an option around here - as far as I know the permits required for outdoor burning aren't issued very often if at all...
  4. LLigetfa

    LLigetfa Minister of Fire

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    I suspect the chain oil is probably slowing down the composting process. Initially I just spread most of it around my wood processing area so that none of my wood touches the ground. In a thin layer on the ground, it seems to break down over time and I then rake up what's left and just use it to fill in low spots. One year I did haul a few loads of half rotted stuff over to my large compost pile and mixed it in.

    This Spring I raked up about a dozen wheelbarrow loads of fresh stuff and dumped it in a mosquito bog. I'm hoping the chain oil will leach to the surface and put a dent in the mosquito population. I also used one load as mulch for my raspberries.

    As for ashes in the compost, it's fine to mix in after the compost is cooked. I've been mixing all my ashes in the compost for years. Last winter I made the mistake of dumping the ashes directly on the fresh compost and it stunted it. I no longer have the same heat in the compost I used to see. There was no steam when I last turned it and I didn't see a single earthworm. Didn't find any mouse nests either.
  5. Slow1

    Slow1 Minister of Fire

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    Is there anything to do to get the composting process started or does one just wait for nature to do it's business?
  6. Backwoods Savage

    Backwoods Savage Minister of Fire

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    If you are a fisherman, then under the bark is a great place to find worms. Ashes are spread thin over the vegetable garden and this could also be done in a flower garden.

    Do you have any paths in the woods? If so, spread the bark and sawdust in the paths to walk on.

    Do you have raspberries or blueberries? If so, spread the bark on the ground around the plants.

    Do you have sandy ground? Sawdust spread over sand will help it although you will need some extra nitrogen for growing because the sawdust and/or bark will rob the nitrogen.

    Do you have access to a chipper? If so, run all that bark though the chipper and then use it for mulch.

    Are you tired now? Sit down and have a beer.
  7. LLigetfa

    LLigetfa Minister of Fire

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    All very good ideas BWS! I'm tired just thinking about it but it's still too early for a beer.

    As for getting the compost going, you probably have to turn it to get some air in it and blend in some easier to compost stuff like grass and leaves. A little bit of organic soil added to the mix might help.
  8. fossil

    fossil Accidental Moderator Staff Member

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    There are lots of composting "booster", "activator", "accelerator" type products on the market and commonly available. You might do just as well by adding in some fertilizer and soil and keeping it moist and turning it with a pitchfork from time to time. Rick
  9. Badfish740

    Badfish740 Minister of Fire

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    I don't think anyone is suggesting a huge brushpile type burn. Outdoor burning isn't really permitted in my town either, but I just have a 4 foot diameter ring of rocks in the back yard surrounding a shallow pit. I just toss the scraps in with punky stuff and relax with a cold beer. Our neighbors have a chiminea but they like my pit better ;)
  10. iskiatomic

    iskiatomic Minister of Fire

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    One MUST have a firepit if we are doing all of this cutting, splitting, stacking. Besides, I like the taste of fire so the beer really helps.


    KC
  11. rob bennett

    rob bennett New Member

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    Ask for a ceremonial burning permit. In my town it cost 15 bucks and your good for life. My buddy burned down his shed on purpose. When the fire department showed up he said it was a ceremony. They didn't buy it, but for a back yard fire pit this permit covers it.
  12. BrotherBart

    BrotherBart Hearth.com LLC Mid-Atlantic Division Staff Member

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    Pictures!!
  13. iskiatomic

    iskiatomic Minister of Fire

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    How about some good neighbors! Hell! I am burning and cooking on an open fire on a weekly basis. I'm not talking Texas A&M;fires, and not like lighting most of the woods on fire when I was a kid. And coming home running from the woods smelling of smoke and fire, that noooooooooooo it was not me!!???

    In my town, as long as you are cooking on an open fire you are OK. Just have a hot dog near by. However no problems here, my neighbors seem to understand my "problem".



    KC
  14. atvdave

    atvdave Member

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    Like said before.... makes some good kindelling... or just burn it in your wood burner/fire place?
  15. Flatbedford

    Flatbedford Minister of Fire

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    Wasn't me either. The fire dept. was only involved once.
  16. SmokeyStover

    SmokeyStover New Member

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    I agree with the kindling idea. I always save the bark and chunks that are too small to go on the wood pile. I throw them in a large box or boxes and store them where they won't get wet. It makes great kindling after only about 6 months.
  17. SlyFerret

    SlyFerret Minister of Fire

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    There is an organics place near my parents' place. When I have enough stuff to make it worth my while, I load up the scrap into my truck and drop it off on the way to my parents' house. They run it through their chippers and turn it into mulch and re-sell it.

    -SF
  18. joshlaugh

    joshlaugh New Member

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    I collect the bark and keep it in old garbage cans to use as kindling. Sawdust I usually rake over the lawn and after a few good rain showers it disappears.
  19. mtcsottile

    mtcsottile New Member

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    We keep some barrels in the garage right off the kitchen to toss in bark and scrap - even scrap from house projects as long as it's unpainted - and I use it to start our wood stove. Smaller goes right into our compost pile. We have a 4x4 "box" of chicken wire where we toss weeds, kitchen scraps (no meat), cardboard egg cartons, rotten extras from our garden, etc. Just wet it down now and then - but you've got to get some of the rotting veggies & fruit, fruit peels, etc. to get the bugs in there and start it going. Then once a year we turn it over into a second "box" and restart the first. Makes incredible compost for our garden and breaks down to next to nothing.

    As for burns - pays to live in a rural area. As long as we're not in a drought and it's not windy, we're good to go for a burn. Unfortunately now that we have little kids, we don't burn nearly as much as we used to and it's piling up. We'll probably have to spring for a chipper next year or so.
  20. NoPaint

    NoPaint Member

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    If I recall correctly, wood requires a great deal of nitrogen which is the first number in the fertilizer number sequence of X-X-X or 10-10-10. You wouldn't want to add pure nitrogen though because that won't really accelerate the process. What you want to do is add a natural fertilizer with a high first number. Remember compost is all about natural and adding pure nitrogen is natural but harsh and can kill the beneficial bacteria. What I would add is "Blood Meal" it is available at Home Depot or Lowes and is pretty cheap. I think a bag of it is under $5. Just add a couple cups of that a week and give it a quick simple turn with a pitch fork. The nitrogen will feed the right bacteria and the blood will help enrich the pile. That is your only real option. Oh and incase the bar oil is getting too thick and coating the wood too much you could try hosing it down with some dish soap real quick which will give it a little nitrogen and wash off the oil.
  21. Wood Duck

    Wood Duck Minister of Fire

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    I think nopaint is on the right track. Wood and bark have lots of complex carbon-rich molecules that are hard to decompose, and which don't contain enough nitrogen to support the bacteria that could break them down. So, you can either wait for fungi and slow-growing bacteria to break the stuff down, which is what happens in the woods, or you can add some materials that contain nitrogen and break down faster than wood and bark. Blood meal is an organic way to add nitrogen. Grass clippings, especially if you fertilize your lawn, also can contain a lot of nitrogen. You could sprinkle some fertilizer in there and see if that works, or add stuff like manure, which has lots of nutrients like nitrogen and breaks down easily. I think kitchen scraps, veggie peels, coffee grounds, etc. could also work, but you might not generate enough of them to keep up with the wood and bark pile. I would mix the bark and sawdust with the other materials, keep them moist, and you should be able to get it all to rot in a summer, i think, if you have the right mix of enough easily rotted, high-nitrogen materials mixed witht he sawdust and bark.

    I use my sawdust and bark as mulch around woodland plants, shrubs, and blueberries where I don't care if it rots slowly and I wouldn't mind creating a low-nitrogen situation in the soil. I wouldn't use them on vegetables or other plants that like high nitrogen, in case they rob the soil of nitrogen while rotting. I don't think robbing nitrogen is usually a problem unless sawdust and bark are mixed with the soil, such as if you tried to dig them into the soil before planting the way you would mix compost or manure into the soil.
  22. billb3

    billb3 Minister of Fire

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    Lots of potting soil is just ground bark, peat , perlite and sewer sludge for fertilizer.

    If your pile looks like a typical heap, with a conical shape, then it is most likely keeping itself quite dry in the center whick slows the process. A mix of other materials, and stirring the pile occaisionally all help.
    Bark is tough, the smaller thie pieces (particle size even helps with oak leaves) the better.
  23. PeteD

    PeteD New Member

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    First off, in Mass, burning brush for agricultural purposes is allowed from Jan through April. Also, you can burn anytime for cooking purposes. As long as you have hot dogs or smores on a stick, you are legal. Not all towns (22 very populated towns do not) allow agricultural burning. See the link below for more info:
    http://www.mass.gov/dep/air/compliance/burning.htm

    Second, you need to add greens to get the compost going. Along with a good mix of green and brown items (as simple as it sounds) heat and moisture increase the rate of the process. Put it in a sunny spot and keep it well watered.

    Pete
  24. TreePapa

    TreePapa Minister of Fire

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    HorseSh**

    Really ... add horse manure to your compost pile, and turn it once in a while, it should compost fine. That being said, if the bark is big chunks, it will take a long time to compost. If you can separate the sawdust out, that should work well as the "browns" (high nitrogen) in the compost, then you need greens (horse poop, veg. waste, coffee grounds, etc.). If you have access to a chipper, adjust it so that the end product is as small as possible and run the bark through that. If your wood waste is fine (small) enough and it isn't composting completely in about 6 months, you need more horsesh**.

    Peace,
    - Sequoia
  25. PunKid8888

    PunKid8888 New Member

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    I just started placing all the bark under my wood piles to try and prevent grass and weeds from growing. I also have been thinking of landscaping off a processing area for the fire wood, and then all the wood chips and such would be in a controlled area, it should also help prevent mudd & dust.
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