Composting question?

Discussion in 'Organic Lawn Care' started by jandreau, May 8, 2009.

  1. jandreau

    jandreau LawnSite Member
    Messages: 42

    I have a good size compost pile started and was wondering if anyone knows if cedar bark mulch would be any good in composting? The reason I ask I work for a railroad and we get some cars that had cedar bark mulch in them and they need to be cleaned out. They have about 5 or 6 yards of mulch left in them and I was thinking about running some through a screener to get the bigger stuff out and mixing it in my compost pile but wasn't sure if it would be any good in compost.
  2. Marcos

    Marcos LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,720

    Cedar is famous for its general resistance to rot.
    That's why it's widely used in wood frame homes.

    If I were you, and I had that 5 or 6 yards of cedar mulch, I would use it as mulch, and charge an absolute premium for it.
    Assuming it wouldn't get blown or washed away, it should last a heck of a long time compared to other mulches.
  3. ICT Bill

    ICT Bill LawnSite Platinum Member
    Messages: 4,115

    I am not sure but my gut tells me not to throw the cedar in your pile. maybe make a seperate pile and see how it goes.

    Cedar is known to be a great "cide" for bugs, it keeps them away from wherever it is, thats why my mother always kept thing in cedar closets, the bugs won't go near it
    We use cedarwood oil in our repellent mix, it works great

    in compost piles you want as much "bug" action as you can get, I think it would limit the pile ability to heat up, I don't have any data just a gut feeling
  4. treegal1

    treegal1 LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,911

    grind it up real fine and extract it with a solvent for a cide.....

    but yes it will compost if you have the time and the C:N at a good ratio
  5. 44DCNF

    44DCNF LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,535

    I like that idea treegal. After the extraction, one could then do this.....waste not want not. This idea is spawned from this thread and my search for a good, free, and plentiful product to carbonize. And for Bill, this might handle the problems of the phenols.

    Take those post extraction mulch fibers, as well as a batch of unground chips, and rett them for a while. Retting may or may not be needed for the solvent washed grind, but with retting you could better improve and adjust the texture to make a few good soil amendments out of the mulch. Retted fibers will be weaker more pliable, have lower voc's if that is desirable, and be quicker to compost.

    Forest floors don't seem to be bothered by the hydrocarbons in the tree litter, do they? At what level might the voc's of unwashed cedar mulch incorporated into the soil be harmful to microbial activity or the other critters that do the breakdown dance, or not?

    Some of the ground and washed product, retted or not would go straight into a soil mix for containers. Some would go into the compost pile. Some of the unground but retted would go to soil mix or garden beds. Some to the compost pile . Most of the unretted mulch, as the unretted mulch's voc's will aid this next process, would be carbonized (sealed can w/small vent hole, hot fire, cool, crush to a mixed size blend), and added to a soil mix, garden beds, and compost. A small bit of the raw mulch, straight to the pile. That ought to keep a broad spectrum of microbes and nutrients working well together.

    That's what I would do anywho, knowing my soil would benefit from the added materials, based on settling out soil samples. I've been making char from willow and cherry, plant stalks, seeds heads, and coffee grounds, since winter and adding it to build a better soil for my veggie garden and container mix.

    I've used a real nice soil blend with coconut coir before, for containered plants and I have a hunch the cedar could be processed to be similar to that. I believe this particular soils coir was well washed and retted to reduce the salts, adjust ph, and improve it's texture for use as a soil modifier. It made for beautiful root balls as inspected when the plants expired, and what I thought by all appearances was very even feeding and growth with a good balance of drainage and water retention. So, I am thinking why not take the processes I have seen applied to coconut shells and set them to the cedar.
    This is just an idea based on my amateur observations. If I had access to a load of cedar mulch and didn't need it for the mulching beds, I would do what treegal suggests-extract the oils from some for addition into a natural pesticide, then turn those washed fibers and more raw mulch into various stages of matter, letting the soil to reap the different benefits of each stage.
    Last edited: May 9, 2009
  6. treegal1

    treegal1 LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,911

    44 spot on idea!!!

    so get a big drum(metal) witha lid and pack it full then if the area is available just bonfire around the drum for a while ( all night!!!) and you have some cedar char.....with the smoke condensate as a cide also.....

    so many facets to this is a hoot.....

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