First of all, most wood round here gets used for firewood or building material. But I have plenty that I don't want to use for those purposes, for one reason or another. Many a time hubby wanted to load this stuff into the truck and cart it to the dump. But I balked. It just didn't seem right. It had to be useful for something on a farm. I just hadn't discovered its use yet.
First thing I did with this debris was use it to fill in a truck sized hole we had in the pasture. This is the hole I almost drove my truck into one day while clearing the land. So I was bent on filling it in. It took a lot of material and time to fill that giant hole, but eventually it was done. I topped it off with a thin layer of soil, then I started looking round for more holes. I found them alright, but after a year or so I noticed that something unusual was going on at the first hole I had filled in. It had sunk down a bit but that wasn't unusual. The weeds and grass grew very nicely there, staying lush even during drought months. I never watered the area, but things stayed green and perky while the grass around it had stopped growing. Checking it out with a shovel, I unearthed some of the branches and logs. It was quite apparent that they had absorbed and retained scads of water. Plus the smaller pieces were already decomposing. Hummmm. It got me thinking.
I finally found a beneficial use for woody debris, other than just as fill for holes. It could be used as the foundation for growing beds. We get plenty enough rain here in normal times for the decomposing wood to become very water ladened. It would retain this water, making it available for growing plants. And if I supplied nitrogen to the pile, it could serve as a nutrient source too. So I went off to experiment.
|The driveway slopes off. I've rolled big rocks to form a back|
wall. It's 2 1/2 feet deep in the back. Next step is to fill in the
hole with trunks, branches, etc. This will become a flower bed.
The first flower bed I made I planted sweet potatoes into because I hadn't yet grown any flowers to transplant into the bed. The sweets did great! I never had to add fertilizer or water. After the sweets I planted a banana tree and flowers. They too did fine and were lush and beautiful. The banana tree clump is still there and doing good, but I have since replanted sweet potatoes. This is the third year. I've never irrigated the bed, but I have used compost for mulching it.
I'm working on the fourth bed now. The only problem I am seeing so far is that the neighboring trees are aggressively growing roots into the beds. This is a boon for the trees, but means that the beds become less useable as flower beds as time goes by. Ohia trees can form a very dense root mat.
I plan to use this idea on my arid south farm, which by the way has no ohia trees on it. So the beds should work better since they won't be getting root-choked.
Recently I discovered that using woody material for making beds is nothing new. There is a system called "hugelkultur" for making growing beds as ditches, swales, and mounds. Wow, looks like I inadvertently reinvented the wheel!