Granulated tree 'litter' - compost???

CREZIERES, France(Zone 8a)

I have had a dead tree (killed by ivy) in the corner of my (French) garden for years and, the other week I decided to cut it down for firewood. It turned out to be partially hollow... in the process of hollowing, as one might say. I think it was a hazel tree, but I am not sure as it has been dead for as long as I remember and obscured by ivy.
As the logs are drying out I have a few litres of the dust-like residue of the tree 'innards'.
Does anyone know if this ('raw') makes good, bad or indifferent compost. I love germinating 'difficult' seeds, and it occurs to me that it might be rich in gibberillins to aid germination...

Mid-Cape, MA(Zone 7a)

Interesting question.
I think that your "dust-like residue of the tree innards" must be a version of sawdust. Are you asking if you can use sawdust as a specific seed-starting potting mix, or would you be adding it to your compost-pile? If it's the former, I googled sawdust as potting mix" and found this thread discussing it:

I then googled this question of using sawdust in compost, and found several entries, including a recent thread on Dave's Garden: (
The consensus seemed to be that it is fine, as long as the sawdust didn't come from chemically-treated wood, and as long as it was used in the compost pile rather than as a mulch.

"I have about 200 lbs of wood sawdust. I live in the country and have compost piles going. What will happen if I use the sawdust in these piles?"

Robert F. Gabella replies:

A compost pile is an excellent place to deposit sawdust - the microbial action which would for a time tie up valuable nitrogen (and even create possible nutrient deficiencies) if the raw sawdust was used as mulch or incorporated into the soil around plant materials, actually serves to break down the sawdust. This turns it into a more nutrient-worthy product in the long run, and a valuable component in any organic soil mix . Thoroughly incorporate the sawdust evenly into any other raw material you are adding, if possible.

This is from:
(edited to add the info about the Dave's Garden thread)

This message was edited Dec 11, 2010 8:46 AM

Charlotte, NC(Zone 7b)

I've never used fresh sawdust directly in the garden as I've always believed that it robbed the soil of nutrients while it was being broken down.

A reasonable amount distributed throughout a composit pile should not be a problem.

Austin, TX(Zone 8b)

Is what you have sawdust (ground wood), or is it decomposed wood, dried? It sounds like the tree has been dead for a while? If it's already decomposed, it's not going to rob nitrogen.

CREZIERES, France(Zone 8a)

Sorry for the delay... Yes, it's decomposed. I am not sure of the process whereby trees become hollow. As I said, I wasn't worried that it is 'toxic' or useless, just optimistic that it would be good compost.

Glenwood Springs, CO(Zone 5b)


The wood itself that came from the tree, was it soft and spongy or was it hard like lumber? This question will tell you whether the wood has begun to decompose. The sawdust you found in the heart probably feels like loose cork. As such it would probably do well as a top dressing in your garden after soaking in some alfalfa or manure tea. Spread this mixture out in Spring as a slow release fertilizer. Make your tea very strong and only make enough to be absorbed by your "sawdust".

Outside of walnut, I can't recall any other North American tree wood that is toxic to plants. Go have a campfire with some friends!


Everett, WA(Zone 8a)

Some people base entire raised beds on a foundation of rotting logs and call it "hugelkultur".

A little like up-side-down lasagna layering, Eastern European style..


Kalispell, MT(Zone 4b)

I use yards and yards of "mushroom Compost" horse manure and sawdust. I use it to build soil in areas where I will build raised beds. I use 4 to 6 inches of the oldest stuff and add over a couple of years 6" of cow manure rototilled to compost the sawdust and prevent nitrogen draw. After this I add my generous loam (clay and Humus) that is to be added. I would think germination in a nitrogen draw would not work. Who knows I am not a plant germinator, yet.

Everett, WA(Zone 8a)

>> I would think germination in a nitrogen draw would not work.

Agreed! Maybe the instructions stated that the top layers must have a lot of greens (high N) in them, and I missed that part.

It was made clear that the raw wood (including unrotted brush and even logs!) should form the BOTTOM layer where it would serve as a water reservoir through dry spells, once it did rot a little. Maybe the assumption is that roots would not grow down into the "woody zone" until enough N had leached down into it to balance all the C.

I guess I'm very "old school" in expecting to compost things BEFORE burying them in soil (other than tender green manure like turned-under cover crops).

(My motivation in finding ways to use wood quickly is that I do have some woody waste, and not much green waste.)


Kalispell, MT(Zone 4b)

Rick you need to get cows, chickens, and use a pail for your .... .

This message was edited Mar 3, 2011 3:21 PM

This message was edited Mar 3, 2011 3:22 PM

Everett, WA(Zone 8a)

In fact I'm thinking of buying enough 5 gallon pails to fill the little trunk in my Ford Escort.

Then: free biosolids, here I come! Yum yum yum!

BTW: I'm sure your delicacy of expression is widely appreciated!


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