Firewood and leaf breakdown


How do you make sure you’re not getting “burned” when buying firewood? First, ask what kind of wood you are buying and whether the wood is cured or green. You should also ask how much of a “cord” you are receiving for the money. Most advertisements will list these specifications but, if you specifically pose these questions, the vendors may think that you are an experienced buyer and will make sure that you are getting what you paid for. When the vendor delivers the firewood, it is a good idea to inspect the wood. Well-cured wood should have a dull white or gray color, be relatively lightweight, and have a crisp sound when struck.

Green wood is heavier, wetter and colder to the touch, and may have distinctive color or odors. Green wood often has a dull sound when stuck. You can also stack the wood to make sure that the quantity approaches a cord. A true cord should be 4 feet high by 4 feet wide by 8 feet in length when stacked. (Most vendors will not stack the wood for you unless you pay an additional fee.) Learning a little bit of wood identification can make you aware if the wood you are receiving is actually oak or something less desirable like maple or poplar. If you determine that this vendor provided you with an honest cord of well-seasoned firewood in the species that was advertised, give them your business next year.

Leaf breakdown

Nitrogen is one of the most important elements needed for tree growth and one of the hardest elements for trees to obtain. The problem is that nitrogen exists as a gas in its most basic form, a state most trees can not utilize. (An exception is legumes such as locust or catalpa trees which can take nitrogen from the air.) The way most other trees can obtain nitrogen is when it is part of decomposing organic material. Once a leaf falls from a tree, certain decomposing fungi or bacteria begin breaking it down into its basic elements. Nitrogen is converted into ammonium or nitrates, a form of nitrogen that trees and other plants can absorb and utilize. Most leaves will completely decompose within a year. When you rake leaves and burn them you are unleashing greenhouse gases like carbon and causing denitrofication as the nitrogen is released as a gas into the atmosphere. If you mulch the leaves and use them as fertilizer or merely rake them into the forest and let them decompose, you will enrich the woodland environment.

Nature Notes for 10/20/2013