Posts tagged "wood"

How can I reuse or recycle leached wood ash left over from lye making?

Bee has asked:

What can I do with a lot of wood ash after it has been leached? I have a large firepit, and I plan on saving and leaching the ashes… but I’m very leery about tossing that much slag ash onto the compost heap. I’ve found lots of info about ashes before leaching, but practically nothing about after leaching.

Funnily enough, I was riddling our woodburner and thinking about recycling ash just before I spotted this question from Bee :)

We’ve already covered the various different ways to reuse wood ash – from unpainted/unvarnished wood – in the garden and beyond — and one of those ways is to use it to make lye, which is what Bee is talking about here: the wood ash left after it’s been steeped to make lye for soapmaking or what-have-you.

I haven’t made lye myself – we just compost the ash – and like Bee, my Google-fu has failed me. I can find lots of tutorials on how-to make lye from wood ash but they all just skip from making the lye solution to using the lye, without explaining the clean up.

So does anyone know if the leftover ash is suitable for composting? I suspect it would be fine to go on a well-balanced compost heap – when “raw” wood ash is composted, the lye & salts leach away into the compost over time and the resulting compost will be alkaline but not too caustic to burn plants. The leaching process will have removed a lot of the lye so in theory it shouldn’t damage your heap – although equally, there is less point in it being there because it contains less minerals than “raw” wood ash – better than being thrown into landfill but not going to add a lot of goodies to the garden. That’s what I think anyway, from looking at the situation now — I am very happy to be contradicted by someone who has had experience of composting it.

Is there anything else that can be done with it? What would our ancestors – who wasted so very little – have done with it?

How can I reuse or recycle Leylandii/conifer branches?

We’ve had an email from Jennifer (sorry it’s taken a few weeks to feature it, Jennifer!):

We hacked down a couple of huge nasty Leylandii conifer trees from our garden this weekend and don’t know what to do with the wood and branches. It’s far too much for our own compost bin, fear for the state of our car if we tried to take them to the council compost collection because they’re dropping resin and I’ve read that you shouldn’t burn them. My husband thinks the only option might be hiring a skip for landfill but I’d still prefer a green option!

Ahh, Leyland Cypress. Depending on your point of view, it’s either the useful sound/pollution blocking instant-hedge or the scourge of urban gardens with its own Asbo law.

As we have a woodburning stove and a father-in-law who skip-dives for all sorts of wood, we’ve read quite a bit about burning leylandii – some people say as long as it is sufficiently dry (seasoned), it’s fine to burn and is actually a good start-of-fire accelerator. But it is full of sticky resin which can clog up chimneys with creosote and cause chimney fires – the pro-burning-it people say as long as it’s seasoned and completely dry, this isn’t a problem but it takes a good couple of years to reach that state. (Outdoor fires, such as bonfires, won’t have a build-up problem but if you burn it fresh/green, it will give off clouds of smoke and spit furiously.)

A quick Google tells me that some people use sections of cut-down Leylandii trees in aviaries to provide secluded roosting space for small birds. Other people shred them up and use them as woodchippings for paths – they will compost down eventually but will probably take a few years. If you don’t fancy doing either of those things, perhaps someone on your local Freecycle/Freegle may be interested in doing it…?

Any other suggestions or ideas?

How can I reuse or recycle mixed/MDF sawdust?

We’ve had an email from Paul:

We’ve got an extraction system at our joinery shop which produces big bags of sawdust but we use a lot of MDF and other particle boards so it can’t be used for animal bedding. Do you know how they could be recycled?

We’ve covered wood shavings recycling before but the obvious answer there was animal bedding – lots of people want rid of them and lots of people want it! The MDF dust is a bit of a stick in the wheels though – as Paul says, there are issues using MDF dust in animal bedding — the dust is so fine it can easily be kicked up and lead to respiratory problems.

So what else can be done with it? I did wonder whether it could be pressed into wooden pellets for biomass boilers but apparently the glues/chemicals used in particle board construction may be problematic – an undesirable contaminant. Any other ideas?

(Photo by Vaderluck)

How can I reuse or recycle pruned Catalpa wood?

We’ve had another email from friend of Recycle This, Petra:

I need your help again. I hope I can explain the topic well, because I’m not used to discuss garden items in English.

We have a Catalpa tree in our garden, which produces every year a lot of new branches. The year after, in March, you need to prune all these new
branches to make room for the new ones. My question is, what can I do with all these old branches. Of course I can burn them in the fireplace, but the wood grew fast and burns fast.

I was thinking about braiding a fence, like they do with willow branches, but I’ve no idea if Catalpa branches can be used for something like that. All other ideas are also welcome.

I hadn’t heard of a Catalpa tree so wondered if they are something that doesn’t grow in the UK – but apparently the oldest one in the world is in Reading so I’m not only wrong, I’ve been wrong for 150 years. Shows what I (don’t) know.

Apparently pioneer farmers in the US used Catalpa farmers to make “strong, lightweight rot-resistant fence posts” so I guess they could be used for some small structural purposes. I’m not sure whether it would be suitable for weaving like hazel or willow though – it might snap when it dries – anyone know?

It’s also supposed to be good for woodworking because it has an interesting grain – but I think you’d be limited on what you could make from year old wood (crochet hooks? sculptures of single strands of spaghetti?).

Any other suggestions for ways to use the wood?

How can I reuse or recycle an MDF radiator cover?

We’ve had an email from Andi:

The last people who lived in our house installed MDF (i think) radiator covers everywhere which we don’t want any more. Do you have any idea what we can do with them? They’ve been painted and have cute cut out panels but block all the heat!

There still seem to be plenty of dedicated companies selling them so some people must still want them – perhaps offer yours on your local Freecycle/Freegle, to see if anyone wants them?

Both the MDF and paint mean that the wood can’t be burned or composted and is very hard to recycle, so aside from passing them on, we’re looking for reuses.

After realising how many types of vegetables I want to grow this year, my first thought would be to reuse the wood to make trough planters – the cut out bits could be used to make pretty fronts. Or similarly, they could be used to make blanket/storage boxes – the cuts outs would let the contents breath.

Any other suggestions?