Wood Pellet Pathway?

Discussion in 'Put Your Questions to the Experts!' started by Hedgewitch, May 27, 2017.

  1. Hedgewitch

    Hedgewitch New Member

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    Hi, everyone! This is my first time posting a question in one of these forums, so please do let me know if I have erred in posting it here.

    I have about ten bags of wood pellets (mixed hard and soft wood) that got damp and, as such, can't be used in our pellet stove. Since the pellets basically just break down into sawdust, I was thinking that they could be used in our garden paths. I have researched this somewhat already and have read different things. Some people advocate it b/c it will keep "weeds" down in the paths, and others discourage it b/c they suggest it rob nutrients from the surrounding soil (not just the pathways) due to the way that the breakdown process for wood utilizes nitrogen, tying it up.

    What do you all think, and does anyone have experience using this material in their garden paths? If the sawdust does tie up available nitrogen during decomp, will it eventually be re-released into the soil, or will it be spent at that point? Will the nitrogen-sapping tendencies really impact nearby garden beds to an extent that it will inhibit plant growth? Pardon my ignorance on these matters, as I am not a chemist or a soil scientist.

    Thank you all so much for any advice or insight you can provide.

    P.S. I'm in Maine (if that matters).
     
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  2. songbird

    songbird Senior Member

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    i would guess that sawdust would make a poor pathway material
    because it moves very easily and would stick to shoes, etc.
    instead gradually use it as an addition to the compost pile, mulch
    some with it or even have fun and make fake rocks with it and
    a bit of cement mix and then let the mosses and such grow on
    it. i use extra organic materials for fill to get some extra elevation
    where we get flash floods (burying it down deep so it doesn't
    float away). i've never actually looked at those wood pellets
    close up. if someone wanted to give me some i'd probably take
    'em and perhaps they'd go well for a mushroom spore of some
    kind... hmm. no end of uses i could put 'em to. :)

    if the pellets actually were pieces of wood instead of sawdust i'd
    say use them because to me wood chips are an excellent material.

    as for nutrient changes. the N used by decaying wood is eventually
    returned in some form or another. the only amount used would be
    that in contact with the surface areas of the material and the soil. so
    if you don't mix the woody stuff into the soil it isn't a large draw.

    i think people are over reacting. you don't see woodlands go pale
    green from a fallen tree. that is because it gradually decays. same
    with a pathway or a mulch as long as you don't mix it.
     
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  3. Rach

    Rach New Member

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    If you've ever read Linda Woodrow's book on permaculture, she uses sawdust for her paths.

    She can get it free from local mills, and has a heavy clay that waterlogs, so she dug out the paths, and filled them with saw dust. She says they're great for drainage, attract and breed worms, and she digs em out into the compost and refills with fresh sawdust periodically... I don't think the nitrogen draw down would be too noticeable personally, but I suppose it depends what you are growing and how close to the paths. I haven't used it myself.
     
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  4. Hedgewitch

    Hedgewitch New Member

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    Thank you all for your input, and sorry for the delayed response! (I have been swamped with work lately.) I actually ended up putting in the sawdust pathways and like you said, Songbird, they are a bit messy, but as Rach mentioned, they have otherwise been a decent pathway material. I have it in abundance, and we're already planning to plant things that like acid soil, so, I suppose my philosophy at this point is "why not use it if it doesn't hurt anything?" I will update if anything changes. P.S. An added bonus of the sawdust paths is that spiders and their harvestmen cousins seem to love them more than any other pathways I've made before. I see them using the paths to move quickly across the yard like it's an interstate highway!
     
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