How Wood Can Be Used in Composting

It’s Learn About Composting Day! Composting is becoming increasingly more popular in the Austin area as people learn how easy it is to keep organic material out of the landfills, and put it to good use in their own yards. In this post we’ll go over how wood can be composted, the benefits of using wood in compost and how long it will take for wood to become compost.

How Compost is Created

Before delving into why wood is a good compost addition, let’s take a moment to discuss what happens to create compost. Composting is fairly straightforward and not difficult to do. Organic materials such as yard clippings, wood chips and vegetable scraps are added to the compost pile, which can be a store-bought bin, a homemade cylindrical wire bin, a three-sided containment area made with wood, etc.

The key is to have good airflow and the ability to churn the pile every now and then. The pile will need to heat up to 40-60°C for “curing” to occur. Overtime nature will do its thing to naturally break the pile down into a fine material by way of microorganisms. These microscopic workers use carbon and nitrogen to complete the compost creation so it’s important to have a good carbon to nitrogen ratio in your pile. Aim for anywhere between 25-40 parts carbon to 1 part nitrogen. High amounts of carbon come from woody materials while high levels of nitrogen are supplied by dense, moist materials.

What Wood Can Be Composted

Wood comes in many different forms, some of which are easier to compost than others. Below is a run-down of wood products and how easily they can be composted:

  • Wood ash – easy to compost
  • Wood shavings – easy to compost
  • Wood Chips – long compost time and sometimes hard to compost
  • Sawdust – long compost time
  • Branches and twigs – long compost time

It’s important to note that slow wood composters can be sped up by breaking the wood into small pieces and mixing them with materials that are high in nitrogen.

Why Wood is a Good Compost Ingredient

While some wood may take longer to compost (up to two years for thick chips and branches) there are upsides to the delay. Wood chips, branches, etc. are chunkier and allow for better airflow through the pile and better drainage. They will also enhance the structure of the compost pile. All of these attributes are highly beneficial when dense materials are also in the compost.

Another way to reduce wood waste is with the Timbertown Austin “scrap pile”. We’ve stocked an area of the lumberyard with various sizes and shapes of wood that anyone can make a bid on for purchase so as not to have to buy more than needed. It’s just one more way we’re helping to keep beautiful wood out of landfills.

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