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redant

Recycling palm fronds into the garden

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redant

Well years of planting palms is paying off, I have more fronds then I know what to do with. My soil is crap so I'd love to add more organic matter and I have truckloads of fronds, but seems rather difficult to make them useful. I have a chipper but they don't chip well at all, they clog the machine with fiber. I'm thinking I'm going to make a sacrificial frond burning site and burn these so I don't have to keep draggin them from where I accumulate them in the back to the front where the town picks them up (about 800 ft away, urgh). Any other ideas :unsure:

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MattyB

Can you put grass clippings and other moist garden waste on top and water the pile to get them to compost? I'm planning on doing just that so I'm wondering if it'll actually work.

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DoomsDave

You can do what I do: burn them in the fireplace (they make the BEST kindling) or, if no fireplace, toss e'm on the ground, bury them with other organics, and they rot like decaying moral fiber . . . . .(:))

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PalmGuyWC

In a tropical place palm material breaks down fast. In Calif. forget it. I've tried everything, and the best way to get rid of palm debris is to haul it to the dump. Your right, palm fiber clogs up a chipper and it's to time consuming. I only have an acre and I haul away about 8 or 10 truck loads a year. A pile of palm fronds and flower stalks in a pile in your back yard is not a pretty sight.

Dick

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DoomsDave

Keep them wet, especially under a layer of dirt, ESPECIALLY with some manure (even a little doggy poop) and, zoop! They rot so fast it's scary.

Dang, Richard, you've got an acre! That is a lot.

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LJG

I agree with Dick. Us living in Cali typically need to haul large fronds. Not enough moisture to break them down. Also, I have seen gardens in FL where they compost on standard sized lots. The amount of fronds ends up beating the rate of compost. So you end up were we are in Cali, just slower.

And Dave, was that a pun?

Dang, Richard, you've got an acre! That is a lot.

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DoomsDave
I agree with Dick. Us living in Cali typically need to haul large fronds. Not enough moisture to break them down. Also, I have seen gardens in FL where they compost on standard sized lots. The amount of fronds ends up beating the rate of compost. So you end up were we are in Cali, just slower.

And Dave, was that a pun?

Dang, Richard, you've got an acre! That is a lot.

That wasn't an intentional pun, but this is:

Once upon a time, in a kingdom far enough away

A knight bowed before the king and said, rather cheekily

"Majesty! For my services to you, I'd like some land!"

And the king said,

"All right, stand up!"

And the knight stood

And, quick as a flash, the king walked over to the knight

and snap-kicked him in the cojones

As the knight doubled over in pain, the king snarked

"So, how's THAT for a couple of achers?

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redant

Yeah when I said a lot of fronds I mean it. If I where to attempt composting them my yard would look like the city landfill, and I'd need a backhoe in order to bury them. I'm leaning towards creating more greenhouse gasses and having a controlled burn once a month.

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bgl

Even in a tropical place with high rainfall, larger palm fronds (Roystonea, Clinostigma for instance) take a LONG time to decompose. Up to ten years or so. Ever since I planted my first palm here in March 1996 I have been dumping the old fronds in two locations in the forest adjacent to our property. The land belongs to Kamehameha Schools (formerly known as Bishop Estate - the richest private school in the entire USA). Up until early 2005 I considered my old fronds a donation to Kamehameha Schools (after all, in the long run it's beneficial for the soil!), but now that we are leasing the land I'm planning to re-use the decomposed material. Here's a photo of the smaller area (of the two areas I'm using). There used to be a nice even path in the middle, but for some reason some palm fronds ended up getting dropped on the path as well. Now, some of the pigs who live in the forest have volunteered to dig up this area on a nightly basis. Apparently this is the equivalent of their local deli! :) The dark area closest to the camera is the area that the pigs are working on. When I dump fronds (every morning) I have to make my way across this mucky and uneven area, and dump them in the area beyond.

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Jose Maria

Here in Costa Rica the fronds of african palms get placed in "windrows" where people dont walk during harvest, eventually the fronds decompose.

But we have lots af rain...An other benefit is harvesters can spot snakes on the cleaned area around the palm trees.

In California doing the same is could very well end up accumulating a fire hazard. Maybe burning them periodicaly is the best solution.

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garrin

I have been facing the fallen frond issues more and more in my garden also. Several years ago I began using palm fronds to mulch some of my fruit trees; I was told that the durians especially love a good mulch layer. As most of the ground in my orchard is pretty deeply shaded now, the mulch remains very moist in this rainy East Hawai'i climate, and where I have a good compost layer already developed, all the organisms seem to be there to break down even the toughest palm fronds. There are a few small piles back in my forest where it is a bit more open, and they do indeed last for years! I think the above suggestions for keeping frond mulch moist and mixed with other faster decomposing organics is very practical. In spite of constant addition of fronds beneath the durian trees, the layer never gets much deeper. I hate to waste any organic material here in my garden because of the originally poor rocky soils. A very good topsoil has now taken form.

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chris.oz

Palms are tough as. The only way to chip dried out fronds is to cut them into 1" lengths with sharp secateurs. They can be used direct as mulch then also, trouble is large dried out palm fronds are hard to cut. I would estimate a cidp leafbase may take 5 years to break down even when buried and the spines would remain a threat for about the same time

The last lot of butia leaves I did had to be taken to the dump.

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amazondk

I have been thinking about this subject lately as I have been cleaning up my country place and planting palm trees. I have a lot of very spiny palms, Astrocaryum aculeatum, which have great fruit, but deadly spines. Due to the high humidity, percipitation, and constantly warm equatorial weather organic matter breaks down pretty fast here. But the spines on these palms are pretty long lived. So, I guess the only viable solution I have is burning them. I burned a lot of them the other day while clearing the underbrush in the forested part of my lot. Maybe my fires turned up on the satelliite reporst of deforestation and burning down the Amazon.

belavistacapoeiraclearing.jpg

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_Keith
,,, Maybe my fires turned up on the satelliite reporst of deforestation and burning down the Amazon.

:lol:

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Daryl

Some chipper/mulchers handle palm fronds really well. These are the 'hammer mill' style machines. I didn't believe it till I saw it myself. One of our Palm Society members demonstrated it at an outing to his garden. It was a Caravaggi mulcher, a bit more expensive than normal mulchers, but they do the trick.

I don't own one yet, so I cut all of my fronds into sections and then place them on the ground as mulch under my palms, just like in the real world. They seem to break down very well, with our rain, microorganisms and earthworms all contributing. When I break them up, I separate the leafbases and thicker rachis/petiole pieces and toss them in a separate pile for burning. The remaining palm leaves and thinner petiole pieces all break down nicely. It takes a little time with secateurs and loppers, but also saves having to dispose of them some other way, and is free mulch. And they are giving back what they have taken from the soil.

On another note, I looked out the window at work last week to see some tree loppers cutting down two mature Queen palms. They just cut them off at ground level, then cut into three sections and fed into the mulcher, leaves, trunk, the lot. All gone in about 30 seconds each. They are a declared noxious weed here and local government foots the bill for their removal. Queen palm mulch is great for your soil, it breaks down beautifully.

Daryl

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aussiearoids

Local company has designed a high speed chipper that will chop up palm fronds easily . Sheaths can be hard to feed in .

Most home machines are really hammermills , and just flail away at woody branches . For fibrous palm fronds a sharp blade with solid anvil is needed . And very high speed .. I have never used this machine , but seen one .. not running .

I know how much of a major job removing fronds is , after doing the rounds of approx 50 large Corypha palms at Whyanbeel . Cutting off 4-5 fronds from each one with a handsaw was a painstaking job .. then stacking them up on a tandem trailer ,,, then unloading them .. really lucky not to draw blood on that job

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Mark Heath

I use them in my compost heap like others have talked about. I add manure, oranges, old veggies, oak leaves, and water hyachinths (i know, spelled incorrectly)!! I get about 12 yards of compost every two years from doing this and

the palms explode w/ growth from it!! I water my compost from time to time and turn it w/ my bobcat. Using palm fronds is very beneficial due to the nutrients that they have! I will say though that the thick parts of the fronds does'nt break down, but i simply remove them when i spread/use the compost.

It takes me two years to get everything to break down correctly and you were saying that you wanted to amend your soil,,,, so there you go!!!! If you want, i can shoot you some literature about compost,, but i am quite sure you allready know how to go about doing a compost heap!

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John Case

There is a ton of talk these days on home made biochar. Although I am not convinced, it seems to me that you could dig a hole, char 'em up, and give it a try. If there is someone near you that wants them for the same proce, so much the better!

BTW, Bo, what does palm flavored pork taste like?

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DoomsDave
There is a ton of talk these days on home made biochar. Although I am not convinced, it seems to me that you could dig a hole, char 'em up, and give it a try. If there is someone near you that wants them for the same proce, so much the better!

BTW, Bo, what does palm flavored pork taste like?

Hmm.

I'm game.

Ive got the bio, adding the char should be easy, since I'm a bit of a pyro . . . .

Any resources?

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redant
There is a ton of talk these days on home made biochar. Although I am not convinced, it seems to me that you could dig a hole, char 'em up, and give it a try. If there is someone near you that wants them for the same proce, so much the better!

BTW, Bo, what does palm flavored pork taste like?

Hmm.

I'm game.

Ive got the bio, adding the char should be easy, since I'm a bit of a pyro . . . .

Any resources?

google homemade biochar, you will find plenty. Not exactly like just going out back and burning them, but seems like a good idea if you have the space, time and a little skill.

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Moose

What does a Caravaggi mulcher cost? :huh: Is it available in the States :blink: ? I have been chopped up fronds by hand. It is time consuming and I would prefer a mulcher. Burning fronds would add CO2 to the greenhouse gas scenario. I prefer to let the microbes do the work. Unfortunately my property size would not permit me a compoting pile like Bo's.

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redant

I broke down and put a match to my big pile, gone in minutes. Fire can be a wonderful tool when used properly.

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DoomsDave

Take:

Some dried palm fronds, even Phoenix, some logs, a scrap of paper, and pile the paper, the fronds then the logs in the fireplace and light with a match.

Add some fine female company, a little refreshment and a fine evening can ensue . . . ..

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Central Floridave

I recycle mine into either mulch or into a once a year fire pit. To help break the fronds down initially for the past two years I've trained my Jack Russell Terriers to help the process. Everytime I get a frond that either falls off or ready to be pulled off, I play with my dogs with it in the backyard. This helps twofold. One it starts the break down process AND helps tire out the dogs. About every two weeks I rack up what's left and I have a wheel barrow full of free mulch!

Here is a youtube video I shot tonight demonstrating my k-9 frond chippers

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bgl

Enjoyed the video! And I'm still trying to figure out how many Jack Russell Terriers I would need...! :lol:

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Central Floridave

Here is a 2nd video. These dogs have fun with it! They know not to grab a green frond! This video shows a 360 view of the backyard. If you noticed there are no brown fronds. The dogs know when they are ready and point them out to me. Its been kind of fun thing to do. The remaining frond isn't that pretty, so I pile it up and either bury it under good mulch or burn it. I use the ash to fertilize with.

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BS Man about Palms

I like it! You should name one doggie Chipper!

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DoomsDave

Dave:

Love the Bizzie, and the big Teddy Bear . . . . .

And the terriers . . ..

More!

ARF!

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The Palm Nut

I have been using my hammermill mulcher for 10 plus years and with its chipper it works wonders, but it is alot of hard work and time consuming. It cost me 1200 hundred dollars but has paid for its self many time over. Grow some sugarcane as well, get a cane cutter and your in business.

Mike

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edbrown_III

I put them on the paths of my rain forest and run over with a law mower. I used to not bother as I had a good pine straw floor covering . I hd to thin out pines. I just run over them as best I can . Big fronds like Syagrus I burn but smaller you can cut and mulch. clipping s etc -- Its better to sheet compost rather than pile tho. I am fertilizign the palms in the forst here so fertilize and water is there -- you get these 3 components and lost of earth worms and they last a year or so here in North FL.

Photos kind of show the process.

Best regards,

Ed

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John Case

Ed,

Your lawnmower looks suspiciously like a German Shepherd........does it perform better than a Jack Russell?

John

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edbrown_III

He provides the Nitrogen in the forest and chews on the petioles --- Every thing I own has teeth marks on it.

Best regards,

Ed

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