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Firestarter logs, Eucalyptus brash 🤔

Firestarter logs are popular here in Ireland, and I did use them for a while.
Usually I would chop them up into three, so they worked out at around 50 cents each per fire lit. They are a bit messy and smell if you chop them up, they, so far as I could make out, a mixture of wood and peat impregnated with paraffin or some other accelerant.

Eucalyptus brash smells nice, is clean, and as you can see in the video burns well; a roaring fire in a couple of minutes 😁

For anyone who has some spare land, then growing Eucalyptus for firewood is a no brainer.
Apart from being a sustainable fuel, its economically a good option.
See the economics on this page Mini Forests

Eucalyptus Rodwayi are grown commercially for firewood and have been frost hardy and wind resilient here in West Clare, Ireland.

One of the fabulous benefits of most eucalyptus, is that they can be planted at any time of year 😉

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Eucalyptus dry up wet ground 😉

If you have wet ground and want to dry it up in a natural way, then planting Eucalyptus trees is a good option.

Before I planted my mini forest, the ground here could become very saturated. It still gets wet, though no where near the same extent.
As I say in the video, when I planted the first few Nitens and Gunnii, the holes I drilled with the earth auger were brimming with water in a few minutes.

There’s absolutely no doubt in my mind, that Eucalyptus dry up wet ground, and I’ve proved this in the video.

Drying up wet ground on golf courses

Eucalyptus trees are evergreen, and require hydration all year round, perfect for extending the playing season on courses which are prone to becoming saturated.

Eucalyptus trees not only dry up the area which their roots extend too, but well beyond that. More than most species, Eucalyptus enlist the help of mycorrhizal networks to exchange hydration and nutrients for sugars and carbohydrates; resources the fungi can’t produce themselves.

In practice, this means that instead of the dry strips which conventional drains exhibit during dry periods, the draining of the ground is much more even.
Digging and filling drains with rocks and plastic piping is EXPENSIVE ! and often not that effective. Drains often collapse, leaving indentations in the ground.

Eucalyptus trees and the mycorrhizal networks are cheap and don’t have these downsides.

Dry up the wettest areas first 🤣

YES ! mycorrhizal are that intelligent ! they operate free market economics in a strict way, exchanging what they have in abundance cheaply, and what is in short supply expensively. i.e. they exchange hydration and nutrients in return for sugars and carbohydrates from the trees. Something mycorrhizal can’t produce themselves.

There are no hotspots, either wet or dry whatever time of year, or whatever the prevailing climatic conditions.
The extremes are evened out 😉

Eucalyptus more than most species are ideally suited to drying up boggy ground.

Golf Hole trench drainage

The farmers around here have ready access to what they call gravel, what I would call quite chunky rocks ! They dig it out of the hillsides.

Farmers gravel

They have access to all the heavy machinery necessary for digging drainage. Excavators and tractors with very large tipping trailers.

Ireland can be a very wet place 🌧
It’s on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean and the rain laden storms that flow in. So even though the farmers dig trenches and fill them with rocks to improve the drainage in their fields, they can still become saturated.

Cattle are housed in sheds during the winter, which creates its own issues, namely slurry which is then sprayed onto the fields. Slurry is good fertiliser, but it is also full of pathogens, and according to one farmer I spoke to; slurry further softens the ground, making it even more boggy during wet periods.

If the ground was firmer, then the cattle could graze outside for longer, possibly all year round, which according to another farmer is cheaper !

Sadly they don’t like trees, which is a shame as, planted around the edges of the fields they would be far more effective at regulating water than their drains, which during wet periods are effective, but only locally, within a few metres of the drain trench at most.

Eucalyptus dry up wet ground all through the year because they are evergreen and need hydration even during the winter. They also do this evenly and a long way from their root systems as they utilise the mycorrhizal networks.

During dry periods the drains create parched strips of earth with no vegetation; no grass, cattle food.

There’s much to be said for agroforestry !

Farmers field drainage trenches
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Eucalyptus Nitens Flowers

The first of the Nitens started flowering about three years after being planted.

Eucalyptus Nitens

From what I am led to believe, by the research I did initially, eucalyptus hybridise readily. This makes sense as many of them are very similar and form families of sub species.

Eucalyptus Nitens flowers are small and white, as soon as I get a photo of mine, I will post it 😉
Most eucalyptus flowers are small and white.

With eucalyptus seed becoming scarcer, certainly in the EU where there are now import restrictions; I’ve had a few of thoughts that might help:

  • Eucalyptus dry up boggy ground, so would be a fabulous idea for wet golf courses. Why do I think this is a good idea ?
    Golf courses tend to be more than a kilometre apart, so far enough apart to prevent hybridising.
  • It could provide clubs with an additional income stream.

Golf has national organisations, so this could be coordinated with no sub-species being within a kilometre radius.

Here are some photos of Eucalyptus flower buds and seed capsules

These are last years capsules, so I may harvest them in the next few weeks and see if they have any viable seeds

Eucalyptus Nitens seed capsules

The flowers start off as these clusters of flower buds

Eucalyptus Nitens flower bud clusters
Eucalyptus Nitens flower bud clusters good focus

The tree at the beginning of the video has lots of flower bud clusters, and quite a few of those eucalyptus Nitens within thirty metres, so there should be enough diversity to produce viable seeds.

Eucalyptus Nitens lots of flower bud clusters
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Griselina as Firewood 🤔

Griselina firewood 141023

I noticed a while ago how thick the Griselina were at the base. The thickest one, probably about forty centimetres in diameter.

Griselina cleared from Subcrenulata

I get the impression that these may have been cut back soon after they were planted, perhaps as long ago as 2009; to promote bushy growth.

Griselina showing multiple big shoots

So far as I am awareGriselina grow quickly and will become bushy naturally.

Griselina cut showing multiple big shoots

I was expecting to find more birds nests, one reason I’ve left it so late in the year to cut them down, but all I found was one old one. I don’t think it had been used this year.

Griselina birds nest

So pleased I got on with this. Always a tough call to cut down anything here, though the Eucalyptus will develop much faster with the increase in sun shine, day light.

Griselina cleared from poly tunnel
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Paulownia / Sitka Spruce (PH)

Just wanted to set the record straight when it comes to replanting a Sitka Spruce forest with Paulownia or other deciduous hardwood, and also non-deciduous Eucalyptus.

More info and buy Paulownia

A Sitka Spruce forest and indeed most conifer forests have a soil PH of around 4 to 5.7, which is acidic

PH scale

Paulownia require a PH of at least 5, and grow best. and their range, between 5 and 8.5 is towards the neutral level.

It fair to say that my small Paulownia plantation isn’t in the idea spot, being North facing. Paulownia definitely like full sun and I’d also say high summer temperatures. Hydration can also be an issue, Paulownia like a lot of hydration, but don’t like having their roots in soaking soil. Paulownia are not a tree for the bog !
On a South facing slope with full sun and some shelter from severe, cold winter gales, I’d say you will have much more success and a couple of fellow enthusiasts here in Ireland have specimens which have grown three metres in a season.
Even with the disadvantages of my site, I am an enthusiast and they are growing. I’m very much looking forward to the flowers which I’m sure the bees and other pollinators will love.

One FaceBook comment I read recently suggested that in order to get good constructional timber from Paulownia, winter frosts are required to firm up the wood. The comments on the post also stated that their are hundreds of hybrids, bred to suit every environment and local, though as above my research suggests the PH must be above 5.
My impression from the four plus years I have been researching and growing; and do add any knowledge you have in the comments, is that Paulownia do best with high summer temperatures. They grow well in Southern Europe, producing the high value, quality timber Paulownia are renowned for. I doubt they have severe winter frosts in plantations in Spain, so as with all research there are contradictions.
My strong advice ! plant a small experimental forest and draw your own conclusions 😉

I’m definitely keen on experimental forestry 🙂
I like native species, Oaks, Ash, Beech and Sycamore which aren’t native, though mostly all broad leaved deciduous trees are considered fabulous by the anti non-native advocates 🙄

Anyway, the Robinia Pseudoacacia haven’t done well here, not even close, so I won’t be continuing with them. The advantage of planting small has meant I’ve learned without expending a lot of resources, time and money to find out they just aren’t suitable in my particular local.

Difficult to get a focus, but I’m sure you get the gist of it, hardly surviving, far less thriving 🙁

Bog Lizard - Robinia Pseudoacacia 071023

I did take a chance on the Eucalyptus, though there are so many varieties; some have done better than others, and after five an a half years I have reasonable knowledge of what grows best in my particular local.

Your very specific site local is the be all and end all from what I’ve gathered over the time I’ve been planting and researching.
I’m sure Viminalis would be great further inland away from the severe, possibly salty Atlantic gales, though I am at least six kilometres away from the shore. Prone to wind burn here which has hampered their growth, they can grow at three metres per year in ideal conditions, you’d be harvesting firewood in five years at that rate.
Viminalis were very frost hardy and survived the server cold snap at the end of 2022 with ease. the winter of 2022 / 23 didn’t have any severe gales and they have faired much better as a result.
Nature and climatic conditions are not static, they fluctuate.

Lush new top growth in October, the more mature leaves survive the gales, though new tender growth is susceptible to wind burn

Bog Lizard - Viminalis lush top growth 071023

In just over five years; fabulous wind protection for my property, something that didn’t cross my mind when I planted them

Bog Lizard - Eucalyptus protecting house 071023

My most sturdy Viminalis

Bog Lizard - Eucalyptus Viminalis trunk 071023
Bog Lizard - Viminalis full tree 071023
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Are paulownia invasive ?

Bog Lizard - Paulownia invasive ?

Before I planted any Paulownia on my small area here in West Clare, Ireland, I did a couple of years of research, and although I had heard a few references here and there to their invasiveness, I couldn’t find any actual evidence that they are.
Certainly not in Ireland or cool temperate climates.

The climate can be a bit of a downside in Ireland; my feeling (not backed up by research) is that Paulownia do best in climates that have hot summers, 30℃ plus.

This said, a couple of fellow enthusiast have said, that with full sun and good husbandry, their Paulownia have grown three metres in one season.

Buy Paulownia

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Non-native species 😧

Bog Lizard - Non-native species 😧

There will always be opposition to whenever anyones tries to be different, though planting non-native species of trees or other plants can stir emotions amongst the conservatives.

It’s certainly true that some non-native species have gotten out of control, and or bad for the environment. This is generally a very localised issue, i.e. this non-native plants aren’t an issue in their native environments or in other similar environments where plants, animals and insects can cope with them and keep them in check.

So often though there is a dogmatic backlash to non-native species whatever their genus with a complete disregard for the their potential benefits.

Due to the history of Ireland, particularly in the North West, including where I stay in County Clare, there is even hostility to trees period 😧 which is a shame as there are so many potential benefits.

Fast growing Eucalyptus in particular could replace the unsustainable, environmentally damaging fossil fuel currently burn in fires and stoves as heating.
I’ve burnt what is called “turf’ which is dried out peat harvested from raised bogs and in comparison with higher BTU hardwood Eucalyptus; I know which I would choose, “Eucalyptus” 😉

I planted my Eucalyptus mini forest about five years ago now and its grown quickly, capturing carbon in the process. A couple of years ago I started planting Paulownia, which are considered to be one of the best trees in the world for capturing carbon.

As I say in the video, rather than being an issue for the native species and habitat, the non-native Eucalyptus and Paulownia have been beneficial, adding both habitats and food for pollinating insects.

Here’s the link to NASA sea level rise information.
Its worth taking a look, very interesting 😧

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Eucalyptus or Willow Coppice 🤔

Bog Lizard - Coppice Eucalyptus or Willow

Guess this depends on where you are, i.e. your climatic conditions.

Another factor would be what you would use the coppice for ? Willow is used for basket weaving. I haven’t come across any information which suggests that any Eucalyptus can be used for a similar purpose, though its not something I would rule out, Eucalyptus is very bendy.
Willow is used to make, furniture, small utility items such as bowls, but its most notable use is for making cricket bats, due to its high shock resistance.
There are at least seven hundred varieties of Eucalyptus ! and its timber is used for general constructional and the wood is considered to be rot resistant, something that can’t be said of Willow.

Anyway, so far as my small plot is concerned the main use will be as sustainable firewood, fuel for the stove.

Here in Ireland, Willow or Sailes grow wild and whereas in Scotland, most land in the highlands reverts to Birch scrubland, I’d say here in Ireland it would be Willows that would take over.
At the time of writing I haven’t burnt Willow; Birch is excellent firewood.

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Wet firewood 😧

Wet firewood 😧 this certainly shocked me 😧

I was expecting perhaps half a pint of water for each log, but more than a full imperial pint !
I suspect even the reasonable firewood that you buy from the petrol stations etc. won’t be that dry.

The regulations in Ireland from what I understand is less that 15% moisture content. If the logs I dried had a 15% moisture content, then they’d still be too wet in my opinion.
At 15% half a pint of water would need to be boiled off per log, so say six logs in your fire, then three pints ! remarkable !

Considering how easy it is to dry in a poly tunnel, and Eucalyptus that I dried out last year in the poly tunnel took nine weeks to be less than 10% moisture content. A year later and I’d estimate it is less than 5% which is getting to the dryness I would consider acceptable.
Firewood is a very good fuel, but it does need to be dry 😉

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Pulverulenta Re-growth

The Pulverulenta didn’t look great after the severe and prolonged cold snap at the end of 2022. A few were fine, though there was a lot of brown and burnt foliage with dead seed capsules and flower buds.

Very disappointed about the dead flower buds as last February they were covered in flowers and the bees loved them. So pleased to discover that there are some flowers now, quite a bit later, its May.

Once I’d cleared the vegetation I was delighted to see new growth from the stumps and stems. I should have looked more closely, though I don’t think I did too much damage with my enthusiastic vegetation control.

Pulverulenta sprouting from the base
Pulverulenta sprouting from the stem