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Pellets that aren’t

Does anybody have any idea what to do with several hundred pounds of stove pellets that have lost their integrity?

The people who sold me my house left about two dozen 40-pound bags of pellets — some stored marginally but still usable, some stored very badly. Like on muddy ground. In a leaky shed. With mice nibbling at the corners of the bags. While this stuff is still vaguely pellety and mostly not damp to the touch, it’s gunky enough to clog the auger.

Don’t ask me how I know that, about clogging the auger. Don’t even mention that subject to me right now, okay?

Can I spread the bad stuff on the non-veggie part of my garden? Use it for kitty litter? It’s supposed to be 100 percent wood without chemical additives. Would hate to just lug it all to the dump.

Your ideas appreciated, as always.

22 Comments

  1. Pat
    Pat November 20, 2010 4:42 pm

    Not kitty litter. But it could be used for a dry bed, or mulch around bushes. Or maybe mixed in cement for walkways (either spread over the path area or made into molds of whatever shape you wanted), or for an edging.

  2. Claire
    Claire November 20, 2010 4:59 pm

    Thanks, Pat. Another thought: The area where I park my vehicle tends to be very muddy and when it rains really hard turns into a small lake. I intend to have a load of gravel brought in one of these days. But in the meantime, would dumping these ex-pellets in the area help at all? Or would it just create a swampy, sawdust-filled lake?

  3. Pat
    Pat November 20, 2010 5:18 pm

    “Or would it just create a swampy, sawdust-filled lake?”

    Am not sure of that, maybe someone else knows. But it might serve as a better foundation for the parking area once the gravel is put down.

  4. Jane
    Jane November 20, 2010 7:00 pm

    My old riding instructor put down the used shavings in the arena to improve the footing… it just made things slicker. The original soil was Albq. valley mix of clay & sand, more towards the clay. Draw your own conclusions.

    If it really is just wood, it’d be an excellent soil conditioner. Just turn it into all your beds. The first year you may need to supplement w/some manure tea; as the soil bacteria establish their colonies, they will initially use nitrogen. But subsequent years they’ll be converting that wood into available nutrients, including nitrogen.

    When we first moved to Albq, my mom had a couple of dump truck loads of tree shred turned into the sandy soil. Our yard flourished with little additional amendments other than water. (She was a bit of a distracted gardener… 4 kids, etc)

    I’ve been adding wood chips to my beds for the last couple of years to increase their tilth. In our heat, they hold up better than compost.

  5. bumperwack
    bumperwack November 20, 2010 7:09 pm

    dunno claire…would think there was some kind of additive in that stuff…might work for some TSA “effigy”prototypes tho…

  6. ff42
    ff42 November 20, 2010 7:25 pm

    Forgive my ignorance, but wouldn’t using anything organic (i.e., it breaks down relatively fast) be bad for a foundation?

  7. capt gooch
    capt gooch November 20, 2010 9:19 pm

    Depending on the type of wood it is made from …. it would make excellent mulch around your outdoor plants.
    IF it is truly “chemical free”.
    Pine and other conifers as mulch are for acid loving plants.

    The driveway/parking spot ….
    It will pack down into the soil under the “puddle ” of your drive making the mud a lot less messy and unless you are using truck loads there won’t be enough to influence the “foundation” of the gravel drive to come.
    Impromptu notes on driveway making ….
    A generous layer -6 to 8 inches- of very fine clay is the best for the base of your driveway improvement. [Usually just done by scraping the topsoil away to reach the natural subsoil level.]
    Then a layer of sand is packed down tightly and then gravel to a depth of 8 inches or so. The clay packs down tightly and gets pretty hard then the sand and gravel settles into it and forms the surface that will allow being disturbed but not “messy”.

    Back to the pellet shaped wood product ….
    If you have clay soil and the wood is not exclusively pine you can work it into your garden area.
    If it is pure pine then use it as a mulch or as a temporary walkway that can be strewn Thickly [stack it up. 4 to 6 inches deep if you have enough] from house to parking place and you will find it much nicer to deal with than the Mud in the rainy season.
    A driveway is just a walkway for your truck/vehicle after all.

    So … Claire ….
    What happened to the pellet auger ?
    Operator Error ? Or is there a “story” here ?
    [he quickly ducks back behind his monitor screen ….]

  8. Pat
    Pat November 20, 2010 9:23 pm

    That’s true, ff42, and I’m not sure pellets would make much difference at all.

    OTOH, my thinking was: 1) “Foundation” is a relative term, not an absolute one — but wood being less porous than soil for water to trickle through, the pellets would act as a *partial* barrier, which would help (the gravel) further to eliminate the “lake effect”.

    2) Also, organic materials need air to break down (they – somebody – have discovered that paper bags buried in landfills are still hanging around intact), so if the gravel covers the pellets, I’m not sure if, when, or how much, breakdown there would be. In any case, it would add to the soil which remained under the gravel.

    But No. 1 was my major reasoning.

  9. Pat
    Pat November 21, 2010 12:11 am

    Let me add this: In gardening, several layers of (whatever) are used to build up the soil foundation for plant growth. The pellets would be just another “layer” in this landscaping; they’re not used for supporting weight per se, but are used for added integrity of the parking area – in this case to establish a firmer base of soil and prevent such a rapid formation of the “lake.”

  10. Keith from North Idaho
    Keith from North Idaho November 21, 2010 8:00 am

    Not a good foundation. You’ll need to remove it when you want to install a real foundation — that will be difficult.

    Not good for compost unless you can be certain there is no cedar.

    I wouldn’t put in garden area unless you’re prepared to add much nitrogen. OW it will bind w/ avail nitrogen to detriment of plants.

    I’d use for fire starters if you have a traditional wood stove or fireplace as follows: Put pellets in cups of egg carton, fill cups w/ wax, make certain there are a few pellets ‘showing through’ top of wax to make easy to light. Tear off one cup at a time for handy, inexpensive fire starter.

  11. Jane
    Jane November 21, 2010 10:35 am

    Binding available nitrogen is largely a myth. It only binds nitrogen short term, the first season. After that it provides nitrogen in a slow release manner. It supports mycorrhiza colonies, which will break down the wood to provide polysaccharides & trace minerals to the plants, and in the desert SW wood shavings last much longer as a soil conditioner than compost, which is pretty much completely consumed every year.

    I’ve done both just compost & compost & wood shavings (pine) & found the wood shavings create a better soil long term. Also, years of repeated heavy compost amendment can result in phosphorus/potassium imbalance, resulting in reduced growth (problems are beginning to appear in market gardens under intense cultivation for 10+ years). Current organic market garden practice is beginning to move towards amending w/wood chips (better than shavings) rather than just yearly compost for better long term productivity

    I have used both deciduous chips & soft wood shavings & had good results w/both. My clay soils are more friable, have better tilth from year to year.

    As you don’t really know if there’s anything additional in the wood, I’d start w/a test patch, expecting a short term nitrogen deficiency but otherwise healthy plants. A simple manure tea will address the initial nitrogen binding.

  12. bumperwack
    bumperwack November 21, 2010 10:40 am

    wow…good info folks

  13. Claire
    Claire November 21, 2010 10:45 am

    I agree. Wow. Excellent information. Obviously some very serious gardeners are willing to share expertise.

    I was tempted just to dump the stuff in on my parking spot. But after this, I think I’ll gradually introduce the ex-pellets to my plants.

    FWIW, these are hardwood pellets, and Jane is right: although they say 100 percent wood, I don’t really know what’s in them. The soil in this area is decent, but does run to clay. At some time, someone has done a lot of work to amend the soil in my yard. I wouldn’t want to do anything to mess it up.

  14. bumperwack
    bumperwack November 21, 2010 10:46 am

    I love this place! Even my dumb-ass can learn sumthin!

  15. Jim B.
    Jim B. November 21, 2010 12:27 pm

    Claire,

    Do you have one of those “outdoor fireplaces”? Which is essentially a big ceramic bowel with a round screen for a top, or one of those big ugly ceramic “bottles” that people have for enjoying the backyard on colder nights.

    Just a thought.

    Jim B.

  16. Kathy Kinsley
    Kathy Kinsley November 21, 2010 5:01 pm

    Burn, baby burn. I’m with Jim – kinda. They’d be ideal for experimenting with biochar. (Look it up.)

  17. Beth
    Beth November 21, 2010 5:17 pm

    It would be great to use in a composting toilet…

    Seriously, I used to use the pine-pellet litter for my cat until she had to be put to sleep recently. Very absorbent and there was never a smell of cat piss in the house.

    I’ve actually used it in the plastic liner bags that fit my camping port-o-let, to soak up more moisture so I don’t have to use a new bag every time I need to take a pee. Those dang bags are pricey.

    Too much information…sorry…

  18. cctyker
    cctyker November 21, 2010 6:59 pm

    Pellets that gum up augers are usually wet pellets.

    Spread them out in the sun and let them dry.

    Of course that means they have to be stored thru the winter.

    That’s what I’d do and use them next winter.

    Wood as a base for a driveway sounds iffy to me.

    Another idea just occurred; buy a fresh bag of pellets, burn them in your wood stove, get a flat sheet of metal (a commerical baking sheet comes to mine for me), and dry your wet pellets on your wood stove. See how they come out. If they burn well, do some more, if they gum up the auger again, use them as sling shot pellets for approaching cops.

  19. naturegirl
    naturegirl November 21, 2010 7:50 pm

    Thanks to everyone for such great info….I’ll have to print this out cuz I’ll never remember all of it……

  20. Scott
    Scott November 22, 2010 10:10 am

    My guess-what about using it as a rock-salt replacement for those icy winter days? Sprinkle it on the sidewalk,driveway,and so on. Would it make a good traction aid? How big are these pellets? I’ve seen corn-burning furnaces, but not the wood pellet ones. Possibly as a drainage field under a garden? Could you spread them out on a screen,let them dry and mix them in with good ones? Just guesses.

  21. Claire
    Claire November 23, 2010 1:38 pm

    Thanks again for the helpful information, guys.

    I think putting the ex-pellets on the garden is the way to go. But if they don’t do good things to the plants, I’ll use them to fill the lake where I park.

    FWIW, the pellets are about 3/4 long x 1/4 wide when they’re not wet. Wet, they swell up by 1/3 or more. But the real problem is that, once wet, they lose their integrity and tend to turn back into what they really are — plain old ordinary sawdust. Some that haven’t completely reverted probably could be mixed with the good pellets and used as fuel. But the moment they’re subjected to further moisture … they’re just not pellets any more.

  22. private joker
    private joker November 24, 2010 9:19 pm

    Use it like sandbags in place of sand or gravel to stop bullets from entering your walls. Why ? Because you just CAN’T be too careful.

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