What can I do with the wood from a blue cedar?
September 2, 2011 1:54 AM   Subscribe

I need to have a 10m high blue cedar in my garden cut down. What can I do with the wood? We have a wood fire so I'm happy to store it and eventually use it for that if it burns well. But what else could I do, given that I'm not a woodworker? I'm in the UK if that's of any relevance.
posted by dowcrag to Home & Garden (8 answers total)
Put it through a woodchipper and use it for mulch.

Add chips to your compost pile (but not too much, it will leach the Nitrogen).

Spread chips on your garden paths.

Recycle with Freecycle.

Stack the cut wood and advertise it on Craigslist. "$50 to fill your pickup."

Donate it to the local High School's Woodshop.

Sprinkle shavings in your BBQ smoker for flavor.
posted by troll at 2:45 AM on September 2, 2011

Soft wood can't be used for BBQ. Connifers have resin in the wood which tastes terrible.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 2:48 AM on September 2, 2011

I didn't know that. But apparently, you can cook on cedar planks:

"Plank cooking is just another way of getting wood smoke flavor into a piece of meat. You soak an untreated western red cedar* plank in water for a while, then the plank on your grill, let it heat until it starts to crackle, and then put your salmon or whatever on the plank. It steams and smokes."

*This calls for red cedar, while you have blue cedar, so YMMV.

Upon further reading, it looks like some people enjoy piney flavors in their meat:

"Add a VERY small amount of cedar/pine at the very end of the smoking process (I don't have a magical amount to give you, but keep it very small)"
posted by troll at 3:05 AM on September 2, 2011

I have two (small) cedar chests. Not sure whether they are made from red or blue cedar, but they are wonderful: beautiful wood with a lovely scent which has the added bonus of being a natural moth repellant. So I second troll's advice to donate to a high school woodshop. Or you could advertise for local woodworkers, who might even want to take care of the sawing themselves to control log/plank size.

And hey, if all else fails, you could make (and sell!) blocks, chips and even bags of sawdust as closet and drawer air fresheners/moth repellants.
posted by likeso at 3:36 AM on September 2, 2011

If you're planning to burn it in the fireplace, I'd recommend trying a small sample first, before going to a lot of work to cut it up and stack it. I once asked a neighbouring farmer if I could have a cypress tree (another conifer) that had been knocked down by a lighning strike, and he agreed. After a whole day spent towing it home, cutting it into appropriate lengths, etc., I lit the fire. It was soon spitting sparks so badly I was afraid it would burn the house down, and eventually had to dowse the fire with water.
posted by aqsakal at 7:22 AM on September 2, 2011

I don't know about the UK, but here in Canada, a lot of towns and cities put up Christmas trees in their main public squares/civic areas, etc.

In some of the smaller towns and cities, those are trees that have been donated by local residents.

Often, what happens is somebody wants a large tree removed. They make arrangements with the city to take it for the Christmas tree. The city then gets a local tree service to cut the tree down professionally and set it up in the appropriate spot.

I don't know if your 20m tree would be big enough to serve as your local Christmas tree, but it wouldn't hurt to ask.
posted by sardonyx at 8:10 AM on September 2, 2011

I heat my home exclusively with a wood stove (I live in the Pacific Northwest, which has a climate similar to yours). I can verify that cedar burns EXTREMELY well. Too well, really. It contains a lot of oil, which acts as an accellerant.

It's fine to use it in your stove or fireplace, but only use a little bit at a time. Particularly at first, until you get a feel for how it performs. Don't just pile a whole bunch of cedar in the box and light it up, or drop a giant chunk of it on an existing fire.

When I burn cedar (which I frequently do) I usually burn about 1 chunk cedar to maybe 2-4 chunks of another wood. Too much cedar and the fire gets too hot, which puts you at risk for a chimney fire.

Think of it as a concentrated form of firewood. Very economical! And it smells nice, too.

The oil has a secondary effect of making the wood very rot-resistant. One year I had many cedars knocked down by a particularly strong wind storm, far more than I could (or wanted to) store as firewood. I had them split into long lengths and used in the garden as rails to build some raised beds.

You want to be somewhat careful about using cedar around your plants, though. The oil's tertiary effect is that it's somewhat toxic to plants. I put a plastic lining in between the cedar logs and the topsoil, to keep it from leaching into the soil. Similarly, if you have it chipped up, you won't want to put it around your roses.

However, as a final use, cedar mulch works quite well as a weed prevention, as on garden paths.
posted by ErikaB at 10:22 AM on September 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

I didn't know that. But apparently, you can cook on cedar planks:

*This calls for red cedar, while you have blue cedar, so YMMV.

The planks used for cooking are from Thuja plicata. Blue cedar is some species of Cedrus. Cedrus is high in volatiles oils, and may not be suitable for cooking. It is used for fuel in it's native range, but tends to burn hot and smoky.

The oil's tertiary effect is that it's somewhat toxic to plants.

No allelopathic effects have been determined from either Thuja or Cedrus species. It's a common myth, but not based in fact. I've used shredded cedar mulch in many gardens over the years, and had no problems, even when the mulch has broken down and been incorporated into the soil.
posted by oneirodynia at 10:38 PM on September 2, 2011

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