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Over the Garden Fence

Where gardeners come to find out what's happening out in the yard.

Firewood for the Winter

Posted by Richard Hentschel -

Down the Garden Path

Richard Hentschel, Extension Educator

During the last week we have had some cold weather that has been below our normal temperatures, kind of offsetting the warmer than normal temperatures earlier this month. About now, the outdoor fire pit and indoor fireplaces are looking good. Whether you cut, split and dry your own firewood or buy it for the winter, good management will reward you with more heat and less smoke. There are many Ash trees coming down and even though the tree is dead, that wood is not going burn very well until it is seasoned. All wood contains moisture and for good combustion firewood will need to be kept for at least six to nine months outdoors and have a moisture content between 20 and 25 percent to burn well and not generate a lot of smoke. Of course the drier the wood the more heat you will get back, so the longer you dry it and keep it dry, the more you benefit.

Firewood less than six inches in diameter can dry as they are, over that and the wood will need to be split in order to season. Seasoned firewood is easy to spot. The ends will be checked and have gray color. This is important if you are buying your firewood. While you are splitting your own wood to dry, stack it in a crisscross fashion to allow the air to circulate through the stack. If possible, do not stack directly on the ground or know that the bottom layer will attract decay fungi and a number of insects. Because of this, do not stack the wood next to the house so it touches the siding. Stacking it away from the house will also increase airflow.

Firewood will need covering to keep rain and snow from being reabsorbed after the wood is dry. Use simple materials like a tarp or a waste piece of plywood. You want to be sure to secure it so it will not blow off, but not so much that it takes too much time to remove and put back on when you are stacking or removing wood to burn. The covering should extend down the pile at least a foot or extend past the edges protecting much of the wood.

We have all thrown a piece of un-seasoned wood on a fire and then realize a real drop in heat output. Dry, seasoned firewood will provide twenty percent or more heat than an equal amount of green or unseasoned firewood. It takes energy to burn off the moisture before the firewood will burn. If you are going to burn green wood, add it in small amount to an already well- established fire. It is not recommended that you burn green wood indoors in the fireplace. Green wood generates a lot of smoke and more importantly creosote that can build up in the homes' chimney. The key to a successful fire that provides the most heat is going to be that dry wood.

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