Leaves and Composting


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When it comes to leaves and composting the thing to remember is that they are the main things that you should have in your composting heap or bin. This is because leaves are very high in carbon. The ratio of carbon to nitrogen in your composting heap or bin should be 25 to 1 in favor of the leaves. Other carbon rich materials such as wood chips and sawdust can also be mixed in there but only if the wood chips and sawdust is from an organic source. Gardening experts say that you should avoid fertilizing your garden with sawdust made from very old tree stumps as they contain some viruses that could kill plants like hostas. You should also avoid using woodchips that have been varnished or treated with pesticides in any way, as they will also leach toxins into your soil. Furthermore wood that has been treated or varnished often won’t degrade and you will end up tossing it out of the compost heap anyway.

As leaves are going to represent a large percentage of the total waste in your bin or heap you need to find some kind of way to shred them or grind them down. The best thing to do is just simply lay them out on your lawn and mow them again and again with your lawn mower until they are little chips. You can also speed the decaying process of the leaves along by laying them out on your driveway to dry in the sun and then crumble them onto your compost heap. This helps the compost degrade faster. Yet another solution is to put them through an electric shredder or wood chipper if you happen to have one.

Are there any leaves that are inappropriate to use when it comes to leaves and composting? There are a few types of leaves that are too tough and leathery and just won’t break down in a composter. This includes the leaves from some shiny ivies, oak, holly trees and southern magnolia. You should also avoid putting in leaves from sumach, poison ivy or poison oak trees, as that will make the compost very difficult for you to handle. Yet another problem is that waste from sumach, poison ivy or poison oak can contain seeds that can spread the itchy plants to the soil in your garden once the composted material is placed there. You should also avoid using the leaves of eucalyptus trees in compost as when they degrade they become toxic to other plants.

Although they are technically leaves, you should avoid putting pine needles in your compost. This is because pine needles have a waxy resin type coating that prolongs the disintegration process. Once again you will probably end up fishing them out of your composting pile when they refuse to degrade.

If you are mixing compost with grass clippings keep in mind that you will need a lot of leaves or they won’t degrade properly. The grass will just start to smell rank and the compost will be acidic and unbalanced. This is because grass clipping are full of nitrogen. You should also be careful not to add grass clippings that are covered with pesticides as these could leach into the soil. This is especially important if you are trying to use the compost to fertilize an organic vegetable garden.

Remember that it takes twenty five times more leaves than grass to make balanced compost that is full of healthy aerobic organisms. The same principle also applies to kitchen waste. If you end up adding too much kitchen waste or grass clippings to a compost heap made of leaves then you can amend it by adding a bit of sawdust or manure.

Learn how to make compost at Bins for Compost .


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