how about oak leaves ...

terratoma(7a)May 27, 2014

I received outstanding help in response to a recent post so I'm back for more. This time I have questions about a new compost pile I began one week ago. Equal amounts of shredded leaves and freshly cut grass were mixed in a wire bin (diameter = 36"). I had fewer leaves than usual_ that's a different story_ so the mix was only 3' high. It is now about 30" but is still mildly hot in the center. What should signify the best time to turn it? And how frequently should it be turned thereafter?
From this point on, I thought I'd only have kitchen scraps to add to the bin. But I do have oak leaves from last fall that I could shred and add. I've never used oak leaves before; I read that there is controversy regarding the use of these leaves in making compost. What's everyone's opinion?
Other than the oak leaves and vegetable peelings, etc. from the kitchen and, of course, cut grass, I can't think of anything else I'll have in quantity to add.
As always, I'll be most appreciative of your guidance in these matters.

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When do you want the compost? if you're piling up for next year, don't bother with any of that; just pile on "anything that's ever grown". Then the bin becomes a quiet little container back in the corner rather than a hot composter.

This is, of course, the lazy method much preferred in this neck of the Sahara. The longer the time scale one has to play with, the easier it all is. However, that's easy to say when there have been a few years to work on it.

    Bookmark   May 27, 2014 at 1:23PM
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toxcrusadr(Zone 6a - MO)

Even when I had a triple bin and was making compost like crazy, I only turned my batches twice. In about 6 months I had compost.

You can turn when it starts to cool off, and really as many times as you want, but a lot of turning is not really necessary if you have time for nature to work.

Shred those oak leaves and keep a pile by the compost bin. Whenever you add kitchen scraps or other greens, layer them on top.

    Bookmark   May 27, 2014 at 1:29PM
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^^^ what he said.

Keep piling it up and it will become compost. When you need compost next year, break the bin down and take out the good stuff.

Here is a link that might be useful: Cheap no-turn compost method

    Bookmark   May 27, 2014 at 2:55PM
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Do you want to, or like to, turn? It isn't critical. I'd go by temperatures. Once the temp has peaked and is starting to go down I turn (if weather permits). In the tumblers I often tumble every day or second day and certainly every time I add scraps.

I have no issues with using oak leaves (especially shredded ones). I use lots of them as my property is 90% oak trees. I especially like it when I use the mower/lawn vac in the fall and get that perfect mix of grass clippings and shredded oak leaves. Heat within hours is not unusual.

Oak leaves, kitchen scraps and grass clippings are all perfect ingredients for making compost IMO.

Good luck.


    Bookmark   May 27, 2014 at 3:26PM
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toxcrusadr(Zone 6a - MO)

Yep, nothing like a steamy hot pile on a crisp fall morning!

    Bookmark   May 27, 2014 at 4:26PM
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There is a school of thought that says Oak leaves cannot be used in gardens because they are too acidic, which is nonsense. Oak leaves do have a pH of about 3.8 and Maple leaves have a pH of about 3.2 and people do not concern themselves about those Maple leaves. Oak leaves, or any other deciduous tree leave are just fine as composting material.
How often should you turn your compost pile? Depends. How quickly do you want finished compost? If you want it in two weeks (14 day composting) you will need to be quite aggressive about turning but if you do not need any until next year you can be much more laid back about it and maybe not turn the material at all. One method is to monitor the core temperature and when that starts to decline turn the material. That could be every 3 to 5 days.
Turning means putting the stuff that was on the outside into the center, not just moving the stuff around a bit.

    Bookmark   May 28, 2014 at 6:50AM
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toxcrusadr(Zone 6a - MO)

Just for the benefit of the OP (I know kimmsr already knows), those acids are organic acids similar to vinegar, and they are broken down during the composting process.

Oak leaves may also be a bit more waxy and tough so they don't break down as fast whole, but the shredding will take care of that. I never look down my nose at a leaf.

    Bookmark   May 28, 2014 at 11:05AM
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Thanks to all of you who have been so generous with your advice. It's nice to know that these suggestions are backed up by experience. You're helping to make the learning curve for me a lot less steep.
I shredded those oak leaves yesterday. (Had a lot fewer than I expected.) But it will be the perfect amount to add to the veggie trimmings over the summer.
Grass is one of those things that "more is not always better." Way back when I was younger, I saw a neighbor build his "compost" out of nothing but grass; every week he would dump the fresh grass on previous piles. Ammonia City!! Ended up a gooey mess. But I'm now at a point that, other than the oak leaves and peels from the kitchen, grass is about all I'll have in any quantities. ( I do recycle all the paper that comes through the mail. No newsprint, though.) I'm wondering if I can gradually add small bits of grass to the pile without harming it. Again, many thanks and hope to hear from everyone!

    Bookmark   May 29, 2014 at 3:09PM
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Grass clippings can be a very good source of Nitrogen, but should not be more than about 1 part to 3 parts of a Carbon source. so roughly an inch of grass clippings to 3 inches of, say, shredded leaves.

    Bookmark   May 30, 2014 at 6:46AM
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