Composting Oak Leaves

rumbum(9)May 1, 2007

I have lots of oak trees. I researched and discovered that these leaves are slower to break down. How much slower are we talking about? It's been 6 months or so, and besides the oak leaves everything is almost done. I have been using the mix as-is, but the leaves make it too fluffy to pack down properly when I am planting. Should I avoid adding oak leaves to the compost in the future, or if I can get the pile hotter will they break down faster?



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pablo_nh(z4/5 NH)

Good questions! I compost a lot of oak leaves, and they do take longer. here's some tips on them-

1) Shred them as much as you can. They are tough and breaking them up not only increases surface area for microbes to attack- but it makes entry points in the tough material. This really is the best way to make it go faster.

2) As you guessed- a hot pile does it faster. If I know that my pile will be hot- it will break them down (shreds for me a bit).

3) Think about using them as mulch. If you shred them up, compost what you can, and just use the rest as a thickish mulch- they will break down in place and make a great worm habitat. Becaus ethey take a little longer to break down- they make a good mulch, and eventually make compost right where you want it!

4)You can plant in unfinished compost. You can mix it in with soil, and your soil will drain nicely and the leaves will break down in place. Or- plant in the soil, and put the compost on top. Or- use it in a lasagna bed. Honestly- there are very few ways to go wrong here, so don't worry.

have fun!

    Bookmark   May 1, 2007 at 11:12AM
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pablo_nh(z4/5 NH)

One more- if you have oak leaves that are still green (knocked down a tree, fallen branches)- they are a green. I shredded some last year and made a super hot pile with them.

    Bookmark   May 1, 2007 at 11:14AM
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In my pile they are the major brown. I find that they need quite a bit of "green" to balance them. So add more greens, turn a lot, and they will eventually break down just fine.

Shredding them does speed things up a bit, but I am too lazy to shred.

    Bookmark   May 1, 2007 at 1:27PM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

I too do tons of oak leaves each year and they are a great source of nutrients and compost. But as the others have said - they take time. I shred mine before mixing into the compost piles and, depending on the weather, they are good to use in 6-8 months - even sooner as mulch. Without shredding - a year or more. But then I'm in no hurry. ;)

    Bookmark   May 1, 2007 at 1:57PM
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fgirl21(z6 - MA)

If you absolutely want to gasp, hold your chest, roll your eyes back into your head - read on!

7 years ago we bought our house on 1/2 acre - about 2 dozen or so oak trees in the back. The yard had been completely untended for years - piles of decayed oakleaves so thick it was like walking on pillows.

So what did we do for the first few years? Yep -raked em up, stuck them in bags and brought them to the town yardwaste area. Don't die yet! Wanna know how many bags? The first season, we did 70 bags - you know, the 30 gallon yard waste bags.

Oh how foolish! Now I have a compost bin, various compost piles, a husband who knows NOT to throw out any leaves or grass clippings for fear of death!

I did battle with my oak leaves for 2 years. They won and now sit happily in flower beds as mulch and in the compost pile.

    Bookmark   May 1, 2007 at 3:22PM
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I am too lazy to shred so I will need to add greens to try to make my compost hotter. I was wondering why it didn't seem to be all that hot.
I found a site on the internet with organic sources of NPK which says hair is an excellent source of N. My plan is to start brushing my pets and using the hair in the compost. Sound good?
Thanks, y'all!

Here is a link that might be useful: organic sources of NPK

    Bookmark   May 1, 2007 at 4:38PM
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pablo_nh(z4/5 NH)

It's great- but after it gets mixed in, it's not all that much (yes- even if you have golden retrievers).

Veggie food scraps, pee, grass clippings (best mulched into the lawn, but one harvest for the compost seems a noble cause), horse poop- all good free sources.

    Bookmark   May 1, 2007 at 4:57PM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

Rumbum - did the site tell you how long it takes for hair to break down? You think leaves take forever? Wait till you see hair! ;) Chop it up first.

Ask the produce manager at the grocery store if you can have the throw-aways. Every 2 weeks I get a crate of old lettuce heads, carrots, beet tops, the expired bags of salad mix, overripe bananas, etc. for free. Got a feedstore anywhere near? Buy a bag of alfalfa pellets. About $10 for a 50 lb. bag here.

    Bookmark   May 1, 2007 at 5:01PM
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Oak leaves, whole, have tannic acid a preservative in them so they do take time to start getting digested by the soil bacteria. If they are shredded, made into smaller, bite size bits, the soil bacteria can chomp on them easier and will digest them quicker. In my compost bins the oak leaves from last fall, shredded, are digested now and in August the oak leaves I put down for mulch on the planting beds, also shredded, will be digested by the soil bacteria. It is the tannic acid that makes whole oak leaves tough to digest.

    Bookmark   May 1, 2007 at 5:09PM
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I try to educate myself on which yards have the large, healthy maple trees. I had read that these are primo for compost. These are usually the first to fall in NE. A gps is handy to remember where they are. OPL and all that.

    Bookmark   May 1, 2007 at 9:58PM
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Maples are the first to fall in NE?

They're the last to fall around here, and I often have leaves on the tree when the snows hit.

    Bookmark   May 1, 2007 at 11:36PM
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pablo_nh(z4/5 NH)

Ya- the red maples are the first to turn and fall of the common trees. Sugar maple are next, and oak take forever (sometimes holding brown leaves right through the winter).

Aspens, birch, poplar, sycamore, catalpa, and a few others may turn earlier but they're not nearly as common in yards here (and they don't have nearly as many leaves).

    Bookmark   May 2, 2007 at 9:17AM
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Can someone recommend a shredder for oak leaves--live oaks in particular. I just moved to Savannah, GA, where the live oak reigns. The Flowtron LE900 seems decent, but i've seen a couple reviews that say it's not great on oak leaves--my main reason for wanting one. Thanks for your help.

    Bookmark   May 5, 2008 at 2:02PM
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Like any other shredder how you use it will dertermine how good a job it does and how you will like it. Some people try to have this machine work faster than it can and as a result they have problems. Some people try to shred stuff they should not with this init and then the are unhappy that it will not shred that stuff it is not supposed to and the machine gets the blame.
Oak leaves are a bit tougher than maple leaves so you need to slow the feed rate when shredding them, and try to be sure there is nothing but leaves to shred.

    Bookmark   May 6, 2008 at 7:52AM
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I do not believe that oak leaves take an unusually long time to break down. Slower to break down than what? Maple, probably.

Oak leaves are my stable leaf with maple, sweet gum, and whatever else my neighbors put out in bags. In some respects they are better because they have less moisture than maple and shred cleaner and in more pieces.

My seven mesh bin piles are composed almost entirely of very finely shredded leaves and used grounds and fresh cut grass to begin. Once the core reaches 130 to 165F, more problematic ingredients like smelly fish parts, veggie and fruit wastes, and manure (if I could easily get it) are added, but only in the the core area.

A satisfactory compost is done in about 4 to 6 months. A fall pile might take a extra month or two because of the temp, but mainly the leaves are shredded and stored for the following spring. The size of the shredded leaves seems to me to be very important. I have a Troy-bilt which shreds leaves extremely finely; have used a Sears which was so-so; and have a another chipper/shredder (knives instead of hammerblades) which is worthless for leaves.

I know Cornell and other sites have some C:N numbers for various leaves, I'll see if anyone rates leaves for breakdown.

    Bookmark   May 6, 2008 at 4:38PM
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Karchita(WA Z8)

I think if leaves are shredded finely, they would all break down and about the same rate. If they aren't shredded, or are coarsely shredded, thicker leaves will break down more slowly.

I have a saucer magnolia with large, thick leaves and unless they are shredded, they take forever to decompose. I have tried to make leaf mold from them by putting them whole (wetted) in plastic bags and it takes 2 years and even then some at the top of the bags are still not broken down.

On the other extreme, I have a Japanese maple with delicate, tissue thin leaves that disappear in minutes (or so it seems). Same for the little katsura and birch leaves. The brown leaves that drop from my rhodies are like cardboard and take absolutely forever. FWIW/YMMV

    Bookmark   May 6, 2008 at 5:30PM
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jmsimpson9(CA 8/9)

Can someone recommend a shredder for oak leaves--live oaks in particular. I just moved to Savannah, GA, where the live oak reigns. The Flowtron LE900 seems decent, but i've seen a couple reviews that say it's not great on oak leaves--my main reason for wanting one. Thanks for your help.

I started a thread on the same subject a while back. We have Pacific Coast oaks. The leaves are nearly the same as the CA live oak.

I think the biggest problem is the twigs and sticks.

We have a 10 hp yard machine. It works ok on mixes leaves/sticks. I have been using a black and decker leaf vac. As long as you dont suck up rocks or sticks, it works pretty good. Too many sticks (or wet leaves) and it burns out.

I wish there was something better as we have alot of trees.

    Bookmark   May 6, 2008 at 5:46PM
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I have a Troy-bilt 4hp chipper/shredder, cerca late 1980's. It shreds leaves to about 1/16" to 1/8". Its excellent performance seems to be based on two things -- 1" shaft and hammermills instead of knives. More recent Troy-bilt using the more popular knives are not as good I'm told.

An used older Troy-bilt should run $150-300, at a guess. A new green MacKisssic LSC506 (smallest of the line) will run $680. Those using it extensively will probably want a larger model for $1000 or more.

If you want something good but cheap, you'll have to read the ads quickly, and go to a lot of yard sales.

    Bookmark   May 7, 2008 at 5:14PM
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I too compost my oak leaves. I don't shred them, my method takes about a year, and the workload is relatively tough in the spring (when live oaks actually drop their leaves down here), but for the rest of the year, it's cake :) I bought 24 landscape timbers, and arranged them in an 8' x 8' square in a corner of my backyard. Between the leaves in my backyard, and the ones I get from my neighbor's front yard (I'm too nice....I rake them myself), I fill up my bin to overflowing (with a bulge in the middle about 1'-1'6" above the top timber) with oak leaves. Just rake a big pile on a tarp, and drag it to the pile...lazy method I've found. I do all this early spring (mid-feb to early march). Then, throughout the spring, summer, and early fall, I throw my foodscraps, coffee grounds, manure (I have friends with horses/goats), or whatever else to get the nitrogen up. I try to turn the pile every now-and-again throughout the year, especially when the pile first gets started. By the end of the summer, it has already started to compost pretty good and make a good worm bin in-of-itself. By the same time next year, I have great compost that I spread over my yard....just in time to rake up the next years leaves.

    Bookmark   March 12, 2010 at 1:17AM
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Use urine (your own) as the accelator, instead of water. Oak leaf will not be a match to it.

    Bookmark   March 28, 2010 at 7:26PM
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Here's my problem. My gardener has blown all of the leaves from our 7 or so large oak leaves into the back corner of the yard and today I discovered they are about a foot deep. I see no signs of decay. Is there any point in leaving these?

I have my hands full with a sick relative and composting is out of the question now. I suspect he's too lazy to bag and haul them away. I live in an area with millions of large oaks so no one wants to come for them. Should I ask him to remove them? I'd like to have a couple of vines planted next to the fence, and it was hard to even get down to soil today.

    Bookmark   October 16, 2010 at 7:57PM
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While we agree oak leaves take their sweet time to break down, there are others too that don't compost easily. Willows, for example, have the same laziness to them.
But don't think just because you have oak leaves on your lawn....which should't be left there, they make a wonderful way to protect those plants that need to come through winter with their buds intact.
Hydrangea, the type that blooms on old wood, can benefit from such leaves because they do not readily absorb moisture. Wrapped in burlap, the roof and basement open, oak leaves can fill the cavity to surround the wood, then the openings are closed and more leaves/or soil is brought to their base so that snow completes the insulation.

If you must put leaves over your garden as a mulch, choose oak leaves because they do not mat down easily, they wont put a wet blanket ontop of your still leafing plants.

    Bookmark   October 16, 2010 at 8:55PM
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I'm new to oak leaves. I just moved into a house that has a bunch of oak trees and it backs up to a large (multi acre) wooded area. I started out just putting them whole into bins but then discovered that my leaf blower is also a shredder so am planning to unbin and shred my leaves. I doubt if it will work on the large logs LOL but at least the leaves will be a bit more managable.

The lady who lived at this place before was old and not able to care for the yard so I've got years of leaf litter to shred up. There's nice stuff under the leaves but nothing seems to be growing there except for brambles.

Any tips or suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

    Bookmark   February 12, 2011 at 7:15PM
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I've composted any leaf that's come near me for several years. I've taken to lazy composting, I barely even turn a pile once it's made. I pick up vegetable scraps from a local restaurant spread them out and cover in leaves and repeat until I've got a 3 or 4' pile. I water it periodically and the break down process starts.

Six months or so later I add composting worms to the pile and let them start eating through it. I keep it moist, add more vegetables scraps periodically and within a year there's nothing recognizable left.

Add water...repeat. I harvest compost regularly and top off the beds of my garden. Years ago a neighbor told me I'd NEVER be able to get oak leaves to break down. Several months later the neighbor on the other side of the house asked me what made my vegetables grow so well. :P

I just smile and nod.

    Bookmark   February 12, 2011 at 9:39PM
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maryrecord, it sounds like you have the same mess I had when I moved to my piney wood hill. I raked all the leaves and found nothing growing. But, with the leaves gone the clover and grass began to come back slowly.

I've got a couple of good compost piles going from those leaves. I've built four raised beds that I've slowly built the soil in by adding lots of shredded leaves for mulch and then covering everything with six inches of shredded leaves and an inch of finished compost before they are allowed to rest for the winter.

I raked back the top of one of those beds today. There was still about an inch of leaves that hadn't begun to break down. Beneath that was a couple of inches of small bits and pieces still visible. The rest was nice and black and smelled like a million bucks.

My suggestion is to keep the leaves in the compost bin or in the garden ad mulch and off the rest of the yard. Get the sun and water back onto the soil instead of packed leaves and you should see signs of something more than brambles growing.

Good luck with the new place.

    Bookmark   February 13, 2011 at 1:30AM
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Not much of anything will grow under whole leaves since they do tend to block access to the sunlight all plants need to grow and flourish. However when shredded those same leaves will provide the Soil Food Web with a nutrient source and plants will thrive. I have many times over the years mulch mowed 6 to 8 inches of leaves piled on an area and found that the grass, or vegetables, grow better, greener, faster after the Soil Food Web has moved those shredded leaves into the soil for me then does the same trying to grow in an area no shredded leaves were added to.

    Bookmark   February 13, 2011 at 6:46AM
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thanks for sharing your experiences. I plan (my plans tend to go off track) to split the leaves into mulch and compost sections. I just got some cheap plastic fencing (no idea how long it will last) the 50 foot roll is being cut into several sections to use as bins.

Supposedly the lady who lived here liked plants so I'm hoping at least a few have survived the smothering leaves. I moved from a sunny cold to a shady hot garden (from Indiana to Georgia) so didn't bother bringing any of my plants except for iris.

Starting from scratch with a different type of clay and a whole lotta oak leaves should be an adventure. I don't know anything about georgia soil or plants.

    Bookmark   February 13, 2011 at 10:37AM
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Persons use plastic latice for vermicomposting, so you may have it for some time to come.
Good luck.

    Bookmark   February 13, 2011 at 5:14PM
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I know this is an old thread but all I can say about oak leaves is that once I run the stuff through either of my two 8HP TroyBilt Super Tomahawk chipper/shredders (One mid 80s and the other early 90s) is ... what leaves? They come out of the machines as dust. Long time to break down? I think not. Like a popcorn fart in the wind, they are gone. All true yet I apologize, I'm brinking deer again. LOL

    Bookmark   February 13, 2011 at 5:53PM
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The link below will take you to an article written by Keith Baldwin, then a professor of soil scince at North Carolina State University, that appeared in Taunton Press' Kitchen Garden. While he used Peat Moss, a non renewable resource, leaves from trees are a better source of organic matter.

Here is a link that might be useful: Improving clay soils

    Bookmark   February 14, 2011 at 7:04AM
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I ran a mixture of leaves, including oak leaves, through my Mighty Mac 12p last fall. The pile of shredded leaves was so large it took me hours to move it to my garden beds. When I finally got the last of the shredded leaves moved, the grass that had been under the leaf pile was healthy and green. The leaf pile was warm from composting.

This year I think I'll spare some of the shredded leaves to use on the lawn where the grass is struggling because of the heat.

    Bookmark   February 14, 2011 at 10:17PM
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I noticed many years ago that in the 4 x 4 squares where the catcher I made for the leaves leaving the shredder accumulated the grass, the following summer, grew greener, quicker, thicker then did the grass that did not have the duff from those leaves left in place and that the worm castings in those 4 x 4 squares was greater then the surrounding area. I have also since then deliberately mulch mowed leaves into turf areas and have seen the grass in those ares also grow, the following year, greener, thicker, faster then the surrounding areas that did not get those mulch mowed leaves, mostly because of the increased level of organic matter in the soil that feeds the Soil Food Web that feeds the grasses growing there. The types of leaves were predominently Oak, because that is the predominant tree in this area.

    Bookmark   February 15, 2011 at 7:33AM
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Oak leaves are my main composting leaf, but others are used as well.

If I used whole leaves, maple might be my favorite. But FINELY shredded by my mower or gas shredder, oak work great.

Knowing the composting basics is more important than what type of leaves one uses. A knowledgeable composter using finely shredded magnolia leaves in a optimal pile may very well make speedier compost than a less knowledgeable person using more fragile leaves.

I use oak because that is the most common available leaf. They also store better than maple and sweet gum in bags (IMHO).

    Bookmark   February 15, 2011 at 3:53PM
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buford(7 NE GA)

Mary, the vac/shredder is great, especially if you already have the leaves in one place. I regularly 'vacuum' my yard of the leaves (mostly oak, but some maple and other trees). For a couple of years, I left the shredded leaves in bags over winter and then used them as mulch or mixed into new beds, but this year I just used them to start new compost piles. They are really the best material to add organic to your soil.

Now, as a fellow Georgia transplant (from NY) you don't have soil, you have clay! Probably red clay with some white and yellow stuff mixed in. But don't fret! If you continually add organic material to the clay (and you have tons of leaves there!!!) you will eventually have great soil. I was a garden novice when I moved here so I wound up double digging a lot of the beds and almost killing myself, but now I know to just add compost and other materials to get the soil I need. That and mulch. Mulch is necessary to keep the soil cool and moist in the summer. If you don't cover clay soil it will dry out in the hot sun and bake into cement. And that's very hard to work with.

Good luck! And as far as plants go, the cold hardiness is important down here, but also, you will be dealing with a LOT more sun and heat, so you will have to plant accordingly.

    Bookmark   February 19, 2011 at 7:56AM
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Buford - the top 3 - 6 inches is actually great. Lots of organic material was added in before the old lady got too old to work in the yard + years of leaf litter decaying after she got old. Below that you're right I've got a nice red clay/rock mixture. The rocks are a novelty for me, I've never had rocky soil so I'm having a blast digging up biggish rocks. I'm easily entertained. :-)

    Bookmark   February 19, 2011 at 9:50AM
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Contrary to what some people think clay is a soil and there is nothing wrong with clay soils that a lot of organic matter will not fix. Clay soils may be better to garden in than would sand because the clay would at least hold nutrients and moisture while sand will not. The nutrients and moisture may be tied up by the clay and unavailable to plants but not so tightly that organic matter will not help make them available.

    Bookmark   February 20, 2011 at 7:10AM
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Idaha gardener,I know many persons who shred oak leaves only & compost them or use them as mulch. It seems to work well for them. I pick up leave as I came home from work, that are baged & left on the street. This one yard has 10-20 bags every month, which are 95% oak leaves. I turned them under for 4-6 months on beds I do not use in winter months & plant in the Spring. I have had no problems with the leaves not breaking down.
Bet your garden loves the fresh organic matter each year!

    Bookmark   February 20, 2011 at 11:53AM
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I actually like using fallen leaves as mulch, particularly on my shade gardens. I feel it mimics the native plants' natural environments.

I mean, who rakes up the fallen leaves in the forest?

    Bookmark   February 27, 2011 at 10:50PM
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In my NSHO think this thread needs two reminders that you folks seem to consistently forget - you too, Kimmsr.

The key to composting - no matter what the feedstocks are, is realizing HOW the composting process actually takes place. Yes, C:N is a factor - and not one person in this entire forum (including me) can accurately determine C:N in the field. That can ONLY be done in a lab.

The answer is MICROBIOLOGY that needs TWO THINGS to do the job BESIDES whatever kind of C:N feedstock is used in whatever layering/dumping/ process or kind of containment.

First, these are AEROBIC microbes. They need air to reproduce. They intake air and exude carbon dioxide. If a pile is not ENTIRELY aerated by some form or fashion once each month or so, CO2 eventually builds up too high in the pile and microbes go dormant or die - and dormant microbes don't reproduce (you already knew the dead ones didn't).

Microbial reproduction is THE key to rapid decompositon of dead organic material into organic matter (OM). Microbes are what change the OM into humus, NOT the heat in a pile. Heat is CAUSED by thermophilic (look that up) microbes reproducing while they 'eat' the sugars and starches in the feedstock. It's called EXPONENTIAL reproduction (look that one up too). Over 155F is BAD.

After the 1st turn, the mesophilic microbial community takes over, and after the 2nd turn, the pile will not heat up past 104F ever again no matter what you add/do to it (look up mesophilic temperature range).

Second thing is WATER. INTERNAL water. There is no need to shred even tough LIVE OAK leaves if they are SOAKED. It's not how much water you put ON any feedstock - it's the amount of moisture INSIDE the tissues (cells) that matters.

Want to see live oak leaves decompose quickly? Take a pot the size of a 55 gallon drum cut in half. Fill it with only DRY live oak leaves. Add a nitrogen source such as three shovels of FRESH horse manure - or for you non-purists, one SMALL handful of 21-0-0 ammonium sulfate will do - but the horse manure is MUCH better. Why? 'Cause in those 3 shovels you added another gazillion+ diverse set of microbes to the mix. The more microbe 'mouths' the faster that decomposition takes place.

Why? C:N - microbes need carbon for energy to reproduce (generally the C of live oak leaves is around 90:1), and nitrogen (in the form of protein) to make microbe babies. Microbes change nitrite to nitrate, then to the protein form they need to make new cells). An enzyme thing.

Add water up to the top of the pot/barrel, keeping the leaves pushed down so air is pushed out (air bubbles on leaves keep that part of the leaf from absorbing water).

Air will come later. Soak the leaves in that nitrous water for a minimum of 24 hours - 48 hours is better. Pouring 5 gallons of water into a SEALED 30-gallon trash bag on its side (completely full of live oak leaves) will accomplish the same thing IF you roll the bag 180 degrees twice a day for 3 days and don't put a hole in it.

Scoop out the whole leaves (yes, you can shred them first if you want to and if you do, they will break down a LITTLE bit faster - but as a surface area issue - only the thin cut ends get exposed when shredded).

Then put those leaves into any kind of pile you want - as long as there is sufficient biomass (compression) - then the microbiology can go to work on the INSIDE of the leaves too. Live oak leaves have tight cell structure and MICROBES MOVE INTO LEAF CELLS VIA WATER, not air.

And this goes for ANY DRY feedstock, especially high cellulose/lignin like wood chips. Chlorinated water can be an issue - use rain water, pond water or let tap water stand outside for 24 hours and the chlorine will have dissipated. But tap water chloramine DOES kill microbes - that's why it's put into tap water - savvy?

I keep hearing that old "wrung-out sponge" MYTH. What a travesty to perpetuate that old 'wives-tale'. We have moisture meters now-a-days. Use one.

24 hours after constructing a 3' high new compost pile it should have 40% moisture in the top 6 inches of pile material, 50% moisture at 16 inches down, 60% at 26" down, and 70% moisture in the bottom level of the pile.

Well, you say - how can that be? GRAVITY makes that happen. Every time - and there is NO way to prevent it.
Which is ANOTHER reason to turn the pile top-to-botton and outsides to inside once a month, watering each layer AGAIN as the pile is rebuilt.

Feedstock composite to C:N range of 30-40:1; use WAY more water than you thought you needed (collect and reapply the microbial/nutrient leachate instead of wasting it); aerate the ENTIRE pile once a month or so (by some means) and you will have really good compost in 100 days or less FROM THE DAY YOU CONSTRUCTED THE PILE - or you are doing something really wrong. And one more thing - remember that it's what you CANNOT see/feel/smell that makes a compost pile work. Want to see what you are REALLY growing in that pile? Take a small (teaspoon) sample in a small capped pill bottle to your local high school Biology teacher and ask him/her to add 10ml of tap water - shake for 60 seconds then one drop direct observation under a light microscope at 400-power. You'll see some of them 'wave' at you...the ones that the chlorine in the 10ml tap water didn't kill yet.

If the Biology teacher sees ANY anaerobic microbiology then you did not aerate the pile material properly.


    Bookmark   March 3, 2011 at 1:08AM
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Hi forgot the coffee warning. ;-)

Good to see you again.


    Bookmark   March 7, 2011 at 10:39AM
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rfonte649(9 La)

After the 1st turn, the mesophilic microbial community takes over, and after the 2nd turn, the pile will not heat up past 104F ever again no matter what you add/do to it.
I have added alfalfa cubes, (wet of course)and had the pile heat back up to 153 degrees.

    Bookmark   March 7, 2011 at 8:03PM
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MsShelley(8b, and 18)

Very nice soilguy, thank you for the information. I have one question... My compost pile is comprised of: a majority of oak leaves, grass clippings, vegetable matter, flower parts, Podocarpus leaves, and water. I have started this pile about a month ago. "At what point does one start a new pile and allow the first pile to mature?"

    Bookmark   March 8, 2011 at 12:21PM
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toffee-el(Z8b Sunset Z13 Elev 4650ft)

On chlorinated or chloramine water, would adding de-chlorine/chloramine chemical as used in home aquarium hobby help? Products like Amquel or Prime?

Products such as Amquel or 'Prime- (Removes ammonia, chlorine, chloramines, ammonia)' will remove the chlorine and neutralize the ammonia (and more). Prime is made from Hydrosulfite salts which are basically non toxic reducing agents made up of bisulfites and hydrosulfites, aqueous solution, buffered at pH 8. As mentioned earlier, reducing agents are basically non toxic at reasonable doses to fish and aquatic animals.

Here is a link that might be useful: Prime

    Bookmark   August 9, 2011 at 12:02PM
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MsShelley, I start a new compost pile when my first one is 4 feet high. In years past I have had compost piles that were 6 feet by 6 feet by 45 to 60 feet, but keep myself content today with 4 x 4 x 4 compost piles.
I have not forgotten anything that SoilGuy wrote although I seldom write that because I have found that most peoples eyes glaze over when you start that kind of discourse.

    Bookmark   August 11, 2011 at 7:39AM
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patbrown(NE US)

I used to use yeast(the kind for baking bread). You can get a huge bag in Costco or Sams for under 4.00.

    Bookmark   January 4, 2012 at 9:14AM
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While bakers, or brewers, yeast may supply some food for the bacteria that digest the materials being composted it really does not help with the process. The best way to make sure your material gets digested is to supply the aerobic bacteria with the food they need, in the proper proportion (C:N ratio) with just enough moisture, and the volume they need to work.

    Bookmark   January 4, 2012 at 12:10PM
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What was meant by "Hi forgot the coffee warning." a few posts up? I use several gallons of coffee grounds mixed with my shredded oak leaves in a 3x3x3 bin. Is there an issue with using coffed grounds?

    Bookmark   January 9, 2012 at 10:13PM
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Robert (soilguy) posts very thorough and extensive comments that can often take several reads and much time to get everything he is saying. Back when he first joined, I jokingly told him he had to warn me so that I could get a coffee before I started reading. I was joking with him again, hence the 'winky'.


    Bookmark   January 10, 2012 at 7:50AM
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Hello everyone I'm new here take a little easy on me

But my question is I live in Tampa Florida and going on 62 years old I'm tired of raking leaves.

My soil in sandy with little nutrients in it as far as I know, that the problem I want to take my leaves each year and chop them up with my lawnmower I read somewhere else by doing this the leaves will in rich my soil but with this hard sand will I need a tiller which I can't afford right now

Also this year I'm building a compose bin from chicken wire but I thinking of piling my leaves up in the corner of the yard yard and rotating the pile as much as a can I have plenty of worms that appear under my leaves from nowhere which is good

So if anyone can help with the question of incorporating chopped leaves into my soil I would greatly appreciate it


    Bookmark   March 21, 2012 at 9:42AM
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The leaves that fall from the trees in my yard, Maple, Oak, Hackberry, Crabapple, Black Walnut, Sumac, Chokecherry, Apple, Plum, Nectarine, Purple Leaf Plum, all get mulch mowed into the turf where they fell and within days are chomped up by the Soil Food Web. Worm casting galore appear in the fall where those leaves have been mulch mowed in and the fololowing spring the grass in those areas grows in greener, thicker, and faster then other areas that don't get leaves mulch mowed in.

    Bookmark   March 21, 2012 at 12:10PM
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What benefit will the leaves be for Florida sand

    Bookmark   March 21, 2012 at 12:52PM
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wertach zone 7-B SC

Barepocket, the leaves will help a lot. Since you can't afford a tiller, I would just chop them up and leave them in place and/or put them where you need them.

They will help break up the hard sand and improve your soil without tilling them in.

I bought a leaf-vac shredder that attaches to my lawn mower in 2010. I just vacuum the leaves and spread them on the garden. My soil is much looser and darker this spring. I can dig down 12" or more with just my hand this year.

All of them haven't decomposed, but to me that is easy mulch.

    Bookmark   March 21, 2012 at 2:04PM
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Tree leaves, organic matter, any vegetative waste will fill in the pore spaces that exist between your sand particles and aid in holding both moisture and nutrients in the root zone of your plants which will help those plants grow.

    Bookmark   March 22, 2012 at 7:20AM
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I didn't read everything but:
1. to shred leaves you could just use a mower with a bagger. Mow them up, dump the bag into the pile. You get the added benefit of mixing some grass clippings into the shredded leaves
2. sift the compost. Build a cheap sifter that will fit over the top of your wheelbarrow. Shovel on some compost, sift out the bad stuff and dump it back into the pile. Use the sifted compost that's in the wheelbarrow.

    Bookmark   March 24, 2012 at 9:05PM
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