Green Leaves

LloydOctober 16, 2009

Something different this year that I haven't seen before.

We had a significant frost and snowfall last week and now I'm getting hundreds and hundreds of bags of frozen green leaves. So far it's about 6 truckloads of this stuff. I'm talking GREEN and man are these bags HEAVY!

It seems some of the trees just dropped their leaves before any change in color. So now I'm wondering how this will change the nutrient composition as well as the C:N ratios. I added some wheat straw as I built portions of the windrow but I'm just guessing as to how much to add.

Always something new in composting! :-)

Lloyd

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Kimmsr(4a/5b-MI)

Tree leaves are green because of the chlorofil that helps them utilitze sunlight to manufacture nutrients the trees need. When sunlight fades and the trees no longer need to do that (they are going dormant) the leaves loose the chlorofil and revert to their true color.

Here is a link that might be useful: Tree Leaf color

    Bookmark   October 16, 2009 at 7:56AM
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luckygal(3b)

Lloyd, we had almost a week of really cold temps, down to -14°C and the aspen trees that are late turning yellow had not turned yet. So the green leaves froze and started to shrivel and are now beginning to go brown but still mostly on the trees.

Leaves here are slow falling - we drove around town yesterday to see if anyone was raking and bagging leaves but no one has yet as not enough have fallen.

I theorize that the green leaves you are composting have more nutrients and more nitrogen than brown leaves that have lost their chlorophyl would. Also more water is still remaining in the cells which accounts for their weight. Should make great compost but you'll need a different mix.

    Bookmark   October 16, 2009 at 12:40PM
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Lloyd

I guess I'll find out how well they compost in the next little while. For sure I did not add any water as I built this windrow, half the bags also had snow in them and a few were even shredded so I'm guessing a lawnmower was used to pick some of them up!

This is what they look like and I'm going to guess there were over 500 bags of it.

Lloyd

    Bookmark   October 16, 2009 at 2:30PM
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diane_nj 6b/7a

Wow, luckygal! We've been raking and bagging all over down here (east central, coastal, NJ) for at least two weeks! And some snow in the "higher elevations" (meaning, the northwest part of the state).

Lloyd, definitely keep us posted!

    Bookmark   October 16, 2009 at 3:36PM
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jeannie7

Whenever you have too much of anything, simply bag it...toss in the soil, some kitchen scraps, some nitrogen fertilizer, some clippings (you can always find some of that) poke holes in the bottom to let the worms in, place on the ground behind a bush, and wait....until next spring when either you add it to the pile or let it sit some more.
Leaves make for great leaf mold...let it sit until next summer and give it over to your roses.

    Bookmark   October 16, 2009 at 8:52PM
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Lloyd

Jeannie, I don't have a clue who you are talking to, are you in the correct thread?

If you are talking to me then you are missing the concept of my windrow composting.

Lloyd

    Bookmark   October 16, 2009 at 10:51PM
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11otis

Lloyd, that means you're way behind with your browns. Not that I am in a position to help you; just curious how you can fix the brown shortage now.

    Bookmark   October 16, 2009 at 11:28PM
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Lloyd

Wheat straw bales in the background, I can add as necessary. I just don't know how much to add as I build the windrow having never dealt with such a large amount of green leaves.

It's gonna be a learning endeavour that's for sure!

Lloyd

    Bookmark   October 16, 2009 at 11:46PM
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gjcore

It probably shifts it more towards the N side. Nothing that you shouldn't be able to handle.

    Bookmark   October 17, 2009 at 1:25AM
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spaghetina(SF Bay Area)

Lloyd, I looked through your photos, and I am totally enamored with your compost operation! I kept feeling this strange compulsion to jump into your finished piles and take a deep breath. Good thing I live nowhere near...

    Bookmark   October 17, 2009 at 3:27AM
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lazy_gardens

Jeannie -
Lloyd composts enough for entire wheat fields ... there aren't enough bushes to hide his stuff.

    Bookmark   October 18, 2009 at 9:09PM
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Lloyd

Well no problem getting heat, 140-158 over ten samplings. Higher temps generally being on the leeward side of the pile. The windward side is dry to about 5-6 inches into the pile and the leeward side has warm moist air coming out and the pile contents are damp all the way to the outside.

I wish I had enough tarps/covers to block some of the wind but I guess when we get some snow that will do the same thing anyways.

Lloyd

    Bookmark   October 19, 2009 at 2:18PM
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luckygal(3b)

Lloyd, so approximately what % of straw did you use? Shouldn't be too long before you get that snow.

Our aspens that had their green leaves frozen are holding on to those leaves and they are now sort of a burgundy color. Strange, never noticed this before. Even the alder that normally turn yellow earlier in the fall still have most of their leaves. Don't know whether this is usual or not. Seems they should have fallen by now.

    Bookmark   October 19, 2009 at 4:03PM
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Lloyd

As a percentage? Not sure. But in one week I used 6 bales for 6 truckloads of trimmings. Now not all those bags were green leaves, lots were garden plants (tomatoes, peas, beans and lots of ornamentals) and there were a few dozen with dry dead tree leaves. I have no clue what the C:N ratio is on this part of the windrow but no foul odors and good heat so maybe I lucked out?

Our oak tree leaves are just turning yellowy green now so it's going to be a while yet for them. I did notice that there are absolutely no acorns, none. Never seen that before either.

A squirrel has been gathering all the blue spruce cones and the seed pods from the Eastern White Cedars in one of my old bins. There are so many I thought that maybe someone had dumped a bag in there but I saw the squirrel running back and forth so I'm guessing that will be his stockpile for the winter.

Weird year.

Lloyd

    Bookmark   October 19, 2009 at 7:32PM
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    Bookmark   October 19, 2009 at 7:53PM
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11otis

**... there aren't enough bushes to hide his stuff.**
LOL, I like this comment.

Lloyd, about the leeward and windward side, doesn't the wind turn once in a while? Sorry for the stupid question but I'm curious.

    Bookmark   October 19, 2009 at 11:07PM
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Lloyd

Today when I was taking the temperatures we had a cool brisk NNW wind. I was intrigued by the temperature differences.

Supposed to be a lighter wind tomorrow, I'll see what temperatures I get.

Lloyd

    Bookmark   October 20, 2009 at 12:47AM
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tiffy_z5_6_can(5/6)

Great stuff Lloyd! Keep us drooling. :O) Looks good!

    Bookmark   October 21, 2009 at 5:35PM
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idaho_gardener

Lloyd, When I run freshly cut branches through my Merry Mac shredder, they heat up very hot in a day. I'll guess that those leaves would do the same if they got shredded, especially with some of that wheat straw.

    Bookmark   October 21, 2009 at 11:22PM
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Lloyd

They got hot alright, pretty consistent 155F yesterday! It took a bit of time because of the snow/ice that was in about half the bags.

I moved some around with the bucket of the tractor yesterday and all the leaves on the inside are now black. No foul odors so far, keeping my fingers crossed.

This is speculation but I'm wondering if with the volume of steam coming out the top, obviously a lot of fresh air is going in. With this volume of fresh air, it really helps to prevent any anaerobic conditions from developing. Our OAT this morning is -6C so it creates one heck of a chimney effect in a large windrow. Once the pile settles some more, the ability of the air to move as freely will probably be curtailed, possibly leading to the potential of an anerobic environment developing. Will have to keep an eye on it.

Lloyd

P.S. Clearly I need to get a life!

    Bookmark   October 22, 2009 at 10:00AM
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Lloyd

Picture from this morning. Different angle

Windrow #1 way in the background, Windrow #2 on the right and Windrow #3 on the left. I'm still building #3.

Lloyd

    Bookmark   October 22, 2009 at 10:33AM
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idaho_gardener

I've heard accounts of compost piles turning to ash inside. From what I've seen with ramial wood, I now believe it. So those green leaves are an even hotter 'green' that fresh mowed grass clippings.

    Bookmark   October 22, 2009 at 8:11PM
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kqcrna(z6 SW Oh)

Lloyd: " I added some wheat straw as I built portions of the windrow but I'm just guessing as to how much to add. "
... looks like you figured it out Lloyd! Looks good!

Karen

    Bookmark   October 22, 2009 at 8:58PM
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gjcore

Nice piles. How far does that go across your farm? From the pictures that I've seen, and I'm totally guessing, you have maybe 50 acres.

As far as having a life I think you have one as the composting wheat grower :-)

    Bookmark   October 22, 2009 at 9:45PM
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Lloyd

Almost none of the actual compost is used on the farm.

I get all the yard trimmings from the town beginning mid April til October 23rd this year. The spring and summer stuff goes directly onto a fallow field and gets cultivated into the land. Starting Sept 15th I get the loads dropped in the composting area and I build windrows until all the area is filled (or when it's mostly just leaves whichever comes first). Once that happens all the rest gets put on a field that will be fallow next year.

Now my contract is technically up tomorrow but I've notified the town that I will keep accepting the trimmings until the weather (snow) prevents it. Last year we ran until Nov 12th and I got an extra 25-30 truckloads of stuff.

I plant wheat on about 65 acres total, divided into 3 seperate fields. 20 acres is not mine but I farm it to "keep the weeds down" for the owner. Some of the thatch in the spring is used in the orchard. We don't grow a garden. :-(

Of the actual compost, I sell some but give a lot away. The local Communities in Bloom gets many loads. We have a small bin in town that locals can take what they want for a donation to our local Palliative Care organization. The Legion gets some for their flower beds and grass and a school gets some for their gardening projects. I give some to local organizations for draws or silent auctions and of course family members help themselves as well.

A group in Winnipeg called The Landless Farmer Collective called and asked for some and I have to give them a call back. They grow food on city land but they need some compost to improve the soil.

Anybody else want some?

Lloyd

    Bookmark   October 22, 2009 at 10:11PM
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steve2416

Lloyd,
I am truly blown away by your activity, scale, and generosity.
I also benefit from my town bringing me leaves they've vacuumed up off the curbs, but only a paltry 30 cubic yards each year. They dump the leaves in semi-windrows as that is how they they come off the truck.

    Bookmark   October 23, 2009 at 5:13PM
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Lloyd

Steve, 30 CY is nothing to sneeze at. If more towns/cities started with that, it could eventually add up to some big numbers on a state or country wide scale. I call them small victories.

Lloyd

    Bookmark   October 23, 2009 at 5:56PM
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tiffy_z5_6_can(5/6)

"Anybody else want some?"

Uh, yeah!! When that CN train goes by in the next couple of days, just throw some of that hot stuff on there for me Lloyd. :O)

    Bookmark   October 24, 2009 at 9:28AM
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organicdan(z5b Nova Scotia)

Here is a link similar to one used during my composting course. You enter the materials then play with quantities until you get the desired C:N ratio.

The calculator allows up to four inputs so see what else is available for addition to the mix. A two ingredient windrow works but an analysis will identify any nutrient deficiencies in the final product.

The leaves will have a C:N range of 30-60 and the wheat straw in the 100-150 range.

Check your mix ratio with the calculator and tell us the final C:N. Enter your data and move the cursor outside the table to initiate the calculation.

Thumbs up for your efforts.

Here is a link that might be useful: Compost Calculator

    Bookmark   October 25, 2009 at 8:16PM
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luckygal(3b)

There was an article in the Edmonton Journal and apparently the trees may have a tough time next year because of this early freezing.

Here is a link that might be useful: edmonton journal article

    Bookmark   October 25, 2009 at 9:46PM
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Lloyd

Very interesting calculator. While it would be impossible to come up with numbers for that part of my windrow, it does show the C:N of fresh leaves as 37:1 so that would actually be a weak brown. Throw in a bit of grass and a person could have a darn near perfect ratio.

One thing they also say is that "Woody materials, and especially straw, have a high percentage of carbon, but much of it is locked up in complex molecules that only become available over time; too late to be of use with the immediately available nitrogen." So adding the straw might not do much other than aeration, interesting, I'll have to ponder this some more. It may help to explain why I couldn't get the straw to work in the tumblers. Learn something different every day! :-)

Lloyd

    Bookmark   October 25, 2009 at 9:57PM
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Lloyd

We didn't have the drought here in Maitoba but we sure had the nice September followed by a hard freeze so I guess some of our trees are in the same boat.

I guess, technically, I now have those nutrients in my windrows.

I wonder if I can talk people into putting some compost around those trees that lost their leaves to the freeze and how much would a person put down?

Lloyd

    Bookmark   October 25, 2009 at 10:11PM
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gjcore

Putting compost around trees is a good idea. I've been putting compost around my trees usually spring and fall. Probably about 1-2 inches thick from a few inches out from the trunk to the drip line for the younger trees. The older trees, at least for me, are kind of on their own but I do give their areas some compost.

    Bookmark   October 26, 2009 at 1:52AM
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kikifoow(9: Bay Area)

*sigh*
Lloyd, you are KILLING me. Every time I see your photos I keep wondering if my wife (or landlady) would have a problem with me knocking down the house so that I had more room to make compost.

I also start reaching for my truck keys (ranger) and think a quick trip to Canada from Fremont (SF Bay Area) is worth it for 1 cy of your best stuff! (maybe I can cram 1.5cu on)

Now I am going to have to look into slapping the city around a bit and see if there might be a way to get them to start a windrow project on some unsed city land.

    Bookmark   October 26, 2009 at 1:54PM
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dottyinduncan(z8b coastal BC)

Lloyd, one thing I haven't seen you tell us is whether your fields that are using your compost, or benefitting from the top dressing on fallow fields are more productive? How many bushels per acre vs the other fields? And, since you don't sell much compost, how many hours a week do you put into this operation? I think it's wonderful that you donate so much to help others get started.

    Bookmark   November 21, 2011 at 1:03PM
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