Composting oak leaves and other compost questions

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Composting oak leaves and other compost questions

Post by Tracy Hoov » Tue, 02 Jun 1992 23:29:33



Has anyone had any success composting oak leaves?   We have mostly oak
trees in our yard and not wanting to put the leaves in the local
dump, we made three compost "silos" last fall.  We redid the whole yard
last fall, so there weren't any grass clippings to be had.   I've turned the
heaps twice this year and so far can't see that anything much is happening.
Actually, one pile has lots of worm in it and seems to be doing something,
although I'm getting a lot of wet, matted leaves.  The other two were
unfortunately dry throughout much of the pile and I didn't notice nearly
so many worms.

This last time I turned them, I spread lime every 12" or so and then sprayed
with the hose, and we did have one load of grass clippings from the first mowing
that I spread in layers in the first 2 heaps.  I've just been reading "Let It
Rot," and it seems like I need to get some manure to introduce more of the
necessary microbes.

So I guess I have several questions:
  If you've successfully composted oak leaves, what's your secret?
  Is commercially available manure appropriate as a starter?  I'm talking
    about those bags that you can get a the Garden center.  I haven't
    looked closely at the bag, so I don't know what kind of manure it is.
  Has anyone used one of those compost aerating tools?  Should I get one
    and do that in ADDITION to turning it, or is the aerating tool good
    enough?  I don't mind doing the turning, but it is rather labor-intensive.

If I ever get usable humus out of this compost heap (and I hope I do before
fall comes and I have another load of leaves), I'd like to spread it on
our lawn since we don't have a garden.  Our front yard is on a busy street
and in the winter the sand and grit gets thrown up on the lawn.  Plus I
don't think the soil is very good to start with.  I wanted to use the
compost to improve the soil in the front yard, but I'm not sure how to go
about it.  Is spreading a thin layer of compost and working it down to
the soil level sufficient, or do I need to work it into the existing
soil somehow?

Any advice will be much appreciated.

Thanks,
Tracy Hoover

--
========
Being called a poetess brings out the terroristress in me. --Audre Lorde

 
 
 

Composting oak leaves and other compost questions

Post by Andy Hi » Wed, 03 Jun 1992 05:39:53


Since you have mimimal green stuff in the pile, composting is going to
go rather slowly.  Adding fresh manure (not the composted stuff in the
stores) will definitely add nitrogen (speeding composting), and microbes.
The ol' yellow liquid compost starter helps, too.  Keep those piles wet...
it ain't going anywhere if it's a pile of dry leaves (I live in the desert,
so I have to keep my pile covered with a plastic tarp, your milage may vary).
If you're in a real hurry, collect grass clippings from the neighbors -
if it's anything like around here, there're still plenty of chumps that bag
and toss their clippings.  The more green stuff, the faster those brown ol'
leaves are gonna compost.

As to distribution, I normally allow the pile to dry out after it's good and
cooked, then sift it though a 1/2" screen to get rid of any sticks, rocks, and
so on.  Then I either work it into my garden, or use a shovel to lightly cover
my lawn with it (mostly under the trees - since most of it is from leaves,
I like to give it back to the donors).

--
Andy Hill
LaserJets by Bill & Dave

 
 
 

Composting oak leaves and other compost questions

Post by RPT.. » Wed, 03 Jun 1992 05:29:41


Tracy:  the dry manure you ask about for your compost pile is probably dried co
w manure.  This will add some nutrients to the pile, but little inoculum.  Mixi
ng in some fresh soil (from a neighbors garden, perhaps?) is normally the only
inoculum compost piles need.  In general, the smaller the particle size of the
compost material (leaves) the faster they will decompose.  Oak leaves may be
somewhat coarse, but not too bad.  Aerating ususally hastens the process of hum
ification, so turning the pile might help speed up the process.  Getting compos
t into the soil is difficult--that is probably the place to use an aerator afte
r applying the compost.  I don't know, it might work.  Fixing soil is often bes
t done before planting anything.  If it is really bad, it might be worth tillin
g it all up and starting again.  Good luck! :) Larry Z.
 
 
 

Composting oak leaves and other compost questions

Post by Ashley Bur » Thu, 04 Jun 1992 00:43:53


Quote:

>Has anyone had any success composting oak leaves?   We have mostly oak

>This last time I turned them, I spread lime every 12" or so and then sprayed
>with the hose, and we did have one load of grass clippings from the first mowing
>that I spread in layers in the first 2 heaps.  I've just been reading "Let It
>Rot," and it seems like I need to get some manure to introduce more of the
>necessary microbes.

>So I guess I have several questions:
>  If you've successfully composted oak leaves, what's your secret?

I successfully compost oak leaves, but it's a year-long business.  We have
an area that grows very little under some trees that acts as a temporary
holding area for our oak leaves. It really helps if you use a leaf-eater to
break up dry leaves in the fall, but we don't always do this. I hate the
noise from the leaf-eater so I avoid it. It takes us all year to get to
the end of the leaves. We add them gradually.

The hot piles I have had contain a lot of green grass and plant matter.
We also put vegetable and fruit peels/scraps in each week and use the
compost turner on the pile. I sometimes use compost starter for brown
leaves. I often dump tired potting soil (from potted outside plants past
their prime, forced bulbs, etc) in the pile. I never put weeds in flower,
seed pods, or weed (or invasive perennial) roots in the compost. I used
to put sunflower seed hulls but got tired of them being extremely slow
to decompose and unhulled seeds constantly germinating at the sides of
the piles. Your lime idea is a good one. I've added it periodically.

I initially had a lot of trouble getting the pile uniformly and enough
moist. I still let it go sometimes. It currently needs work, but since
I am 7 months pregnant I think I'll let it go some more!

By the way, matting leaves are a problem and you should do your best to
break up the clumps, mix them with other things, and keep air going to
the inside of the pile.

Quote:
>  Has anyone used one of those compost aerating tools?  Should I get one
>    and do that in ADDITION to turning it, or is the aerating tool good
>    enough?  I don't mind doing the turning, but it is rather labor-intensive.

I have an aerating tool, and I use it to decrease the number of times I turn
the compost. I'm sort of lazy about turning. It only happens twice, sometimes
three times a year. I get hot piles a week after turning. Otherwise I have a
pretty cool (90-100 F) pile. I broke down and bought a thermometer last year.

Quote:
>don't think the soil is very good to start with.  I wanted to use the
>compost to improve the soil in the front yard, but I'm not sure how to go
>about it.  Is spreading a thin layer of compost and working it down to
>the soil level sufficient, or do I need to work it into the existing
>soil somehow?

I'm no expert on lawns, but I think you should at least aerate (poke a
lot of holes in) your lawn before sprinkling and raking in compost so that
some penetrates the soil. We screen our compost and throw big chunks
back in. This is labor intensive, but even with hot piles we don't get
the uniformity we want.

I hope this helps.


 
 
 

Composting oak leaves and other compost questions

Post by NWR AYR » Wed, 03 Jun 1992 21:43:51


: Has anyone had any success composting oak leaves?   We have mostly oak
: trees in our yard and not wanting to put the leaves in the local
: dump, we made three compost "silos" last fall.  We redid the whole yard
: last fall, so there weren't any grass clippings to be had.   I've turned the
: heaps twice this year and so far can't see that anything much is happening.
: Actually, one pile has lots of worm in it and seems to be doing something,
: although I'm getting a lot of wet, matted leaves.  The other two were
: unfortunately dry throughout much of the pile and I didn't notice nearly
: so many worms.
:
: This last time I turned them, I spread lime every 12" or so and then sprayed
: with the hose, and we did have one load of grass clippings from the first mowing
: that I spread in layers in the first 2 heaps.  I've just been reading "Let It
: Rot," and it seems like I need to get some manure to introduce more of the
: necessary microbes.
:
: So I guess I have several questions:
:   If you've successfully composted oak leaves, what's your secret?
:   Is commercially available manure appropriate as a starter?  I'm talking
:     about those bags that you can get a the garden center.  I haven't
:     looked closely at the bag, so I don't know what kind of manure it is.
:   Has anyone used one of those compost aerating tools?  Should I get one
:     and do that in ADDITION to turning it, or is the aerating tool good
:     enough?  I don't mind doing the turning, but it is rather labor-intensive.
:
: If I ever get usable humus out of this compost heap (and I hope I do before
: fall comes and I have another load of leaves), I'd like to spread it on
: our lawn since we don't have a garden.  Our front yard is on a busy street
: and in the winter the sand and grit gets thrown up on the lawn.  Plus I
: don't think the soil is very good to start with.  I wanted to use the
: compost to improve the soil in the front yard, but I'm not sure how to go
: about it.  Is spreading a thin layer of compost and working it down to
: the soil level sufficient, or do I need to work it into the existing
: soil somehow?
:
: Any advice will be much appreciated.
:
: Thanks,
: Tracy Hoover
If you only have leaves, dont think about making compost - you are in
the business of making leaf mould. Keep the leaves wet, add liquid
nitrogen (diluted urine) or grass cuttings and leave it for a year or two.
It would even pay you to stamp down the leaves to help prevent drying
out.
After a year you can then save lots of money on potting compost. Use the
leaf mould as a bulker if worm composting (using a bin to keep brandling
worms to chomp your soft food waste). Its not very good for seeds, but makes
a good potting medium. Don't sterilise it.If you would like information
on worm composting, send me an email.
You can use leaf mould straight on the lawn / soil and very good it is too.
But with any method of using leaves, don't expect to be able to use them
before a year (except if you grow something like potatoes where you can
dig the fresh leaves in straight away with your manure). Adding lots
of leaves to compost heaps ruins the heaps because the leaves rot down
a lot slower than the other material
BTW, I think that adding lime to compost heaps costs a lot of money. the lime
will also react with the nitrogen to produce a gas, and hence cost you
fertility as well. The best manure by far to add to heaps is diluted urine,
its free, in plentiful supply when you want it, and saves on water usage

All the best
Nick.:

 
 
 

Composting oak leaves and other compost questions

Post by Robbin Hu » Fri, 05 Jun 1992 01:37:38


Quote:

>I'm no expert on lawns, but I think you should at least aerate (poke a
>lot of holes in) your lawn before sprinkling and raking in compost so that
>some penetrates the soil. We screen our compost and throw big chunks
>back in. This is labor intensive, but even with hot piles we don't get
>the uniformity we want.

What do you use to screen your compost?  I have tried a number of
different types of screen with little success.  I'm lazy about chopping
things up before I put them in the compost. :-)

Robbin

 
 
 

Composting oak leaves and other compost questions

Post by Andy Hi » Fri, 05 Jun 1992 04:35:55


Quote:

> What do you use to screen your compost?  I have tried a number of
> different types of screen with little success.  I'm lazy about chopping
> things up before I put them in the compost. :-)

I use a 3'x3' square of 1/2" wire fence stapled onto a frame made from
2x2's.  Dump a couple of shovelfuls onto the screen, shake, dump leftovers
onto separate pile for re-composting/mulching or disposal.  Pretty labor
intensive, but since I spend my days in front of a <bleep>ing computer, I
enjoy the exercise...
 
 
 

Composting oak leaves and other compost questions

Post by Sharon Badi » Fri, 05 Jun 1992 04:12:49


|> What do you use to screen your compost?  I have tried a number of
|> different types of screen with little success.  I'm lazy about chopping
|> things up before I put them in the compost. :-)

Oh, I'm lazy about chopping things up too, particularly food wastes. And
I'm sure it is going to take FOREVER for those corn cobs and arti***
stems to break down. Does anyone have any suggestions for easily chopping
these big food chunks into more easily compostable chunks?

--
Sharon Badian
AT&T Bell Labs - Denver

 
 
 

Composting oak leaves and other compost questions

Post by Robbin Hu » Fri, 05 Jun 1992 22:37:02


Quote:

>I'm lazy about chopping things up before I put them in the compost. :-)

>Oh, I'm lazy about chopping things up too, particularly food wastes. And
>I'm sure it is going to take FOREVER for those corn cobs and arti***
>stems to break down. Does anyone have any suggestions for easily chopping
>these big food chunks into more easily compostable chunks?

I want to get another VitaMix container to chop kitchen waste.  But the
darned machine is so expensive that I want to wait awhile before I buy

want to get rid of, I'd be willing to work something out :-)

Robbin

 
 
 

Composting oak leaves and other compost questions

Post by Alan Jam » Sat, 06 Jun 1992 02:05:26


I may be butting in here since I've just joined this newsgroup.  If so, tell
me.

We have been freezing our kitchen wastes.  We put scraps into an empty icecream
pail.  When it's full, we let it thaw & dump it in the composter (Green Cone).
This keeps the smell down and partly decomposes the material.  The unfrozen
gunk is not attractive to animals either.

But corn cobs - I haven't an answer.
...alan
--
Alan C. James           Former geophysicist, now a symbolic analyst
232 W14 Ave.            for home-based business-consulting venture.

 
 
 

Composting oak leaves and other compost questions

Post by Mindy Machan » Sat, 06 Jun 1992 03:42:14


Quote:

> We have been freezing our kitchen wastes.  We put scraps into an empty icecream
> pail.  When it's full, we let it thaw & dump it in the composter (Green Cone).
> This keeps the smell down and partly decomposes the material.  The unfrozen
> gunk is not attractive to animals either.

> But corn cobs - I haven't an answer.
> ...alan

Just a guess...how about a good food processor or blender on low speed with a
blade that will cut rough-cut? Miniature one wouldn't work, but maybe a really
good one.

How about a chain saw/sabresaw/jigsaw :) :) :)

--
--Mindy
*****************************************************************************************
Mindy Machanic  (AG Communication Systems/Quality Engineering, Phoenix, AZ)              
(This space available for interesting messages and the usual disclaimers...)

 
 
 

Composting oak leaves and other compost questions

Post by Paul Harv » Sat, 06 Jun 1992 02:04:49


Quote:

>Oh, I'm lazy about chopping things up too, particularly food wastes. And
>I'm sure it is going to take FOREVER for those corn cobs and arti***
>stems to break down. Does anyone have any suggestions for easily chopping
>these big food chunks into more easily compostable chunks?

Yeah, but I'm lazier than anyone else. (This is gonna start an I'm lazier than
you thread, isn't it?) I treat the hard chunky things as a soil amendment and
bury them directly into the garden. My compost pile is a welded-wire fence, I
just throw stuff in the top and dig it out the bottom through a hole in the
ground. If I find parts that I don't think have decomposed enough, I toss 'em
back in the top. I never really stir the pile, although digging stuff out the
bottom stirs it a little. Most of the stirring is done by pill bugs. So it
might be more correct to call my pile a pill-bug/earthworm pile. I think
it takes maybe 3 months or so to rot things, which would disqualify me for the
composting olympics. I also throw various "weeds" in the pile, even though
this means I'm reintroducing the seeds to my garden, because they are nutrient
rich. I do a lot of sheet or modified sheet composting also, that is where
you just use garbage as mulch or bury it just below the surface of the soil. You
have to watch out with that technique though, because if you get carried away
with it, you get too many compost bugs and they start to go after your plants also.
Happy composting!
 
 
 

Composting oak leaves and other compost questions

Post by kl.. » Sat, 06 Jun 1992 11:21:21


Quote:


>> What do you use to screen your compost?  I have tried a number of
>> different types of screen with little success.  I'm lazy about chopping
>> things up before I put them in the compost. :-)

> I use a 3'x3' square of 1/2" wire fence stapled onto a frame made from
> 2x2's.  Dump a couple of shovelfuls onto the screen, shake, dump leftovers
> onto separate pile for re-composting/mulching or disposal.  Pretty labor
> intensive, but since I spend my days in front of a <bleep>ing computer, I
> enjoy the exercise...

Um, the archeologists have a method that's a little easier on the back:
run ropes to the four corners of the screen and suspend it horizontally.
You can just shake the screen then, instead of shaking and bearing the
weight.

Kay

 
 
 

Composting oak leaves and other compost questions

Post by Ashley Bur » Sat, 06 Jun 1992 11:35:20


Quote:


>>I'm no expert on lawns, but I think you should at least aerate (poke a
>>lot of holes in) your lawn before sprinkling and raking in compost so that
>>some penetrates the soil. We screen our compost and throw big chunks
>>back in. This is labor intensive, but even with hot piles we don't get
>>the uniformity we want.

>What do you use to screen your compost?  I have tried a number of
>different types of screen with little success.  I'm lazy about chopping
>things up before I put them in the compost. :-)

I use a "riddle," a fancy name for a soil sieve. I like nice tools a lot
and don't mind paying for them, so, bargain gardeners, please be patient
with this. I have a rather expensive but sturdy 18" diameter riddle with a
stainless steel screen. It is $29 US from Langenbach, 800-362-1991. In the
last two years it has seen a lot of compost, and has only a few scratches
for sign of wear.