oak leaf composting

Asked January 28, 2019, 11:12 AM EST

I bought a WorX leaf shredder and have created a 3x3x3 ft pile of leaf mulch. It's a tedious process with wet leaves, but doable. I added some kitchen trimmings compost from a tumbler to try to help it get brewing. What should I be doing to help this go from mulch to compost? I have lots more leaves...

Benton County Oregon composting horticulture

2 Responses

What you have is an admirable pile of "brown stuff." I envy you that shredder ...

What you require is more "green stuff" or nitrogen.
  • Shredded leaves are a great matrix for processing kitchen scraps, but given the volume of leaves you have, you would require easily 20-30 gallons of food waste to get your pile "brewing."
  • Grass clippings are probably the very best nitrogen source, because they can be as much as 80-85% water, which is released slowly as the grass decomposes. BUT grass can be in short supply in January.
  • When I cannot get grass clippings, I use alfalfa pellets. You'll find these in 40 pound sacks at the feed store. They are high in nitrogen and weed free. They must be stored away from the damp and rodents.
  • Chemical fertilizers are another easy way to augment nitrogen. The price of ammonium nitrate (25-0-0) is tied to the price of gasoline, so this option is not as cheap as it once was. Fertilizer must be dissolved in water - say 1-2 C fertilizer per 5 gallons - before application.
I recommend that you turn the whole pile once again, working in the material of choice every 3-6 inches as you rebuild the pile.
  • For a 3X3, I'd add about a gallon of food waste per layer.
  • For grass clippings, about an inch per layer.
  • For alfalfa pellets, about 2 quarts dry pellets per layer. The pellets must be dampened with liquid water as they are added to the pile. Wet leaves are not wet enough.
  • For 25-0-0, sprinkle a couple of cups of the diluted solution per layer. A watering can with a sprinkler spout is good. Alternatively, you could try drilling down into the pile of leaves with a broom handle or the like, and pour the solution in. The more holes, the better.
Manures are good, too, of course, but with the caveat that you are likely to get significant loads of weed seed from any grazing animal. They are also heavy and require more handling than the alternatives discussed above.

Finally, if you are in control of the source of these leaves, you might try bagging them up in the fall before they become so wet. I suspect you are working with a compost bin made of pallets; if so, add another bay for bagged leaves. Given enough years, they will decompose significantly in the bag. And you can reuse the bags when empty.

awesome. Thanks