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Leaves, compost, leaves...

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Re: Leaves, compost, leaves...

Post  littlejo on 11/27/2012, 8:14 pm

CC, is that snow on top?

You'all are so busy getting those leaves up for the compost, I guess I'd better hurry, for spring will be here before we know it. I gathered/mulched 4 42 gal. bags and 4 32 gal. bags. By the time I'd got that much done, I was very glad that the rain finally arrived! Maybe got 1/4 of the yard done, and all the leaves haven't fallen yet.

Anyone know how much leaves decompose when composted? 50%, 75%?
Jo
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Re: Leaves, compost, leaves...

Post  camprn on 11/27/2012, 8:24 pm

@littlejo wrote: for spring will be here before we know it.
LOL, I think I have about 165 days until my last frost Wink

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Re: Leaves, compost, leaves...

Post  floyd1440 on 11/27/2012, 8:31 pm

@llama momma wrote:Bunny pellets or straight alfalfa pellets, bloodmeal, manure? Just tossing out some more green ideas for you. Then there is always urine at 1:20 dilution rate too...... maybe there is something in that list you can use..
Also check the moisture and aeration. The pile will still break down in time, some say a slow cold pile will be more nutritious, but I can think of pros and cons to both hot piles and cold... Sure would be nice to have everything perfect to start off spring planting. I'm still mulching, building compost piles, and corraling all these blasted leaves at my place..

What about dog food for a nitrogen source?
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Re: Leaves, compost, leaves...

Post  Goosegirl on 11/27/2012, 8:52 pm

@camprn wrote:
@littlejo wrote: for spring will be here before we know it.
LOL, I think I have about 165 days until my last frost Wink

+1 rofl rofl rofl
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Re: Leaves, compost, leaves...

Post  littlejo on 11/27/2012, 9:08 pm

I usually plant green/English peas the first 2 wks of Jan. I have broc, calif, cabbage, onions, garlic, collards, beets, carrots, turnips, spinach, lettuce planted , and I have 1 strawberry plant that is blooming!!
Forgot to add my favorite emotion to last post!
:fall: :fall:
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Re: Leaves, compost, leaves...

Post  llama momma on 11/28/2012, 5:29 am

@floyd1440 wrote:

What about dog food for a nitrogen source?

You are looking for high nitrogen source of greens about 14% or higher. And maybe the cheapest dog food would be as economical as rabbit food then? But I'm thinking it has a much stronger odor and attract unwanted visitors with its animal by product ingredients. So bunny food would be an economical and less stinky source of vegetable based ingredients with high protein to rev up the compost heat.
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Re: Leaves, compost, leaves...

Post  CapeCoddess on 11/28/2012, 4:19 pm

@littlejo wrote:CC, is that snow on top?

Anyone know how much leaves decompose when composted? 50%, 75%?
Jo

No, not snow. Shredded office paper. I'm having everyone there shred everything they can so I can add it in. Not that I need more 'browns' but I found out this fall that my worms adore it. Must be the soy ink...or whatever. *shrug*

I'm pretty sure my leaves are 100% decomposed by the time I go to use the compost. It looks like dirt to me.

CC
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Re: Leaves, compost, leaves...

Post  llama momma on 11/28/2012, 4:26 pm

I don't know when fully composted but here is one example: from watching my leaf corral I can say a 7 ft wide by 6 ft, and 4 ft tall fresh pile of leaves has settled at least 2 ft in the past week. I've watered it a couple times too.
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Re: Leaves, compost, leaves...

Post  quiltbea on 11/28/2012, 10:52 pm

Whenever I add anything to my compost pile, I also cover it with much more leaves. My compost ratio is usually 15-20 parts dry leaves to 1 part other sources and when I sift my compost barrel, my compost is all decomposed and luscious with just small bits of leaves left. I'd say its pretty much 99% integrated.

Any bits that don't got thru the strainer get dumped back into the green monster compost barrel with a new refill.
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Re: Leaves, compost, leaves...

Post  Triciasgarden on 11/28/2012, 11:02 pm

@bnoles wrote:Oh...... for a pile of leaves like this cyclops

Lots of leaves

bnoles for sure! 1,462 bags of leaves! Try shredding those!
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Re: Leaves, compost, leaves...

Post  NHGardener on 11/29/2012, 7:27 am

Wow quiltbea, so your compost is mostly leaves, with that ratio, and yet they seem to decompose well!

Maybe next year I'll just make a leaf bin, and sprinkle layers with something like alfalfa, and let it go at that. There are a ton of leaves here, altho like you say, the woods need their leaves too. I can't believe people burn these or otherwise throw them away. Of course, I can't believe people actually throw out their veggie scraps, and I can't believe they don't plant a few tomatoes or something. Smile
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Re: Leaves, compost, leaves...

Post  quiltbea on 11/29/2012, 11:49 am

NHGardener.....I went to a symposium 2 years ago on composting. The compost was built with 20 parts brown to 1 part green. It was so rich and smelled soooo good, I couldn't believe it. Better yet, the gardens resulting from this compost was healthy and high yielding. It made a believer out of me. I use mostly dried fall leaves for my browns these days.
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Re: Leaves, compost, leaves...

Post  NHGardener on 11/29/2012, 12:13 pm

Wow. I never heard the 20:1 ratio. In a book I read recently, while every item has a different ratio, I came away with a general 4:1 overall.

20:1 is much easier. Leaves are abundant this time of year.

What are you using for your green? Kitchen scraps?

I've gotten maybe 60 5-gallon pails of coffee grounds over the past few months. I believe coffee grounds are greens.

I may have a leaf deficit in my pile, too much N.
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Re: Leaves, compost, leaves...

Post  quiltbea on 11/29/2012, 12:25 pm

My greens are kitchen scraps, canned goods past their use by dates, plant stalks, fresh grass, crushed egg shells, and a little alfalfa pellets tossed in now and then. I also toss in the remnants from potted plants including the old depleted soil for any micronutrients. My tea bags and family's coffee grounds are mostly saved for my worms but I sometimes toss in a few in the compost.
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Re: Leaves, compost, leaves...

Post  Kelejan on 11/29/2012, 12:28 pm

@NHGardener wrote:

. . . . .

I've gotten maybe 60 5-gallon pails of coffee grounds over the past few months. I believe coffee grounds are greens.

I may have a leaf deficit in my pile, too much N.
I'm trying to visualise 60 x 5gallon drums on your property.
You will need lots of browns for them. At 20:1 ratio you will need 2000x5gallon drums of leaves. Smile
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Re: Leaves, compost, leaves...

Post  NHGardener on 11/29/2012, 1:48 pm

Smile

Actually they're more like buckets. But I would spread them on the different beds and on my hugelkulture pile over the 2 months, so it wasn't quite all at once. But I also have a fair amount of the rotted log chips on there.
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Re: Leaves, compost, leaves...

Post  Kelejan on 11/29/2012, 4:21 pm

@NHGardener wrote:Smile

Actually they're more like buckets. But I would spread them on the different beds and on my hugelkulture pile over the 2 months, so it wasn't quite all at once. But I also have a fair amount of the rotted log chips on there.
OK, then you will need 1200 buckets. :-))
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Re: Leaves, compost, leaves...

Post  Triciasgarden on 12/7/2012, 11:37 pm

donnainzone10 wrote:So.... What is a reasonable expectation as to the ratio between bags of leaves and shredded leaves? 1:12, 1:10, 1:6, or what? I have 25-30 bags now and plan to utilize my neighbors' shredder this week. Very Happy

The other day I shredded lots of bags of leaves with my lawn mower trying to get ahead of a storm coming in. It was windy and started to sprinkle while I was doing this so it was a pain. As I was putting the shredded leaves back in bags I thought, doh, I should have counted how many I started with and ended with. I already had some empty used bags in a pile and I shredded contractor size bags and other size black bags so I couldn't just count how many empties I had. I found that my mower worked amazingly well by just lowering it over the pile. It shredded the leaves quite fast and got them quite small and parts almost like saw dust or smaller.

So today I decided I would start with 8 bags of leaves, all bags the same size and filled about the same. The leaves in these bags seemed to be somewhat loosely packed and consistent throughout all on their volume and weight. I dumped them all out on the ground and the pile was about 5-1/2' wide and long by about 18" high. Not that the size of the pile was very important. I got that pile done so fast and they were shredded quite small, with an occasional almost whole leaf here and there which I broke up. I bagged the shredded leaves and as much of the fine stuff as I could scrape up and filled up three bags to about the same size as the first 8 bags. So I shredded 8 bags down to 3.

I am so jazzed at how quickly my mower did those 8 bags so I feel like I will be able to get the rest of them done if the weather holds out. I did start another compost pile the other day and just had time today to do another layer. I combined my first two piles together about a week ago so technically I have my third pile a third of the way built.

I will be getting some guinea pig & rabbit bedding and droppings within the next day or two which will be another variety of manure. My daughter is a dog groomer and the shop she works in has pets so she got permission to get the droppings. Oh the excitement of it all! Can anyone say weirdo!
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Re: Leaves, compost, leaves...

Post  floyd1440 on 12/8/2012, 6:11 am

Sounds like you really ground up your leaves Tricia!!! My neighbor has a huge lawn and tons of trees/leaves so he brought them over and dumped them in my yard along with grass clipping too. I used my tractor and ground them up to say 1/4 inch pieces before I put them in bins last October along with some dog food.

Ended up with 4 extra cubic yards of leaves and just dumped them in a pile so may put them in the bin next spring......
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Re: Leaves, compost, leaves...

Post  Triciasgarden on 12/9/2012, 1:26 am

Ohhhh I have tractor envy, lol! That compost sounds wonderful! It sounds like you have a great stash of leaves for the Spring. I am hoping to make more piles and to keep the piles pretty hot so the compost will be ready in the Spring. We have 2-4 inches of snow as of today and should get a few more tomorrow. My piles that seemed so dense when I built them and even when I combined two together, sure have and do compact down a great deal.
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Re: Leaves, compost, leaves...

Post  floyd1440 on 12/9/2012, 5:46 pm

My piles, which started 48 inches high, is now at 32 inches. I need to get out there and turn it but has been raining here for the last 4 days.

How big is your pile?
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Re: Leaves, compost, leaves...

Post  NHGardener on 12/9/2012, 6:32 pm

Today I added a thick layer of moldy hay on top of my piles. I'm going to let that good and beaten down in the rain.
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Re: Leaves, compost, leaves...

Post  webbee on 12/10/2012, 3:50 am

I compost mostly pin oak leaves, which can take two years to compost, (even if you add activators) in three foot diameter rabbit wire cages. Usually there is between 10 and 20% green from grass clippings mixed in with the leaves. Two year composted horse manure is part of the mix, as well as some finished compost from the last batch. Coffee grounds are added through out the process.

A chipper/shredder is used to produce as small a particle as possible. After trying the lawn mower mulch method, believe me the chipper/shredder is the way to go for reducing break down time.

I compost food waste in another bin, although the second year I added house waste into the leaf bin. I agree that diversity of material probably is a better idea, however at the moment I am experimenting with composting my small amount of house waste separately. Eventually food waste will go to a worm bin as so many of you are experimenting with.
Earth worms really like leaf compost too. I notice that there are more earth worms in my beds that have the leaf compost in them.

Particle size seems to be the key to composting pin oak leaves in my limited six year composting experience. Keeping the pile to the correct moisture is also another must, which took a year or two for me to get
Turning is also overrated in my opinion. I just don't see the benefit of weekly turnings in a open cage composter, at the end of the cycle. The best compost produced so far was a cold process, two year cycle, with about 10% old hot compost for an activator and turned monthly. This could probably be improved with some type of fungal activator since it appears fungus dominates cold piles.

Rodale's say that composted leaves retain 300 to 500% of there weight in water. Way better than pete. That's why it's worth the trouble to compost leaves. Since I have mostly pin oak leaves to work with, which are hard to break down, I still find it's very much worth the effort. I encourage all you other SF gardeners to try leaf composting as the reward is really great. Especially if you are trying to amend clay soil in non SF beds.

If Rodale's data is correct then we could probably use a leaf mold compost as a replacement for pete in the mix. i hope to try that as soon as I have enough leaf compost for a four by eight bed. Does anyone else have experience/thoughts with using leaf compost as a pete substitute?

Here in zone 5b leaves that don't have the coating should be ready over winter for mulch and sometime mid summer for compost, if properly activated in the fall. Pin Oaks will take from fall to fall and sometimes to a second fall depending on the method used the way I do it.

This year I have a huge mixed content leaf pile sitting on the ground. The pile will go into a three pallet composter I didn't get built in time this fall. As we say "There's always next year"...

Sorry for the e-book. study I hope it was at least an entertaining read. Very Happy
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Re: Leaves, compost, leaves...

Post  NHGardener on 12/10/2012, 6:40 am

Very interesting!

What we have in this world is a leaf shortage.

And I wonder if grocery stores would give away their rotting produce to gardeners - has anyone ever asked them?
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Re: Leaves, compost, leaves...

Post  Kelejan on 12/10/2012, 7:40 am

@NHGardener wrote:Very interesting!

What we have in this world is a leaf shortage.

And I wonder if grocery stores would give away their rotting produce to gardeners - has anyone ever asked them?
I agree, very interesting post. Most of my leaves are birch and I expect many of us have a preponderance of one kind of leaf.

NHGardener, I think many of us can get produce from our local grocery stores, unfortunately in our town it is banned because of local health laws. I did get a nice lot for two years until then, now I cannot even get any coffee grounds from our local Starbucks but I think that is because it is located inside Safeways and it has to follow their rules. Sigh!
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