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I think I may have added too many leaves to my compost pile

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I think I may have added too many leaves to my compost pile

Post  Davidaaron on 2/28/2015, 8:54 am

I started my hot compost pile about three weeks ago, and during my first two turns the smell was extremely bad. It lingered throughout the day, and I did not want to offend my neighbors. I ended up adding a good deal of dead leaves to the mix to try to combat the smell. Well, it worked (or the compost pile was just doing its magic), but many of the leaves/pine needles aren’t composting. I went out to turn it this morning and the temperature has dropped from hovering around 150 degrees to 115. Any advice on what I might be able to do? I do have a significant amount of composted horse manure. Should I add it? I also have some left over blood meal. Thanks in advance for helping out this composting newb.
 

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Re: I think I may have added too many leaves to my compost pile

Post  Triciasgarden on 2/28/2015, 11:49 am

If the leaves were whole when you added them, they take longer to break down.  Pine needles are very slow to break down and would be better used on a pile that you can allow a longer time before you use it.

So you start off hot like your pile was, when it starts to cool down, after about 3-4 days, you then need to rebuild it, moving what was on the outside to the inside and what was on the inside to the outside.  This is best done by rebuilding it next to the existing pile.  It will heat up again, but not as high as your first peak.  I would recommend that you continue to turn it every 2-4 days.  It will peak and cool in cycles but will not go to the highest it was in the beginning.

It is done when you cannot identify any individual ingredient in your pile.  If your pile seems to be done but you still have some chunks, you can sift them out and add them to a new pile.  A lot of people do this instead of waiting for the bigger chunks to finish up.

What I have done regarding the smell, I cover my pile with plastic.  It was probably the right thing to do that you added more leaves.
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Re: I think I may have added too many leaves to my compost pile

Post  littlesapphire on 2/28/2015, 3:30 pm

Congrats on getting your pile so hot!  I find it kind of hard to do hot piles; mostly I do cold compost, which works well for me but takes about a year to finish (which is fine, since I only need a lot of it once a year).  I've read several places that tree leaves won't start breaking down no matter what you do until they've had time to leach out their tannins, which usually happens over the winter months.  So I'm wondering if the leaves you put into the pile were new dead leaves (as in, freshly fallen), or leaves that have been sitting around for a few months. 

Also, it seems to me like leaves just take a little longer to break down completely anyway.  Keep at it, like Tricia said, keep turning it, and I'm sure it'll start to look good.  Letting it sit for a few weeks after it's finished to cure always helps my compost as well.
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