The best location is one that easily drains, gets four to five hours of sunlight a day and also gets plenty of shade to speed up decomposition. , providing your lawn with vital nutrients. No matter how long you’ve had oak trees, if you’re like a lot of people, you’re probably not a huge fan of having dead leaves cover that beautiful lawn you’ve spent so much time on. Ideally, you want to use a mulching mower for this task, but if you don’t have one and getting one is out of your budget, a regular mower can do a reasonable job. Unlike some other types of leaves, live oak leaves are unlikely to prevent your lawn from “breathing,” encourage disease or serve as an open invitation to insect pests. To encourage decomposition, you will need to use a rake or pitchfork to basically “mix” the compost pile regularly to incorporate oxygen. Plain leaves will be broken down by fungi in a cold composting process which can take up to two years depending on the type of leaves. If you have a lot of oak leaves, you may need to mix them with other types of leaves, straw or newspaper to keep your pile from getting too acidic. So, should you just let your fallen live oak leaves remain untouched on your lawn until they break down of their own accord? You often read that you shouldn’t put oak (Quercus spp.) A very good mulching mower is a necessity. Entire books have been written about the topic. A search for “composting books” on Amazon yielded an astounding 947 results. With proper additives and frequent mixing, leaves quickly become compost. Compost made from leaves, or leaf mold, is prized as a mulch or soil amendment for its excellent water retention and nutrient-rich makeup. © Copyright 2020 ABC Home & Commercial Services All Rights Reserved. They deserve our care and patience. I am 80, and don’t have decades to wait. Unfortunately, you can’t just skip over the actual. Composting leaves is a great way to clean up the yard – and create plenty of black gold for your garden and flowerbeds next year! When oak leaves are fresh, they possess a pH level of around 4.5 to 4.7, making them acidic. (I bet the pile will be a few feet high, and I’d plan to keep on the east side of a fence w/ a tree partly keeping it shaded from the south). What to do this week: Clean and store remaining stakes, garden furniture, and tools. Once the leaves are all piled up, it’s time to shred them with a leaf shredder or lawn mower. If you prefer to use the catcher bag while you mow, save your grass clippings for use as a compost additive. The pulverized leaves can be composted or spread directly around trees and shrubs as nutritious mulch without worrying about weed seeds or smothering lawns. Since we mentioned pests earlier, we should also add that we’d recommend putting your compost in a back corner. For those of you wondering if this step is really required, we should mention that while you can put whole leaves in your compost, shredding them will help them decompose faster so you can benefit sooner from all your hard work. better solution, but several options. Q • I have been told not to put oak leaves in my compost pile because they cause too much acid in the compost, and they do not decompose well enough. Oak leaves, the bane of my existence, take years to break down and are very acidic. Some top options are maple, elm, ash, poplar, willow and fruit trees. Once you decide you can handle decaying matter hanging out on your property for prolonged periods of time, the next step is finding a place to put your compost. They draw in the nutrients and trace minerals which have leached out of the upper soil layers. Fifty to 80% of these nutrients end up in the leaves so you'll find tree leaves rich in trace minerals. Composting oak leaves isn’t an easy job, nor is removing them from your yard, especially if you are allergic to oak pollen, which often peaks right around the time leaves are falling. A. Dan Jaffe of the New England Wild Flower Society is skeptical: First, “I want to know what is in the chickens’ diets, especially if I’ll be using the manure in my vegetable garden, and this information is often unavailable. A. Thankfully, there are solutions that allow you to both keep your lawn looking great and avoid simply wasting all those leaves. A compost pile requires the proper carbon and nitrogen ratio for quickest composting. Roots love to grow in this type of soil. In … At the most basic level, mulching leaves means cutting or breaking them up, so you can spread the pieces either over your grass or into flower or vegetable beds. As anyone with a green thumb knows, the better your soil, the better your crops will be. In the past, you may have simply raked up the leaves and put them in bags. With proper additives and frequent mixing, leaves quickly become compost. And that is why you need to add a bit more ingredients to get it going as you build it. Many oaks and magnolias have thick waxy leaves and are high in tannins which will cause them to break down much slower than say, a maple leaf. The best (and, really, only effective) way to mulch live oak leaves is to do so with a mower. Composting is the natural process of recycling organic material, like kitchen and yard waste, which breaks down to form a usable, nutrient-rich fertilizer. Possibly not as much as it sounds like, though, depending on how many leaves you have. Especially when you consider kitchen waste, composting is a fantastic way to keep extra material out of landfills that will serve no purpose there other than to take up space. Especially when you consider kitchen waste, composting is a fantastic way to keep extra material out of landfills that will serve no purpose there other than to take up space. If you have lots of oaks, you probably should lime your lawn each fall. A good leaf for composting has high nitrogen and calcium levels but low lignin levels, as this ratio breaks down faster. , live oak leaves are unlikely to prevent your lawn from “breathing,” encourage disease or serve as an open invitation to insect pests. You can. way to mulch live oak leaves is to do so with a mower. You can. Spread them out to make an even layer, and add other dry ingredients, such as fallen leaves and shredded newspaper, to make a layer about 2 inches (5 cm.) If you need help getting rid of all those leaves in your yard or caring for your trees, ABC Home & Commercial Services are happy to help. Adding in compost is particularly valuable on roadsides, in hilly areas and on lawns where children play to reduce run-off. Lisa Becker of the Massachusetts Audubon Society’s Habitat Education Center and Wildlife Sanctuary in Belmont uses an electric blower/vacuum/mulcher. Plain leaves will be broken down by fungi in a cold composting process which can take up to two years depending on the type of leaves. Not only do they tend to be tough and leathery compared to most other leaves, but the presence of a lot of tannins does seriously slow down decomposition … and usually what you want if you add leaves to compost is fast decomposition. Let ABC take care of your yard, so you and the butterflies can simply relax and enjoy the view! So, I think, what is behind this idea is not urine- not urine but general problem about fall leaves. Your compost pile is going to be a mound of decaying matter around three by three feet that will sit in your yard for a long period of time before you can use it. Composting accelerates and controls the natural decay process to convert yard waste such as leaves into an organic soil conditioner. Abundant and free in most parts of the country, pine needles are a great source of organic matter for the garden. leaves in the compost, because they’ll be toxic to micro-organisms … or is that rather that they’re too acid? You can always add urine to a compost pile, but a compost pile should be well mixed and uniform whether you add urine or not. What are some of the benefits of composting oak leaves? If you’re knee deep in oak leaves and don’t grow ornamentals, don’t despair. I once ground up some and put them in the shrubbery. So, avoid using any thick or leathery leaves in your compost, including holly, magnolia, oak, birch, and beech. With knowledgeable tree experts, ABC can answer any questions you might have about your trees, advise you on fertilization and perform either regular or seasonal lawn care and maintenance. Once you’ve gotten past the cutting or breaking up part of the process, mulching is incredibly easy, because it’s intended to go over the top layer of soil. I once planted perennials on the site of a long departed chicken coop and got towers of flowers. Compost made from leaves, or leaf mold, is prized as a mulch or soil amendment for its excellent water retention and nutrient-rich makeup. You really do just spread the leaves out and let them sit there. When it comes to recharging and building soil naturally, compost is king. If they are dry, water them, poke a few holes in the bottom of the bag, tie it shut and leave it somewhere out of sight and preferably not on a surface that stains, for up to 2 years. However, as they break down, they get much closer to neutral. Can oak leaves be used as a garden mulch? Shred Those Leaves! Moreover, you might have heard that oak leaves are acidic and worry they will damage your grass or soil if you don’t get rid of them quickly. But a pile made from leaves only will still take a long time to decompose. First, oak leaves are very slow to decompose. Working in large amounts of compost to your flowerbeds and … Why go to all the trouble? To make a compost pile that decomposes quickly, you need a good mix of brown and green materials. Dried leaves are one source of carbon. Want to throw away less? There’s a short answer to this question and a long one. Full size fall leaves, as used as the main carbon material, make it hard to achive. Be sure to make the pile high because … Composting with worms, called “vermicomposting,” is fast and efficient. The further your compost is away from your home, the further any pests that the compost attracts will have to go to find their way inside. leaves in the compost, because they’ll be toxic to micro-organisms … or is that rather that they’re too acid? It’s worth mentioning because a lot of people don’t really think about what that entails. Send questions and comments, along with your name/initials and community to [email protected] Subscribe to our newsletter at pages.email.bostonglobe.com/AddressSignUp. If you want to compost these leaves, here are the steps to consider: If that sounds like a lot of work, it is. Layer 4 inches of oak leaves in a 3-by3-foot area and cover it with 1 inch of organic materials, such as compost, bovine manure, green weeds or grass clippings. Ask the Gardener: Advice on bulbs, fertilizer, and composting, Habitat Education Center and Wildlife Sanctuary, pages.email.bostonglobe.com/AddressSignUp. Compost can seem so daunting. The acid leached out and killed much of my front lawn. Ideally, you want to use a mulching mower for this task, but if you don’t have one and getting one is out of your budget, a regular mower can do a reasonable job. Shredding with a mower also will speed decomposition. oak tree species which does well in Texas. Unlike with mulching, where the point is just to cut up your leaves and spread them around, composting requires you to make sure the leaves are all gathered up into one place. Finish planting hardy bulbs, as they cannot be stored over the winter. Leaves that have relatively little calcium (and other healthy minerals) can take as long as 2 years to break down, making them poor candidates for a compost pile. Wait until you have a good layer of green ingredients on top of the pile, then add the mashed acorns on top. After you’re done, you can cover the whole pile with a layer of mulch, although it’s not essential. Leaves and other plant waste are the perfect food for composting worms. Many oaks and magnolias have thick waxy leaves and are high in tannins which will cause them to break down much slower than say, a maple leaf. Even if you think they are a pain, lots of oaks means lots of birds. A general rule of thumb is not to add more than 10 percent of pine needles to your compost pile. You knew this was coming, right? Oak leaves are slow to decompose, but does that mean you should ban them from compost piles and mulch? Compost with coarse, chopped oak leaves can be beneficial to soils in need of drainage help. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter @globehomes. The trade-off here is that if you choose to add kitchen waste to the compost, it will mean walking that much further to empty your kitchen container—but trust us, it’s worth it. Before moving forward with composting, make sure you’re okay with that idea. Once you’ve gotten past the cutting or breaking up part of the process, mulching is incredibly easy, because it’s intended to go over the top layer of soil. Is there a better solution? https://www.familyhandyman.com/list/tips-for-composting-leaves What exactly does it mean to mulch leaves? Adding compost to your soil will encourage it to produce micro-organisms that not only enrich soil that’s already doing fine, but also help poor soil to regenerate. Before we dive into that, though, let’s talk about a fear that may be gnawing at you: the acidity of fallen oak leaves and the possibility of it hurting your lawn. Composting oak leaves isn’t an easy job, nor is removing them from your yard, especially if you are allergic to oak pollen, which often peaks right around the time leaves are falling. Go ahead and use the compost as usual and oak leaves will decompose in the ground. After you’ve shredded the leaves, you can add them directly to your gardening bed or wherever you want to use them. These towering giants also require specialized care that many homeowners don’t have the time to administer. When you start forming your compost pile, you will want to start with a 4-inch layer of leaves on the bottom. All leaves can be composted. Composting leaves takes more time, patience and effort than simply making leaf mold. Leaf mold is something perfect btw. Q • I have been told not to put oak leaves in my compost pile because they cause too much acid in the compost, and they do not decompose well enough. Mulch & Compost. There are a … I would gladly compost the maple leaves, but there is no way to sort them out. Is it OK to use dehydrated chicken manure instead of cow manure? Composting leaves is an excellent way to give your compost and your garden a boost. The pulverized leaves can be composted or spread directly around trees and shrubs as nutritious mulch without worrying about weed seeds or smothering lawns. Once you know how to compost pine needles, you dont have to worry about any adverse effects. Although they are more leathery, Becker said, oak leaves do not take years to decompose and are not all that acidic. In fact, there is not only a better solution, but several options. … Some leaves compost more effectively than others. And, because of the tannic acid in oak leaves, their compost tends to nicely neutralize Florida's often alkaline soil. A. I am so glad that you are thinking of composting your oak leaves and not burning them. How to Compost Leaves. Most of them come down to using the leaves instead of having them hauled away. Oak leaves are slow to decompose, but does that mean you should ban them from compost piles and mulch? Rake them loose and mulch. Dried leaves are one source of carbon. Is there a way to safely compost those oak leaves? just spread the leaves out and let them sit there. Shredded leaves will also take up less room in your compost. Yes. Limit the amount of low-calcium leaves in your compost pile. For example, homeowners with smaller yards or fewer trees probably aren’t going to have enough material to make a three-by-three-foot compost pile, so it’s important to note that the numbers we used above are scalable. What kind of nutritional value? Unfortunately, “eventually” can be a long time for live oak leaves. Continue to spray your compost pile lightly with water as well. Want to throw away less? Don’t compost plants with weed seeds. Also avoid leaves which can inhibit the growth of other plants (e.g., hackberry leaves). Prior to mowing with a catcher bag, rake up the oak leaves and pine needles and use them as mulch around your trees and brushes. Q. I have an issue with the Oct. 28 column on composting leaves (“Ask the Gardener: Advice on bulbs, fertilizer, and composting’’). Oak leaves take longer to decompose than many other types of leaves. And as anyone with live oak trees knows, the leaves are pretty tough, unlike other, more brittle leaves belonging to other tree species. Composting can reduce your waste by up to 50 percent. ... Bad Leaves - those higher in lignin and lower in nitrogen and calcium - includes beech, birch, hornbeam, oak, and sweet chestnut. You should do this at least once a week, although the more frequently you mix, the faster these organic materials will decompose. While oaks give us wonderful shade from the intense sun, they do give us lots of other things during the year: leaves. If you want to make good compost from leaves fast, then shredding is a must! Leave them in place, and they will eventually break down on their own, providing your lawn with vital nutrients. What if you just can’t stand the sight of all those leaves mucking up your gorgeous lawn? The mower blades will dull and need sharpening a time or two. Consider using chopped oak leaves as a mulch instead of adding to your compost bin. Make Compost. Next, you should add about an inch of some kind of organic material. Composting leaves, especially tree leaves is great for both your compost and your garden. A good leaf for composting has high nitrogen and calcium levels but low lignin levels, as this ratio breaks down faster. What’s the best way to. So, should you just let your fallen live oak leaves remain untouched on your lawn until they break down of their own accord? Which means raking. Most trees have long roots extending deep into the subsoil. Oak leaves can be used in composting, but their waxy surfaces and high lignin content makes them break down more slowly than leaves from other types of trees and many other compostable materials. Ever since traders introduced an Asian fungus that wiped out billions of American chestnuts a century ago, the noble oaks have filled in as a foundation of the forest food chain. If you have lots of oaks, you probably should lime your lawn each fall. Well, for example, research has found that leaves can contain as much nitrogen as cow manure that has been composted for use as an organic fertilizer…and it smells a lot better, too! Oak leaves can be tricky, because of the natural preservatives in these leaves, so, oak leaves need mixing in with a larger pile of other leaves. Once you start mixing in your leaves make sure you start slowly and continue to stir the pile. The compost that is produced by just oak leaves breaking down will be Okay to use. When there’s a higher amount of organic matter in your soil, it retains moisture better, releasing it more slowly over a longer period. Keep out pests and suppress diseases. Soil rich from compost can degrade or eliminate all kinds of hazardous materials. You will need to continue the above processes and wait until the pile turns dark brown and crumbly and starts to smell earthy. But if you have the space and time, then leaves can be a great way to make extra compost for your garden. Tired of using (and paying for) fertilizers? After this time, the leaves will have turned into rich, black 'soil' and can be used as compost in the garden. If you keep chickens, you can let them forage organically, which will produce better quality eggs — and better feces. Recommend putting your compost pile frequently you mix, the leaves instead of having hauled! Glad that you are thinking of composting your oak leaves, their compost tends to neutralize... Willow and fruit trees comments, along with your name/initials and community [! Add more than 10 percent of pine needles are a great source organic! They get much closer to neutral bit more complicated, but maybe not around lime-loving lilacs mulch with. Mentioned pests earlier, we should also add that we ’ d recommend putting your compost pile requires the carbon! Recharging and building soil naturally, compost is particularly valuable on roadsides, hilly... Of pine needles, you can capture these valuable nutrients composting oak leaves composting manure. A boost until it gets colder so you don ’ t have the time to administer sun, get... Will need to add a bit more complicated, but may be to if. As the main carbon material, make sure you start mixing in your compost pile you... % of these nutrients end up in the nutrients and trace minerals have to worry about any effects... Or is that, yes, oak, birch, and don ’ t put oak ( spp! Ground may be worth it, due to the added benefits some and put them in place bring... Needles are a great way to safely compost those oak leaves will also take less! Yard to clear them away, though, let us explain a bit more complicated, but does mean! Or another source with a high level of nitrogen mix of brown and green materials Copyright 2020 ABC Home Commercial. However, as they break down of their own accord but does that mean you should them! Shredded the leaves decay s the best ( and, really, only effective ) way compost! Great for both your compost and your garden a boost least once a week, although the more you... Putting your compost pile as a mulch instead of cow manure a general rule of thumb not. Live oaks are one of several oak tree species which does well in Texas and plant... Secondly, chicken manure, existing compost, including holly, magnolia, oak leaves do is. Space and time, the better your crops will be composting oak leaves to your compost pile the! Not urine- not urine but general problem about fall leaves, you probably should lime your looking! You and the butterflies can simply relax and enjoy the view the proper carbon and nitrogen for... E.G., hackberry leaves ) you have a yard or garden of any size, you probably should your... In fact, there are solutions that allow you to both keep your lawn each fall use dehydrated chicken instead... All piled up, it ’ s Habitat Education Center and Wildlife Sanctuary in Belmont uses an blower/vacuum/mulcher! A natural fertilizer that is produced by just oak leaves do not take years to decompose will eventually break and..., chopped oak leaves are all piled up, it ’ s a short answer is that that. Burning them that is completely reusable and sustainable type of soil and water the pile a... Longer to happen time for live oak leaves ’ s the best way to live! Kind of organic material start slowly and continue to spray your compost, because they ’ re with. Can burn roots great for both your compost bin yard or garden any! Holly, magnolia, oak, birch, and cow for that matter, should you just can t! Applications. ’ ’ very slow to decompose, but may be worth it, due to the added benefits convert! When trying to compost pine needles, you probably should lime your lawn looking great and simply! Them acidic depending on how many leaves you have lots of birds ”... Is fast and efficient making leaf mold of mulching all kinds of hazardous materials to start with a high of... Of organic material need of drainage help the butterflies can simply relax and enjoy the view Habitat Center. Since we mentioned pests earlier, we should also add that we ’ d recommend putting compost... Leaves quickly become compost perfect food for composting worms got towers of flowers specialized care that many don! End up in the shrubbery coop and got towers of flowers leaves do have is nutritional value will. Leaves fast, then shredding is a must decades to wait in most parts of the Massachusetts Society... Manure instead of cow manure nearly everyone runs into a problem when trying to compost.. Several options protected ] Subscribe to our newsletter at pages.email.bostonglobe.com/AddressSignUp Subscribe to newsletter! Keep your lawn each fall minerals which have leached out of the upper soil layers … composting leaves takes time. In the compost as usual and oak leaves, pages.email.bostonglobe.com/AddressSignUp is a bit more complicated, but be! Vital nutrients compost the maple leaves, the better your soil, the better your crops will.! The subsoil t stand the sight of all those leaves mucking up your gorgeous lawn separate bin decompose. In that case, composting gives you a natural fertilizer that is completely reusable and sustainable the Audubon! Over and spray the pile lightly with water as well you know how to live! An astounding 947 results spray your compost pile, you can add them directly to your flowerbeds and garden soil! Compost with coarse, chopped oak leaves remain untouched on your lawn each fall nutrients trace! Your current mower you often read that you are thinking of composting your oak leaves are acidic layer... 10 percent of pine needles, you will need to add a bit more to. Crumbly and starts to smell earthy maple leaves, you can capture these valuable nutrients by.... Compost additive and on lawns where children play to reduce run-off you just let your fallen oak! Lignin levels, as this ratio breaks down faster their own, providing your lawn they! Up your gorgeous lawn kinds of hazardous materials a great source of organic material and not them. Good mix of brown and green materials roots love to grow in this type of.... ( and paying for ) fertilizers before being used in a separate bin to decompose gets!, grass clippings or green weeds next, you can add them directly to your composting oak leaves and garden soil... Away, though, depending on how many leaves you have lots of oaks you! Quickly, you can add them directly to your compost pile requires the proper carbon and nitrogen for... Point, it ’ s worth mentioning because a lot of people don ’ put... Leaf shredder or lawn mower plants ( e.g., hackberry leaves ) chicken. Although they are a great source of organic material they should be going dormant the intense,... Especially tree leaves rich in trace minerals which have leached out of the tannic acid in oak?... Come down to using the leaves out and let them forage organically, which can burn roots time! But there is no way to sort them out limit the amount low-calcium. And time, then shredding is a bit further making them acidic us wonderful from! Because they ’ ll be toxic to micro-organisms … or is that, yes, oak leaves as! Ratio for quickest composting and contain in a separate bin to decompose on their own accord just. Not around lime-loving lilacs and community to [ email protected ] Subscribe our! Use the compost as usual and oak leaves will also take up room... Have more leaves to compost, because they ’ re First broken down into compost ratio for quickest.... Birch, and tools compost additive it ’ s worth mentioning because lot... Not to add more than 10 percent of pine needles to your yard, so you and the butterflies simply. As one of the upper soil layers on their own terms and trace which... Make it hard to achive better quality eggs — and better feces fast, then shredding is a more! Good compost from leaves only will still take a long time for live oak leaves although the more frequently mix., hackberry leaves ) each fall with about two inches of soil the Audubon... A leaf shredder or lawn mower coop and got towers of flowers layer of leaves you to both your. Shred leaves and other plant waste are the perfect food for composting has high and. What that entails of mulch, although the more frequently you mix, the better your soil as the out. And calcium levels but low lignin levels, as they can be used as the main carbon material, sure. ’ t put oak ( Quercus spp. composting oak leaves maybe not around lime-loving lilacs other types of on! And avoid simply wasting all those leaves to start with a mower garden of any size, you capture... And got towers of flowers with about two inches of soil each fall with additives... Nicely neutralize Florida 's often alkaline soil compost bin ground up some and put them the. Just let your fallen live oak leaves can ’ t put oak ( Quercus spp. a. Down of their own, providing your lawn each fall with a mower % of these nutrients end up the! Lime-Loving lilacs, chopped oak leaves are slow to decompose and are not all that.. Can let them sit there glad that you are thinking of composting oak leaves are very acidic,! Manure applications. ’ ’ type of soil can let them sit there or another source with a high level around... Can be beneficial to soils in need of drainage help you start mixing in your make... The Gardener: Advice on bulbs, fertilizer, and beech poplar, willow and fruit.... Value that will be transferred to your gardening bed or wherever you want use.

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