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Hello Guest!
Welcome to the official Square Foot Gardening Forum.
There's lots to learn here by reading as a guest. However, if you become a member (it's free, ad free and spam-free) you'll have access to our large vermiculite databases, our seed exchange spreadsheets, Mel's Mix calculator, and many more members' pictures in the Gallery. Enjoy.

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Post  arla 9/13/2011, 8:24 pm

Outside my house I have a large California Oak, that likes to throw LOTS of brown leaves to the ground, now until recently they all went into the "green bin" (which the city collects every week) but I'm wondering if I can use these on my compost pile, my concern is I'm sure I've read places that leaves should NOT be used on a compost pile because they don't decay very quickly, also without just grabbing handfuls and squishing I'm not sure how I can break them up, are these a good thing to put on the pile? I'm putting my grass cutting (when I have some) onto the pile, and once I start growing veg will start putting all the output from that to the pile, I try to have my wife put all the vegetable scraps on the pile too, which sometimes she remembers to do.
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Post  littlesapphire 9/13/2011, 8:29 pm

I mow over my leaves with the collection bag attached, and it mulches them very well! My only concern with oak leaves is that I've read that they have an anti-germination effect on seeds. But if the leaves are properly composted, I guess you don't have to worry about that anymore.
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Post  BackyardBirdGardner 9/13/2011, 9:38 pm

Don't know where you read that. Leaves are your biggest, easiest source of "browns" to add to a pile. They decompose quicker if mulched up first. But, they decompose just fine if left alone. Leaves are nature's natural mulch and the main way nature recycles nutrients back to the soil.

Oak leaves are a bit waxy; therefore, a bit tougher to mulch up well. And, they are a bit slower to decompose than other types of trees...like maples...but they are still great compost materials. Throw 'em in!
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Post  arla 9/13/2011, 10:58 pm

Okay thanks, my mower does almost nothing to them (it's a hand mower) so I've just added them in for now, will try to keep adding to the pile over winter and see what happens. I've a good source of greens, so think it's browns and moisture I've probably been missing, but find composting a complete mystery as to how to get anything to happen right now, we'll see, I turned the pile lots tonight as I mixed in the leaves and then added some water.
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Post  BackyardBirdGardner 9/14/2011, 8:48 am

@arla wrote:Okay thanks, my mower does almost nothing to them (it's a hand mower) so I've just added them in for now, will try to keep adding to the pile over winter and see what happens. I've a good source of greens, so think it's browns and moisture I've probably been missing, but find composting a complete mystery as to how to get anything to happen right now, we'll see, I turned the pile lots tonight as I mixed in the leaves and then added some water.

Don't add too much. That will stop/slow things, too. You are aiming for "moist," not wet. Even crunching up the leaves by hand will help them decompose faster than if left untouched. And, your green grass clippings may supply almost all the moisture you need to heat things up.

Is your pile big enough? 3' x 3' x 3' is about the smallest you can get to heat up. Mine is super small, so I have to wait longer than a lot of people, and it never heats.....so, I still have weed seeds. Neither of those bother me, but to each his own. No law states composting must be a race.
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Post  westie42 9/15/2011, 12:28 am

Whole leaves are not going to compost very quickly actually they are a bottleneck to the process as some kinds like oak can sit whole for over a year and still not decompose much. Can you put them in a trash can and use a weed whacker to shred them up more. Paper punch hole size is nice if you can achieve it. Unless code or regulations prevent I would look for a cheap used mower just to chop them up with even though you still have to rake them up again. The difference in composting rate would be significant.
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