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will leaves break down in the bags?  RSS feed

 
                                      
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If i asked my friends to save me their bagged leafs and left them in the bags till spring--- would this break them down at all.?? thanks for any help .
 
Joel Hollingsworth
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It would quite likely break them down somewhat.

A container that allows in air and water would probably break them down more quickly, and they wouldn't smell as bad afterward.
 
Jordan Lowery
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someone gave me 25 bags of mixed leaves they picked up on there property. i "forgot" about them and over the winter they turned into beautiful leaf mold. there was even 8 inch earthworms in the bottom of the bags. now all the bags are in one bin and it gives the best mulch. also excellent for worm bedding.
 
Brenda Groth
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actually it can break them down quite a lot..esp if they are damp when they are bagged..the bags keep the moisture in so they don't dry out..

do be careful where you are getting your leaves from that there aren't chemicals or diseases you don't want to bring into your property.

i used to get bagged leaves from friends and from town ..but there are diseases on the trees and so i stopped bringing them onto my property...sure it is a great source...but  not if you are bringing unwanted microbes into your own space
 
paul wheaton
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Leaves are an amazingly excellent resource.  Provided that the folks you get them from don't use pesticides. 

 
Fred Morgan
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I remember once that I bought a property that had horrible soil. With a friend with a very large truck, we went scouting for leafs and filled the truck with more than 100 bags.

I put leaves across the whole garden 6 inches deep, by spring, they had broken down and made the most incredible soil when tilled. One of the best garden's ever.

Honest, it is hard to get too many leaves. Natures way of building soil.
 
Leah Sattler
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they are fabulous. as a child one of my chores was to rake  up all the leaves in the yard and haul them to a wire cage in the corner of my mothers garden. in fall there would be a huge pile of leaves overflowing the cage made with 5' tall fencing. by spring it was just a foot tall or so and just a few visible leaf peices on top and had the most amazing soil and biggest earthworms in it.
 
paul wheaton
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I'm doing this right now -- so far I've collected 50+ bags of leaves just on my regular drives around town -- and actually a lot of the bags are full of veggies and flowers and soil! People just can't stop getting rid of their gold around here. So I'm covering my soon-to-no-longer-be-lawn as thick as possible.

If I were on my game this autumn, I would sit at the entrance to one of the several "yard waste" drop off sites around town, or the local commercial composter, and divert those who approach to my truck, or directly to my 1/4 acre city lot. (Drop-offs charge these citizens money to take their debris, and then the composters resell the finished product at a profit!) Likewise, if you are in the land of lawns like me, hook up with a lawn-cutting crew to divert their endless trimmings.

ruth stout mulching in the city.
 
paul wheaton
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Hmmmm ....  I would be a little cautious about using leaves instead of hay for a ruth stout technique.  The leaves can mat and choke out air and water.  Maybe mixing in lots of twigs and sticks would mitigate this.



 
Fred Morgan
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paul wheaton wrote:
Hmmmm ....  I would be a little cautious about using leaves instead of hay for a ruth stout technique.  The leaves can mat and choke out air and water.   Maybe mixing in lots of twigs and sticks would mitigate this.



I just took a pitch fork and drove it threw the mass, worked great. Just punch a bunch of holes every six to twelve inches. Decay started around these holes and quickly spread.
 
Joel Hollingsworth
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Brenda Groth wrote:
actually it can break them down quite a lot..esp if they are damp when they are bagged..the bags keep the moisture in so they don't dry out..


That's exactly what I meant, with the opposite sort of tone.

If the moisture level isn't right to begin with, they won't break down quickly, or they won't smell so nice.
 
Jami McBride
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I get one to two dump truck loads of leaves, collected in my neighborhood from non-sprayed trees, each fall. 

The city runs the leaves through a mulcher, and then I carry these to my chicken's who finish 'em off by scratching and adding their droppings.  I have zero smell in my chicken house and area due to the leaves.  All this then goes all over my yard as soon as it is broken down - very good stuff.
 
                            
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"The leaves can mat and choke out air and water."

Haha well, from first-hand experience: not a problem. Can't "choke out air" any more than your average compost pile or garden soil at 12" of depth ("Humanure Handbook" anyone?). Basically forms a layer of "fluffy" soil. Will slow down flow of water in all directions if dry, but... that's good! Most leaves (that I've ever used) do not "mat" except under waterlogged anaerobic conditions (wetland muck, plastic bag) -- in my garden they curl up and crack when dry, or they disintegrate when wet. (I'm talking here about 12" of leaves max.) I'm always digging around in them anyway.

"Maybe mixing in lots of twigs and sticks would mitigate this."

Naturally!

 
Leah Sattler
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hay and straw can form a fairly impermeable mat also. I have picked up whole "flakes" that have been preserved over winter. most of the time though both leaves hay and straw break down quite well in my experience.
 
                        
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Im having trouble with my Oak leaves. the darn things dont break down.  Collected 30+ leaf bags to cover the gardens overwinter, now that the snow has covered them, they wont even start to break down until it warms up again in March.  Watch out for the Oak leaves 
 
Joel Hollingsworth
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Do you suppose that the tannins are holding your oak leaves back? Or poor ventilation?

My first impulse would be to mix in something with a little more loft. Thick-stemmed weeds would also have the benefit of adding N.

You might also try to neutralize the tannins. If your soil is alkaline, maybe just a thin layer of soil interleaved every few inches of oak litter would help. I suspect a light dusting of charcoal every few inches deep would also help.
 
ronie dee
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MY oak trees hold there leaves all winter... (fire starter? toilet paper? box liner?) hahhahha

I never NEVER rake leaves... just use the mulching mower and bagger and voila, ready to put on the garden or in the compost.. This wud probably speed the oak leaves into humus too...(If they wud ever fall off the dumb tree).

 
paul wheaton
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If you put sawdust in a bag, it will remain sawdust for decades.  If you shift the C:N ratio to have more N, and maybe add a little moisture, then it starts to compost. 

Leaves are very similar:  add N and moisture.  Air helps too.



 
                          
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i agree that dry sawdust will remain for ages , but what about fresh or wet sawdust,
 
                              
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it depends on the type of sawdust I guess.

If it is sawdust from raw logs, it will rot much easier than sawdust from kiln dried lumber.

Sawdust from hardwoods will rot quicker than sawdust from rot resistant wood.

However, most of the sawdust we get for our bucket toilet is raw cypress sawdust and it works fine for humanure composting but is slower to compost.

However, I would not expect even raw moist sawdust to do much over winter sitting in a garbage bag.  I would definitely want to add a richer Nitrogen source to it and compost it more.

Leaves left moist in a garbage bag can become a useful leaf mold mulch over winter.
 
paul wheaton
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There are piles of wood chips in missoula that are 20 to 80 years old that have been getting rained on for decades.  You can still tell they are wood chips.  They look only a few months old.

 
Travis Philp
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The bags themselves are excellent for smothering weeds. Just tear down the lengthy sides, unfold the bag, and you've got a few square feet of weed barrier.

What I did was lay these over top of some raised beds, cut holes in the bag, and transplanted veggy starts. The bags lasted for one season but were nothing but shreds by the spring. I called the manufacturer and they said the bags were non-toxic, including the ink.
 
Joel Hollingsworth
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I thought you were talking plastic bags, until you mentioned ink.

I do see those paper bags occasionally; I'll have to use them the way you describe some day.
 
Travis Philp
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To keep the bags in place I threw soil over their edges parallel to the pathways. Of course, they can also be used at the  bottom layer of a sheet mulch bed.
 
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