Wondering what to do with all of those oak leaves you need to rake up?
We’ve got you covered.
Are oak leaves good for compost?
The short answer is YES, oak leaves are a good addition to your compost pile.
Really any kind of leaves are a good addition to compost.
Some people are concerned about the acidity of oak leaves, but multiple studies have shown that oak leaves become less acidic as they decompose and have no significant effect upon the acidity of the resulting compost or the soil to which it’s added.
How can I make compost with oak leaves?
Throw them in a pile and leave it be!
Just kidding. (Kinda. Sorta. Not really.)
Composting is as easy or as difficult as you make it.
You could simply leave the leaves on the ground and let them rot. That’s what forests do, after all.
If you want to get them off of your lawn, you could move them to the garden. Many people use dry leaves as mulch. You could also pile them in a back corner of your yard and let them do their thing.
But if you want nutritious compost soon, there’s more you can do.
You can put them in a special composting bin to contain the mess. Tumbler-style bins make it easy to aerate the compost often. This allows the good, oxygen-loving bacteria that create compost to proliferate.
If composting in a pile, you don’t have to mix it up, but you can. Some people aerate their piles often to add oxygen.
Aerating composting matter increases microbial activity, which increases the heat (killing pathogens) and gives you finished compost sooner.
You’ll want to add more material to the dry leaves. The rule is about three times as much dry material as food scraps. Add grass clippings, food scraps, weeds, etc.
If the process seems to pause, add more wet material and turn the pile to get things going again.
It’s also best practice to add healthy soil in order to introduce the right sort of microbes to a new compost bin or pile.
Can I throw oak leaves in the green waste trash can?
Of course you can! But wouldn’t you rather keep all that wonderful biomass for yourself?
Your oak trees worked hard to make those leaves! Spread those nutrients around.
Or, fine, just throw them away! It’s your loss. I don’t care.
Just kidding! Green waste bins are a great way to keep oak leaves out of the landfill if you don’t have the space or inclination to compost them all yourself.
The city will do the work for you, turning those spiky leaves into mulch and/or finished compost.
Can oak leaves go in my worm bin?
Yes. No. Maybe so?
Go ahead and throw them in. The worms might avoid them, but after a while they’ll break down. How quickly depends on the unique mix of bacteria and other microbes of your bin.
Did you know that worms eat bacteria? It’s the microbes that break down your leaves and food scraps, and then the worms eat the microbes.
Don’t add a ton of leaves all at once.
Consider cutting them up first. No, you don’t have to sit there with a pair of kiddy scissors – you can run them over with a lawnmower! They’ll break down quicker that way.
It’s also good to get the leaves nice and wet before adding them. Better still if they’re starting to get a little mushy. The worms will love it.
Don’t give them more food than they can eat at any one time!
Wondering what else to feed your worms? They love:
- fruit peels
- coffee grounds
- paper filters
- dry leaves
- egg cartons
- apple cores
- melon rinds
- carrot greens
- bread and cakes
- tea leaves
My oak leaves turned brown but didn’t fall off the tree.
Yeah, that happens. They don’t always detach on their own. You can leave them…
I don’t want to leave them. They’re unsightly.
Okay, okay, fine.
If you want to gather leaves off a tree to use them for compost, you can use a leaf rake with an adjustable heat to knock them down. If your tree’s really tall, you could use an orchard ladder.
Check the ground for anything that isn’t leaves: twigs, sticks, rocks, your neighbor’s dog.
Then go over them with a leaf shredder or a lawnmower with a mulching blade.
Remember I said that some people like to use leaves as mulch? That’s one option — you can put it straight on your garden beds or around bushes and other perennials.
Mulch helps to prevent evaporation, promotes a healthy soil microbiome, and feeds your plants.
You can also use the leaves to create a new garden bed. Fill a raised bed with organic matter (oak leaves, fallen branches, twigs, food scraps) and top with soil or finished compost.
Or simply pile the leaves anywhere you want to create a new garden bed. Pile them a few inches high and they’ll smother the grass and leaves, eventually rotting away and leaving you with fertile soil.
Occasionally flipping the pile with a pitchfork will help them compost more quickly. If you live in a dry region, you may need to water the pile occasionally to encourage decomposition.
Or of course, you could compost them with one of the methods described above.
What’s compost good for?
Adding compost to clay soils helps to break them up and gives your plants’ roots some breathing room. Adding it to sandy soil makes it more nutritious and helps it to retain moisture.
Composting also saves you money!
Who needs expensive garden amendments when you can make your own compost?
And if you don’t need it? Give it to someone who does!
Any gardener will appreciate the gift of finished compost. Most would even be happy to take the oak leaves off of your hands and do the work themselves!