Composting Oak Leaves

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I live in the Boston area and I have about 5 oak trees and two pines. I get a lot of leaves and I recently contracted a guy to move all of the leaves to the rear corner of the yard. $300 for probably 1/2 day work. Everything is expensive in the Boston area. Anyway, it would be very costly to have the leaves carted off to the dump. The yard slopes away form the house and it would be cost a lot more to remove the pile. I would like to add something like lime to speed up the decompostion. Is this a good plan? Is there any other beter way to speed up the proceess. There will be a huge pile of leaves and it builds up every year.
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Unless he's renting some fairly pricy equipment, it's probably cheaper to hire a plumber or electrician to do that work. $300 / 4hrs = $75/hr I couldn't see paying more then $15/hr for this kind of work. You can add nitrogen to speed up the decomposition, a 50 lb bag of blood meal out in California is about $30. Sprinkle a bit on the pile as you add new leaves.
If you're paying someone $300 to pile up the leaves, I can't help but wonder what you intend to do with the compost afterwards, which will be a mound about 1/4 - 1/3 the size of the original pile. Somehow you'll need to spread that back out.
-S
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How can someone who has to support a family live on $15.00/hr ? The landscaper says he will do more than cleaning leaves. He is also going to do trimming. I guess its not worth it for him to cart all his equiptment to my property without making a days pay. I realize this is unskilled labor, but I hate spending weekend after weekend raking and blowing leaves.
Also, I recently met with an accident in my yard using a Sears Craftsman gas powered mulcher. The leaves gathered around the muffler and the thing burst into flames. Total loss.
Therefore, for $300 someone else can do this work in a short time.
We'll see how it coems out. I will post after Wednesday and report on how the job came out.
M

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I know this is off topic, but most people around here work for less than half that - assistant managers make $7and change... and a lot of people work 2 jobs to make ends meet on less than half that. I know cost of living is more in Boston, but not by that much...
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Bear Drummer wrote:

But does that $7/hour include an allowance for them to buy their own tools and supplies? Do they contribute some of that money to marketing expenses? Do they spend time off the clock doing things that can't be billed directly to customers? Do they chip in for the business's expenses? Do they pay both the employee and employer share of taxes out of that? Do they pay their own workers comp insurance? Do they pay for liability insurance and bonding? Do they pay licensing fees, and small business taxes out of that $7/hour? Do they not have any other benefits that they don't have to buy out of that $7/hour? Or is that simply what shows on their paycheck before taxes, but after all of their employer's expenses?
And does it really provide a working-class living, or are they constantly going further and further into debt?
If the goal of a self-employed person is to bill $15/hour, they'd be better off taking a minimum wage job even if their business doesn't require any capital equipment.
--
Warren H.

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$300? You're getting........overcharged. I live south of Boston and prices aren't that bad!
The best way would be to run the lawnmower over them to chop them up and then turn them over every once in awhile, that'll speed up the process.
--
Ann, gardening in Zone 6a
South of Boston, Massachusetts
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wrote:

A powerful backpack blower can do job easily. You can get a new blower for about $400 (don't go cheap here). You need a 5HP shredder, ear protection and a dust mask too. Heap the ground up leaves into a pile near your garden. Mix in some green lawn clippings. Next year you'll have black gold. I have 150 trees and can move all the leaves into a pile in about 3 hours. Using just a rake is a 2-day job.
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The cost is high because he is going to do additional trimming of bushes. This is the third time that I have had my yard cleaned by various people and ther price has always been high. It is a tough yard, 1/4 acre of leaves and pine needles. and it slopes in the back. Takes me weeks to clean this yard. I'm thinking it is a good time to get rid of the trees. That's another big expense.

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wrote:

There are several things that you can do to speed up the composting process. I list them in the order of effectiveness.
1. Chop the leaves into smaller pieces with a lawn mower or other device.
2. Turn the pile periodically. I use a compost thermometer to monitor the internal temperature and when it starts to drop I turn the pile. This turns whole leaves into compost in one year.
3. Adding lime will reduce the natural acidity of oak leaves and pine needles to the benefit of the bacteria that are doing the composting work.
JMHO
John Who makes 50 yards of compost from leaves and grass clippings every year.
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John Bachman wrote:

Add in some soil while you are turning. This will provide the needed bacteria. Adding a little bit of fertilizer helps, but isn't necessary. Also, just be patient. When the temp increases, the decomposition will proceed quickly.
We also, use the leaf pile to composte vegetable cooking waste and coffee grounds. The result is used in planting the gardens. It has a high water-holding ability.
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Here's how you get rid of the leaves for under $10: Whip out your favorite word processor / sign making software, make a sign "free composted manure, e-mail for details". Casually head up (down?) to Harvard University and post up the signs, probably around coffee shops is better. You will also want to have a real bag of manure to give away so you can pass any sham ethics inquiry into your little bait and switch. (Do not bring the manure into the coffee shop). Then wait for some poor academics like this guy to take your bait:
http://www.newsoftheweird.com/archive/nw050424.html "... And a week after that, in Rockport, Mass., a chaired professor of economics at Harvard, Martin Weitzman, was charged with larceny after a farmer said Weitzman has long been trespassing and hauling away manure for his own nearby farm, thus denying the farmer his market price of $35 per truckload. [New York Post, 4-6-05] [Boston Herald, 4-6-05]"
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Sounds just like my yard...five oak trees and two pines on a little less than a quarter acre!
Fortunately my yard slopes steeply toward the street, and our town collects leaves at the curb for recycling...so the front is relatively easy. More than half our leaves get picked up by the town. The rest we grind up in an electric leaf mulcher, which grinds the leaves into fine pieces. We use some of this to mulch the garden beds and rhododendrons, and put the rest in a compost bin or off in the back of the yard where they can decompose on their own. Once the leaves are ground up, they turn into compost relatively quickly...we use the compost from the previous year to top-dress the soil in the fall (before putting on the mulching layer).
So far this has worked pretty well, although it is A LOT of work doing it ourselves, and I imagine our soil is quite acidic. We just look for plants that like shade and acidic soil conditions for our garden.
Someone mentioned adding soil to the compost pile to speed up the process...I think that is very important. Anything 'green' helps as well...kitchen scraps, a few grass clippings, etc.
Hope this helps...good luck! cewolf

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and don't forget to keep the pile moist...
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and don't forget to keep the pile moist...
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msterspy wrote:

After reading various replies in this thread, here are a few comments.
Oak leafmold is far superior to compost for growing camellias, azaleas, rhododendrons, and other acid-loving plants. Commerically, it sells for more than compost.
Don't add lime. Just add nitrogen. Stir on occasion to bring fresh oxygen into the center of the pile. Make sure it stays moist without being soggy. It may take longer to become usable than regular compost. (My compost pile is mostly leafmold. It's about 1/3 oak with more than half the leaves from my ash tree.)
If the pile is large enough, chopping is not necessary. But stirring is mandatory. As decomposing progresses, stirring will not only bring oxygen into the pile but will also break up the leaves.
After you spread the composted leafmold around your garden, then you can add a little lime if your soil is already acidic. (My soil is sufficiently alkaline that I keep using soil sulfur and sulfate-containing nutrients.)
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David E. Ross
Climate: California Mediterranean
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What should I get at my local hardware store / Home Depot to add Nitrogen?
wrote:

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msterspy wrote:

Use any off-brand generic lawn fertilizer that DOES NOT contain weed killer. Or get a small bag of urea (sometimes rated 50-0-0) and use very sparingly.
If you prefer something "organic" (although any chemist will tell you urea is organic), use blood meal; but then stir immediately to prevent it from attracting flies, dogs, or cats. Or you can use guano (bat, chicken, or seabird). Manure is generally too weak in nutrients to help.
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David E. Ross
Climate: California Mediterranean
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David Ross wrote:

Just gets some cheap 10-10-10 generic fertilizer. It works fine. A big bag will cost about $5 and you can use it on anything.
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wrote:

HD sells 34-0-0. Very inexpensive. (I use this to fertilize deciduous trees in the fall.)
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Thank you all for your help. Will these fertilizers cause the leaves to disintegrate quickly?
Also, it seems to me that keeping the leaves on my property is the "right" thing to do since the trees take a lot out of the soil.
My neighbors bag their leaves and throw them in the town dump.
I used to do that but it is a tremendous amount of work.

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