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  #1  
Old June 19th, 2005, 02:26 PM
strider3700 strider3700 is offline
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anything help speed up composting of leaves and branches?

my yard is 90% covered in trees. This generates massive amounts of leaves each fall that I'm still working on getting rid of. I prefer to compost them rather then burn them or pay to haul them away as I could use the compost and getting rid of them just seems like a stupid idea.

The issue is I know that you need to mix the leaves/branches (brown) with green things like grass and kitchen scraps and so on. In my first compost pile I let my grass grow for a month and then mixed the clippings into about 5% of my leaves and shredded branches. This worked great at first, everything started going brown, and the where the grass and chips where bunched together got hot and white spots appeared on everything. I flipped it weekly and kept checking the moisture. just today I went to flip it the 4th time and found it's not hot and most of the grass is gone. my assumption is I need more green stuff but my yard will never generate enough to handle the number of leaves I have.

Can I buy anything to add that simulates whatever the grass puts into the pile? do leaves and sawdust just take years to break down and I'm SOL on speeding it up? Any suggestions?
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Old June 19th, 2005, 08:12 PM
felco felco is offline
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Re: anything help speed up composting of leaves and branches?

I guess you could add some soil on your leaf pile...or even manure. then if you can find them ..you can buy worms that are being sold for composting and add them in as well.
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Old June 19th, 2005, 08:23 PM
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Re: anything help speed up composting of leaves and branches?

well you are doing the right things. There was a product that was leaf mold spores that sped composting, but you had to keep the leaves in black plastic garbage bags to speed it up. Some leaves compost faster then others ... maples are fast ... Oak is slow ... so I think it all depends.
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Old June 19th, 2005, 08:59 PM
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Re: anything help speed up composting of leaves and branches?

To answer your question, The microbs that eat compost need the same food as plants -- particularly nitrogen. That is why when organic mater is too fresh it sometimes stunts growth. compost uses nitrogen at first but then dilivers it. And this is what green grass (green mater) does for your compost, supply nitrogen. If you do a search on compost starter or accelerator you might find the microbes, but to answer to your question it is nitro. I know someone that sugests using amonia on compost as a powerful source of nitro but I would want some confirmation on that first. They also uses coca-cola as they clame the sugar help formemt the compost, but again I would want confirmation. I just let nature take it course, so have never tried to accelerate, although I have used microbs once.
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Old June 22nd, 2005, 05:43 AM
Puddleton Puddleton is offline
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Re: anything help speed up composting of leaves and branches?

Fuord is spot on.
One of the best accelerants for compost is urea. it disolves very quickly and works very fast. You must be careful to not add too much as spontaneous combustion will occur. It is also very imporatnt to add a liberal amount of near composted Organic matter as this will help establish microbial activity. Lashings of chicken pooh is alos an excellent accelerant. It is also important to check your ph levels through the process. too low ph will halt the process. Build compost bins with 4 freight pallets. stand each pallet on its side to make a box from the 4 upright pallets, tie it together and start filling. This reduces the surface area that is exposed to the cooling elements.
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Old June 22nd, 2005, 09:35 PM
strider3700 strider3700 is offline
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Re: anything help speed up composting of leaves and branches?

You're recommending that I carefully piss on my compost pile? Thats worth doing just to see the neighbours reactions.

I mowed the lawn again and added that to the pile. Hopefully that helps get things moving again. I think I was well on my way and then ran out of nitrogen in the mix. Not sure.
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Old June 23rd, 2005, 06:27 AM
Puddleton Puddleton is offline
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Re: anything help speed up composting of leaves and branches?

You can wee on your compost as much as you wish, you can turn your pile with as much lawn clippings as you want. If you want to make more work for yourself, do the above. I suggest buying urea as it is very high in nitrogen. Ammonium sulphate or ammonium nitrate works well too.
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Old June 23rd, 2005, 07:01 PM
strider3700 strider3700 is offline
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Re: anything help speed up composting of leaves and branches?

ahh. After doing some research I've discovered that urea and urine aren't exactly the same. I'll take a look and see if I can find some.
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Old June 24th, 2005, 01:41 AM
Puddleton Puddleton is offline
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Re: anything help speed up composting of leaves and branches?

theres urea in urine but rarely do you find urine in urea!
Any garden centre worth there salt will sell urea. It's the cheapest form of nitrogen available. May I suggest you engage a horticulturist to visit your garden to either work with you or to tell you how to maximise results whilst minimising labour requirments. It will pay dividends in the long run.
What type of leaf matter are you trying to compost? I can calculate your nitrogen requirments for adequate composting.
Cheers and Keep on rotting
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Old June 24th, 2005, 07:47 AM
strider3700 strider3700 is offline
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Re: anything help speed up composting of leaves and branches?

Dried maple leaves are the major issue. they've been on the ground since last fall for the newest ones, a couple of years at least on the older ones.

Thanks
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Old June 24th, 2005, 12:04 PM
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Re: anything help speed up composting of leaves and branches?

Maples compost fast so I don't understand what the problem is. but if it is moist, hot, aerated, feed ... you shouldn't have problems.
-- So, you do need to keep it moist. Consider covering it with black plastic as it will keep in the moisture and heat -- the down side is aeration so the plast is just to start the process as composted material retains moisture.
-- you do need to turn (mix) the composted. The helps with moisture, airation, spreading the microbes...
-- Urea you get in garden centers is weak compared to household amonia but 40-10-10 is still plenty good. If you use amonia note the "spontanious combustion" comment. As stated, I havent tried it, but dilute the stuff to less then a cup per 5 gallons and douse the compost. (I really like the spontanious combustion statement -- I just though white ash is interesting stuff LOL)
-- As noted, at lower PH the composting slows considerable, for a number oif reasons. However, you find this more with pine needles, oak leaves, tossed peat ... but Maples are mighty neutral.
-- Are your leaves ground? that will rot 10X faster ground.

You should not have any problem composting maples leaves!
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Old June 24th, 2005, 01:53 PM
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Re: anything help speed up composting of leaves and branches?

OK to address your specific problem = dry leaves, take your dry leaves mixed with a little compost and pack them in HD black plastic trash bags. Add two gallons of water, seal, and put in the sun for a couple of weeks. You can add urea/amonia when you add the water and flip the bages every few days. After a few weeks, add this back to the compost pile but DO NOT ADD TO ANY PLANTED AREA--THAT COULD BE VERY BAD! This WILL give you a jump on the composting thoes dry leaves!

Thereafter turn the compost every week or so and occasionally water it. The normal way you rid yourself of the dried or fresh vegitative material is to mix it with to your moist compost = turn it.
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Old June 26th, 2005, 12:57 AM
angilbas angilbas is offline
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Re: anything help speed up composting of leaves and branches?

Calcium nitrate is another good accelerant. It carries at least two important nutrients (appreciable amounts of magnesium may also be present to make three), and it absorbs moisture from the air.


-Tony
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Old June 26th, 2005, 02:23 AM
Puddleton Puddleton is offline
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Re: anything help speed up composting of leaves and branches?

Fourd is on the money with most of the advice.
Here's the scientific facts regarding composting.
You must develop a carbon/nitrogen ration of 25 - 35:1. That is. 25parts of carbon (eg leaves woodchip, wheat/barley straw etc etc) to 1 part nitrogen eg grass clippings chook pooh cowsh or the easiest and cheapest UREA!
Me thinks Fourd has mad professer tendancies (I like mad professers)
Ammonia will certainly get things swinging, You may also get a visit from secret service agents if you start purchasing qty's of ammonia.
I and most people use Urea cos its cheap and the equation is easy to calculate.
Autumn leaves require shredding first then 1.2kgs of urea in 10litres water to 1m3 of autumn leaves. Pile the leaves and wet thoroughly with water, once damp then water the urea over the pile. Don't use plastic to cover the pile use dead carpet instead. Look in any skip bin on the road theres always dead carpet in them.
Minimum effective pile is 1m3.
Ensure that you wear a mask when turning the pile as there have been cases of legionairres disease caught from compost
I use the lawn mower to shred the leaves I assume you have problems with sycamore leaves. Mow the leaves to increase surface area of carbon that will be exposed to nitrogen
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Old June 26th, 2005, 08:15 AM
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Re: anything help speed up composting of leaves and branches?

I think a few parameters need to be set. What
kinds of Maple leaves are being used? Some
Maples can take a lot longer to break down
than others is why I am asking. What is the
purpose of the compost, is the pre-composted
material to be used back in the ground or as a
mulch at some point in time or is the compost
pile solely for the decomposing of the tree
residues? Also, if the branches were shredded,
were the leaves also shredded? The shredding
of the leaves will facilitate their ability to break
down faster. I think we may need to know what
the trees are in the proverbial pot to better aid
in the residue decomposition and the intended
later usage thereof.

Tell us what you really want from the compost
pile(s) and perhaps we can help you more. I like
the Urea and Calcium nitrate suggestions so far.
I'll supply another thought. With silage Corn
we want to later feed to our cattle we will add
in Molasses to help breakdown the stalk fibers
from the Corn. I've used Glucose as my secret
weapon for breaking down several types of non
shredded Maple leaves, by themselves, faster
than they would decompose otherwise.

Sorry for the intrusion.

Jim
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Old June 27th, 2005, 04:43 PM
PG Greenthumb PG Greenthumb is offline
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Re: anything help speed up composting of leaves and branches?

Hi all

Dealing with dried Maple leaves in your area can be a problem since you do not have an ample supply of greens. The amonia and Coca cola thing will work . The Ammonia for the nitrogen the cola for the sugar to feed some microbs. You can also ad beer for the yeast or (steel a pack from your partner if they cook).

Dried red maple leafs are harder to resaturate than corrrigated( unbleached cardboard. The plus side is that worms love to lay thier eggs on both. ( Have you ever been lazy and left the leaves on the driveway / and cleaned them up to find a bunch of small worms in the pile?

As Far as using DEAD carpet / I would advise NOT TO/ as you do not know WHAT HAS BEEN USED ON THE CARPET/ IE all the wonderfull powders that kill or cover the sent and what were they made of?

I would suggest that you check for local worm farms in your area
and purchase a bag of worm compost with eggs/ You will pay premium for these (@ 35$can for a 2 gallon bag ). A bag with worm seed will chew down @ 40/60 lbs/day once they hatch. And if you keep the compost in the same place over the winter they will return.

If You get to many worms you can sell tham to fiesherman for bait ( we have sold 65lbs so far this year)

When I was in Chilliwack BC> we proccessed @ 1 ton/year( average turn over 28 days/ start to finnish)

Due to our shorter season here we have relied more on worms than we did on the coast .

Hope this helps

Regards Doug
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Old June 27th, 2005, 07:59 PM
strider3700 strider3700 is offline
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Re: anything help speed up composting of leaves and branches?

I believe the maple leaves are red maples. I have about 20 of them in my front yard and the previous owners just raked the leaves into piles for I'd guess about the last 3 years. The wood chips are a shredded maple. I don't have a shredder so the leaves aren't shredded. I can run them over with the law mower if that will help much.

I started collecting up the piles of leaves and chips trying to take my front yard back. First of all I just want the leaves to be gone so that I get everything cleaned up. I'd like to be able to take the compost and put it into some new raised beds I'm hoping to put together later this year.

I have tons and tons of worms under these leaves as I'm raking them up. Keeping the leaves wet enough when I'm constantly flipping them has been an issue though.

Thanks for all the help so far.
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Old June 28th, 2005, 07:46 PM
PG Greenthumb PG Greenthumb is offline
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Re: anything help speed up composting of leaves and branches?

Hi

You could try sticking the garden hose @ 1 foot down in the center of the pile for 2/4 hour 2* week ( depending on temp and wind) and not turn the pile as often untill you get aliitle heat. I have found that unless the leaves are packed down there is ample air circulation

As far as compost for the raised beds. If you are not going to plant till next year you can burry a bunch of the leaves and chips in the bottom of the beds.

Best of luck
Regards Doug
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Old June 28th, 2005, 10:10 PM
strider3700 strider3700 is offline
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Re: anything help speed up composting of leaves and branches?

I'll try turning less often to see if that helps build heat.

If I add really diluted ammonia ( I have some here already) will it cause any problems when I go to put this into the gardens?

my thought was throw all of the leaves that come down this fall and any that are already down but not composted into the bottom of the beds. The cover them with compost and then top up with top soil. next spring will be the earliest I'd be planting in the beds and I'll be planting vegetables for eating in them.
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Old July 1st, 2005, 12:07 AM
PG Greenthumb PG Greenthumb is offline
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Re: anything help speed up composting of leaves and branches?

Hi withthe a mount of carbon in your pile' the amonia will burn off pretty quickly. i don't thinhk are any worries there.

regards doug
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Old July 1st, 2005, 03:13 AM
Puddleton Puddleton is offline
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Re: anything help speed up composting of leaves and branches?

Quote:
Originally Posted by strider3700
I'll try turning less often to see if that helps build heat.


my thought was throw all of the leaves that come down this fall and any that are already down but not composted into the bottom of the beds. The cover them with compost and then top up with top soil. next spring will be the earliest I'd be planting in the beds and I'll be planting vegetables for eating in them.
Big boo boo.
You are creating ideal conditions for nitrogen drawdown. High rainfall areas suffer less from this potential nightmare.
microorganisms and fungae need nitrogen to breakdown carbon (leaves) when all the nitrogen you have added and available soil nitrogen to compost the leaves is gone, nitrogen will then be drwan from the plants roots within the vege plot. You will suffer from stunted yellow seedlings and a very hungry tummy.
Never mix uncomposted or part composted materials into growing media. Mulchings the only exception. NEVER UNDERGROUND
Check out these sites for limited space composting
http://www.rbgsyd.gov.au/information...nfo/composting

http://www.vcutechnology.com/indexx.cfm?sectionid=4
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Old July 4th, 2005, 02:25 AM
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Re: anything help speed up composting of leaves and branches?

If you absorbed the info here, you understand the principal of composting, and have many good suggestions of how. But because of what you are planning, you might want to understand the why.

First, seeing that getting rid of the leaves is one objective, and that you are not going to plant right away, and you are only planting annuals/vegetables for the purpose of breaking down the mater ... I don't see too much of a problem tilling up to a foot deep of leaves into your proposed beds. You would probably till again in the fall and then spring before planting. Beans would be a good crop for this as they develop nitrogen nodules around the roots that would aid the organic breakdown. So then by next spring that foot high bed will be but a few inches and ready for planting.

However, if your real goal is a really fine vegetable garden -- you have to get “the feel” (literally) for your beds and what they need .... and having said that, what you are planning may not be at desirable … so read on.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Puddleton
Never mix uncomposted or part composted materials into growing media. Mulchings the only exception. NEVER UNDERGROUND
Mr Puddleton's cautions are certainly noteworthy(all of them) ... and I'll add that heat that can be generated from organics can kill the roots, although this is more with *green* materials. An uncomposted top mulch will also deprive your plants of some nitrogen, which is one reason (there are others) why you don't want top mulch too deep. With a couple inches of semi-composted top mulch, the benefit of weed control and moisture retention out weighs the temporary nitrogen loss. Bottom line though, is organics should be in a sufficient state of decomposition before applied to beds -- but that is only a small part of “the feel”.

I know many here that will disagree with tilling of organics, and I understand why, but in my opinion it is all situational. The situation being based on your present soil condition, climate, and what you are planting.

First off, if your soil is already a good mix of clay, silt, sand/aggregate, and organics; then it is already ultimate soil (for most plants) and tilling additional organics is neither justified nor desirable! It can actually have negative effects. Now dirt farmers know their dirt, and one might note that corn is tilled after it is harvested, but this amount of organics is very minimal and is only partially maintaining the soil. Likewise you may note that vegetable framers may put down that smelly stuff after final harvest, but again it is minimal and only to maintain the soil. Basically, they are replenishing what they took out in the form of crops/vegetables. So for such ultimate soils, all that is ever needed is small amounts of organics to maintain the soil. These can be tilled for annuals or applied as a composted top mulch for all plants. Maintaining the soil in this fashion rarely requires fertilizer and/or trace elements added (needed only for minor adjustments). .

So, then, if your soil is fine in the beds you want to plant, what you really want to do is compost in your compost bins and then add this compost as a top dressing to all your plants and tilled or as top mulch around your annuals. While tilling isn’t necessary under these conditions as top dressing may be better, but tilling is certainly convenient as it also loosens up the soil.

If adding tons of organics doesn't automatically improve the soil, then the question is why do we till/use organics. Well, first, most of us are not blessed with ultimate soils so we have to make adjustments. That is, we must provide the soil and climate preferred to that which we are planting. We can choose plants that do well in the soils and climate we have ... and that is the preferred solution. But we do have our favorites too, so alternatively, we must provide the soils and climate that these plants need and/or desire to prosper. We create bogs beds for the bog plants, sand beds for ones that don't like wet feet, or rich mulches for the ones that don't like warm feet or are humus loving top dwellers (usually shallow rooted). While organics isn’t the only additive, the top feeders in nature are found in rich humus so that is the soil we try to give them. So if we are stuck with sand or clay we must make adjustments, adding organics (or other ingredients) to improve some quality desirable to the specific plant we are planting.

A quick mention (warning) of sour mulch. When organics don’t have "air", non-air (anaerobic?) organisms takes over the decay process. These organisms can leave the mulch "sour" and if applied directly to plants will kill them and fast. If mulch smells sour (you’ll know it when you smell it), it is sour and must be aired out (in compost pile) before applying.

I know that this is more than you asked for, but one should understand that adding organics is not automatically a good nor the best thing, and can even be a bad thing . I don’t always explain well, leaving out key details – if I did, well sorry about that as it is a detailed subject. Hopefully I explained enough of why organics are added to give you insight. Finally good luck!
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Old July 4th, 2005, 05:00 AM
Puddleton Puddleton is offline
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Re: anything help speed up composting of leaves and branches?

Fourd,
you're a star and an absolute champion for taking the time to explain the finer points of getting down and dirty. It's good to see people going out of their way to explain stuff to complete strangers
Your points on tilling or turning soil are well put and very apt. We rarely in fact never tilll soil for any plant types with the exception of annuals (display and vege) and soft wood perrenials every third year. Our soil is too fragile and its best letting the worms do the work for us. (disenfranchised worms are a sad sight to see)

Prior to planting woody perrenials shrubs trees etc Most horts down our way will undertake deep (real deep) soil cultivation to enable rapid and successful plant establishment. but thats another story.
An initial crop of beans or any legume will aid in breaking down the foot deep of carbon. I'm concerned that we havent taken into account the fact that these leaves are stubborn to rot, they are probably fibrous high carbon and very dry.
a foot deep of this stuff followed with soil thrown over the top is in my part of the world an open invitation for Phytophora disease to move in and stay forever (just like overseas backpacking guests)
I personally would not take such a risk for stuff that can be raked up, dumped at the tip for recycling/composting and while you're there, fill your trailer with the composted leaves that were dumped there last year.
All of Australias cities and large towns provide this service. It costs me $20 to dump a trailer load of carbon and costs me $20 for a cubic metre of well rotted screened compost to ISO standards. If you havent got this operating in your area, lobby your government. It's time and cost efficient and more importantly, reduces the incidence of back strain.
Cheers
A motto I have is
"Don't treat soil like Dirt"
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Old July 4th, 2005, 07:17 PM
PG Greenthumb PG Greenthumb is offline
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Re: anything help speed up composting of leaves and branches?

HI Sounds good people.

I like the ides that you have ISO certified recycle/ compost dumps over there.

I have not heard of one anywhere in B.C. that has the desingnation. Anyone have info on this?

A lady was giving a tea for her gardening club
They came over to admire her roses ,
and found her husband in the garden
A lady asked what he used on the roses
He say's Cow crap.

Latter they are having tea and the hostess asked what they thought.
A lady say's "the gardens are magnificent but could you ask your husband not to call his mulch cow crap"

The Hostess rolled her eyes and replied " It took me 33 years of training for him to call it crap";)


Regards Doug.
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Old July 5th, 2005, 05:31 PM
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Re: anything help speed up composting of leaves and branches?

Here, both the dropoff of yard waste and pickup of mulch is free. What they put out is an ample supply for kocals but the bulk of it they sell to help keep cost down. Oddly, not alot of people take advantage of it, rather they wait untill it is bag and then purchase it. It is of high carbon content but one can drive around the neiborhood sunday evening and take their pick of lawn clippings (can't believe people still bag their clippings) to amend the compost. If I'm lucky I find a nice batch of white pine needles that I apply directly to my acid loving plants. The best things in life are truely free :)
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