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Mr. Smarty Plants - Can hackberry twigs and leaves be safely used in compost?

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Thursday - March 05, 2009

From: Marble Falls, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Compost and Mulch, Poisonous Plants, Trees
Title: Can hackberry twigs and leaves be safely used in compost?
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

If Hackberry trees and leaves have growth inhibiting compounds, should they not be used in compost piles?

ANSWER:

The point of emitting those growth-inhibiting compounds is to protect the area around the tree from competition. When the leaves have fallen or branches have been trimmed, they are dead, and no longer have the power to emit the substances, nor the reason to do so. There are some plants that have toxic parts, or the whole plant is toxic to some degree, such as Sophora secundiflora (Texas mountain-laurel) and Taxus canadensis (Canada yew). Even dead and dried up, such plants should not go into compost, nor should Toxicodendron radicans (eastern poison ivy) because the residual oils are not destroyed by the composting process.  Many other plants, including oaks, black walnuts, and pecans have this same self-protective ability and, from personal experience, make very fine compost. This article, Compost Notes by Ken Roberts, will give you some more insight on what should and should not go into your compost pile.

 

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