En EspaŅol
Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Mr. Smarty Plants - Do leaves with tannins make good compost from Austin

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
    
 
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions
Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.
 
rate this answer
2 ratings

Thursday - November 04, 2010

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Compost and Mulch, Soils, Trees
Title: Do leaves with tannins make good compost from Austin
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I have a couple of old native pecan trees in my (or neighbor's) yard that drop bushels and bushels of leaves every fall. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I have a recollection that pecan leaves have too much tannin (or something else) to make good compost. Was I dreaming? Now that I am composting everything I can lay my hands on, should I throw the pecan leaves in the pile? Thanks!

ANSWER:

First, congratulations on your composting practices; nothing is better for the environment, in our opinion. Second, there are always arguments about what is okay to compost and what is not. We found this comment from an article by Neil Sperry for the Wichita Falls, TX Times Record News:

"Leaves of oaks, pecans and walnuts all contain tannins, and there are always those out there who contend that you should not include any of these in your compost piles or in your garden soils. Let me answer from my personal experiences. I grew up in College Station, where I used post oak humus as my main source of organic matter in my gardens and greenhouse soils. It was naturally composted beyond recognition of its origin, so the tannins were of absolutely no concern. For the past 32 years, I have lived and gardened at the floor of a pecan forest, and I’m knee-deep in pecan leaves every fall. I run them through the mower, compost them, and proudly use them without any repercussions at all. Two pieces of advice: Use your mower to speed the composting along, and include other forms of organic matter in your compost pile. Decaying manure, grass clippings, “scalpings” from your first lawn mowing of the spring, etc. A combination of several forms of organic matter is always a better idea than having only one."

The message here is compost early and often and long enough to do the job. The organic matter mentioned in the excerpt contribute nitrogen and help in the "heating up" part of composting. If you don't have enough "green" material, you can buy a bag of cottonseed or alfalfa meal at the feed store, and layer your leaves with that, remembering to moisten the pile and keep turning it. By all means, don't waste those leaves!

 

More Soils Questions

Best fertilizer for live oak trees in Central Texas
April 22, 2010 - What is the best fertilizer for live oak trees in Central Texas?
view the full question and answer

Vine for pergola in Belton TX
February 06, 2013 - Hello, I would like to know what vine would be best to cover a rather large pergola. It will be in full sun in caliche soil. :( The area has access to a water hose and I would like to have something...
view the full question and answer

Plants for soil with basalt outcroppings in Idaho
March 30, 2008 - We have basalt (lava) outcropping in part of our back yard and know we'll have to search for pockets of soil in which to plant. Any suggestions about what trees or shrubs would have a chance in thes...
view the full question and answer

What grows in Tampa FL
July 01, 2013 - Please let me know what grows in the backyard in Tampa, FL to provide screening and privacy?
view the full question and answer

Yellowing leaves on Carolina jessamine from Las Vegas NV
March 21, 2014 - Carolina jessamine, has yellow leaves. 3 years old, grows on south wall, full sun. Same plant, in partial shade, has green leaves. Should I feed yellowish plant some nitrogen? If yes how much?
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants's Facebook profile Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.

Mr. Smarty Plants wants you to be his Facebook friend. Click the Facebook icon to add yourself to Mr. Smarty Plants list of friends.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | SITEMAP
© 2014 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center