The Q&A Archives: Pine Needles for Compost?

Question: I want to start a compost pile for my vegetable garden. Our yard is mostly full of pine needles, very few leaves, can I build a compost pile based on these?

Answer: Everything eventually turns into compost, but to speed the process along, it's best to have a mix of materials high in carbon (browns) and those high in nitrogen (greens). Dried pine needles have lots of carbon, and their "waxy" coating sometimes takes longer to break down. Dried leaves are also carbon rich. You need some nitrogen to go with. How about grass clippings; fresh trimmings/waste from your garden e.g., outer leaves of cabbage, weeds before they go to seed; manure from barnyard animals; fruit and vegetable scraps from the kitchen; and even animal fur or human hair, which is really high in nitrogen. I know someone who collects a garbage bag full from a hair salon. (That's a little bit "out there" for my tastes, but it does work!) Neighbors are often thrilled to get rid of grass clippings, as well as landscape maintenance firms, who often have to pay a fee for disposal. One other point: pine needles are acidic, so if your soil is overly acidic it's best to compost needles with a wide variety of other ingredients to reduce the acidity level somewhat. Happy composting!

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