The Q&A Archives: Compost

Question: Is it safe to compost under California Bay Laurels? The leaf fall is quite heavy year round.

Answer: It's not a good idea to compost under trees, for several reasons. First, the roots of the trees will discover the vast river of nutrients leaching from the compost and concentrate its root growth in that area. This may not have any immediate effects but could compromise the tree's health in the future. Secondly, piling anything over the root system of a tree, whether it be additional soil or huge layers of compost, can reduce the amount of oxygen available to the roots, and eventually suffocate the tree. Finally, while leaves are an important component of compost, bay laurel leaves are thick and rigid and will take quite a while to decompose. The leaves should be shredded and the quantity added to the pile should be offset with other materials. It would be better to find another spot for the compost pile, if at all possible.

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