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Composting oak leaves


Titanus
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Living in western Washington state is definitely not the best place for ready access to proper beetle breeding materials! There's virtually no oak other than those planted for ornamental reasons, so I've been thinking about a method to combat this.

 

While I still have to make a ten hour round trip drive to get my oak wood, there's several very large white oak trees at a church up the road from my house that drops massive sums of leaves each year. Why let some landscaping company take all of the leaves when I could use them for coleopteran purposes?!

 

I've been thinking about composting the leaves down to a good usable level but the traditional composting method can take up to a year (and I need leaf compost now!). After some searching I came across the "compost tumbler" method, which allows consistent aeration of the products being composted thus yielding quality compost in a fraction of the time with a fraction of the effort!

 

is the video of the system I'm going to try and replicate. A simple 55 gallon barrel slightly modified and laid sideways. Supposedly these can turn leaves (as well as other things) into compost in as little as 4-6 weeks. Now obviously this will greatly depend on the product being composted and the outside temperature. With winter fast approaching I would imagine it'll take a bit longer, but still half the time (at most) as the standard method.

 

I'm thinking about making 2 tumbler units on a custom fabricated wooden rack to double production and make it easier to feed an army of cetoniinae and dynastinae! I'll turn this into a picture/build thread once progress gets started ;)

 

What do you all think?

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I've often thought about trying something like this myself, I'll be interested to see how you get on. How are you going to collect the leaves?, some of the petrol / electric leaf suckers these days have a "shredder" option so the leaves get minced as you collect them. This reduces the amount of space needed and means the leaves should compost faster.

 

I shall wait to see the pics....

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Hey Matt, nice to see you on the forums! We've chatted before on bugnation, my handle on there is my name Greg Collins ;)

 

A friend of mine has one of those fancy leaf vacuums but it's electric and needs an outlet so it'll be useless for collecting the leaves at the source. I was planning on just raking up a whole bunch of leaves and stuffing them into several big garbage bags (thankfully the source is less than a 3 minute drive from my house so multiple trips are easy!).

 

Once home I was thinking I could leaf vac all of it into much smaller pieces and put it in the composter. I'm probably going to add something else to the compost that is much less dense and will help jump start the decomposition of the leaves. I was thinking about maybe adding 20% or so of grass clippings?

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When I first got into breeding beetles I posted on craigslist looking for oak leaves (there are tons of oak trees here in West Virginia so i figured someone's hard yard work to rake up leaves could save me the hassle) and a guy got back to me and gave me two large contractor bags or cropped oak leaves! They were chopped into pretty small pieces. About an inch or less in size. I just mixed it with my ground up wood and some manure and used it as feeding and breeding substrate since. Once it is in that mix it starts breaking down quickly.

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So you put them into your mix as is (or was in this case ;) )? That's not surprising that they'd break down in a short amount of time when mixed into some kind of rich substrate. The bacteria tends to make short work of the cellulose in the leaves!

 

However, I'd personally rather not have to wait for the bacteriological process to complete when the larvae have an immediate craving for leaves! That's definitely an idea though if I'm in a pinch!

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