Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Myth or Fact: Toxic Compost

"I heard that rhubarb leaves will make my compost toxic. Is that true?"

Rhubarb leaves break down in a compost pile and will not add toxicity to your compost.
Go ahead! Throw them in.

Where Did This Myth Come From?
It is said that we first realized rhubarb leaves were toxic during World War I, when the leaves were promoted as a good food source in Britain. Many citizens fell ill, and they realized that the leaves were the cause!

Rhubarb leaves make us sick because they contain high concentration of a corrosive substance called oxalic acid. This acid is common in plants. At low levels, it is perfectly safe for human consumption. The sour stalks that make such yummy pies have small amounts of oxalic acid and are fine for us to enjoy all day long. The oxalic acid in just one rhubarb leaf can be hard on the kidneys and cause someone to feel unwell.

So Rhubarb Leaves Must Be Bad for the Compost, Right?

When the leaves begin to break down in your compost, the acid becomes diluted as it mixes with the rest of the material in the bin. This effectively neutralizes the acid, meaning that the finished product will be unaffected and is great to use on anything from house plants to vegetable gardens. In fact, rhubarb leaves contain some essential micronutrients that will benefit your compost nicely.

When adding rhubarb leaves to your compost, don't forget to also cut or rip them up, especially if you're adding a lot at once. Smaller pieces break down more quickly, and you avoid creating a matted layer that is harder to fluff your bin. It's win win!
Source: How To Garden Videos
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