How To Compost Palmetto Palms

With a little less than half an acre of native Florida woodland and brush to remove and then fill with soil, composting everything we remove just makes sense. In the previous post, we showed you how to remove palmettos, but we are even more eager to show you how to compost palmettos.

Palmetto palms or shrub palmetto removal demands hard work, and seeing all the palmetto leaves, trunks and roots turn into compost is such as sweet reward.

We emptied our compost pile in the beginning of the year in order to fill in the current play area, where our house will one day be, and we already have a huge pile of new compost. We'll start turning it in a month or so, so that we can make our compost island even bigger. We do realize that we will have to excavate the top soil, when it is time to build, but for now the composted soil keeps the water at bay, and when it is time to remove it, it will be great to use for building up our garden areas.

How To Compost Palmettos:
  1. Make sure to cut your palmetto trunks and roots into a size that fit your wood chipper. We cut ours into a maximum of 5 inch thickness.
  2. Dried palmetto trunks and leaves are easier to get through the chipper, but for the sake of adding greens to our very brown compost pile, we also run some fresh palmetto leaves through.
  3. When putting palmetto leaves through the wood chipper, take 2 - 3 leaves at a time, and bend them over once at the leaf stem.
  4. Make sure not to hold on to them spiky palmetto stems, as you add them to the wood chipper, because these will be ripped out of your hands.
  5. If you have a screen for your wood chipper, we recommend using it for the palmetto leaves and stems only, not for the trunks, as it might strain your wood chipper too much.
  6. When we don't use the screen, we put the leaves through twice, until they start separating from the stems.
  7. At this point put the leaves in the compost pile, and collect the palmetto stems for continued chipping.
  8. We prefer to have a big pile of palmetto leaves first before we start the trunk pieces, as the palmetto leaf pile will prevent the palmetto trunk pieces from flying everywhere.
  9. The palmetto trunk pieces need to go through the wood chipper at least twice, before they start separating into fibers. At this point you can use your largest filter/screen, or put the chunks through at least once more.
  10. Once we're done with the wood chipping process, we turn off the wood chipper, and then we begin collecting any larger pieces in buckets for easy chipping next time. 
  11. The result is a beautiful mountain of green and browns, which will turn into compost in about 3 - 6 months depending on heat, water and whether we turn the compost pile or not.
  12. We mix our chipped palmettos with chipped leaves, pine needles and wood chips, and we just make sure that we always cover our greens with browns for faster composting.

If you do not have a wood chipper, we suggest that you leave your palmetto leaves and cut trunks somewhere to dry for a few months, as this will make them easier to break a part with other tools.

We have also begun covering big trunks of palms or palmettos with wood chips so they will break down by themselves, and using them in the bottom of our garden beds is another way to work smarter and not harder, as they will slowly break down and release nutrients to the plants as they turn into soil.

Another way to compost palms and palmettos is leaving them in an area that is prone to flooding, since the water coverage will help speed up the composting process.

You can learn more about how to remove palmetto palms in this post.

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  1. I love the way natural and native Florida looks.. even when much of that includes dead and dry native plant on the ground. I have some land that is so thick that as is makes for great security and privacy. I recently cleared a small patch in middle (like 40x40) that was a mostly mix of Palm Fronds and scrub oaks. Being cheap I did not send it off to a land fill, but rather just hand the operator stack in in the back.. I was surprised to see the stack is huge and 10' tall. it's now been two months and that stack is so firm I climbed to the top to take some great pictures. I was hoping it would decompose and shrink to the point where I could re-introduce to the perimeter and let nature do it's thing adding to the security and privacy.. but not so sure now. Thinking outside of the box I wonder if packing the stack tight and covering it with the native sugar sand would create unsafe bio fumes and if the structure would even be safe for temporary structures and to sleep over it. Yeah, I'm actually thinking of living on top of a giant compost stack. LOL


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