Using Sawdust In Your Compost Pile

sawdust
Image by SMcGarnigle

By Heather Rhoades

Most people who keep a compost pile know about the typical things you can add to a compost pile. These things may include weeds, food scraps, leaves and grass clippings. But what about some of the more unusual things? Things that may not come out of your garden or your kitchen? Things like sawdust.

Using Sawdust in Compost

These days, woodworking is a popular past time (though not as popular as gardening). A great many people enjoy putting objects together with their own two hands and enjoy the feeling of accomplishment that comes from taking a pile of wood planks and turning them into something lovely and useful. Besides a feeling of pride, the other byproduct of a woodworking hobby is a whole lot of sawdust. Since trees are plants and plants make good compost, the logical question is “Can I compost sawdust?”

The quick answer is yes, you can compost any kind of sawdust.

For composting purposes, sawdust would be considered a “brown” composting material. It is used to add carbon to the mix and to balance the nitrogen from the “green” composting materials (like food).

Tips for Composting Sawdust

When composting sawdust, you will want to treat the sawdust just as you would dry leaves, meaning that you will want to add it in an approximately 4:1 ratio of brown to green materials.

Sawdust actually makes a great amendment for your compost pile as it will add a filler that is somewhat absorptive and will wick up water from rain and juices from the green material, which help with the composting process.

It does not matter what kind of wood your sawdust is from. Sawdust from all types of trees, soft or hard, can be used in your compost pile.

The one thing to be mindful of is if you will be composting sawdust from chemically treated wood, you will want to take a few extra steps to ensure that these chemicals work their way out of the compost before you use it in your vegetable garden. The best way to do this is to just douse your compost pile with water a few extra times during the summer. This, along with normal rainfall, should leech any harmful chemicals out of your compost pile and will dilute the chemicals being leeched out to levels that will not harm the surrounding area.

Composting sawdust is an excellent way to reclaim some value from what otherwise would be a waste product. Think of it as using one hobby to feed another.

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