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Composting Dog Waste and Pine Needles


November 5, 2018

Hello, I went to a wonderful composting program Saturday taught by one of your master composters.  I have been unsuccessful so far with composting, but have renewed interest after Saturday’s program.  I plan to do in ground composting, trench method, and my zip code is 87111.

1)   Can I use dog waste in the compost?  (The ingredients are listed in this order on the bag of dry food:  beef, beef meal, garbanzo beans, green lentils red lentils, dried beef liver and the list goes on)

2)  Can I use pine needles as brown material?  I have tons of pine cones and pine needles, and hopefully I can use them.  Ronda mentioned pine cones are great for the pile in regards to aeration, and she said pine straw is good, but I didn’t know if pine needles are the same as pine straw.


Answer by RR: Other Master Composters may also reply to your question, and their answers may vary from mine since composting is not only a science but also an art.

1)  As we like to say, anything that was once alive will decompose given the right conditions of air and moisture. Composting manure from carnivores and omnivores is your choice, not one that we endorse. As you listed those ingredients, they were all “once alive.” However, dog and cat waste can create an environment where potential human pathogens thrive. Since you are doing cold composting, this process will not kill those pathogens if they are present.  If you choose to compost your dog waste, please restrict your composting area to where you are growing only ornamentals and away from where you are growing vegetables.

2)  Pine straw and pine needles are the same thing, and they will decompose, just very slowly.  Pine needles are coated with a resin which is difficult for the microbes to penetrate, but they will eventually.  I compost pine needles, but in small quantities…as my wife likes to say, “everything in moderation.” Pine needles work better as a mulch, but be careful what you are mulching because they are also quite acidic.  They would be beneficial for mulching azaleas or blueberries, but I almost killed my iris one year when I used pine straw for mulch. I hope this helps.

Answer by JZ: Here are my comments in addition to RR's.  I agree with RR - dog manure should be decomposed separately, then used around ornamentals.

May I suggest that you moisturize any pit / trench before adding your organics, once buried, then cover the area with 3”- 5” of organic mulch - you could use pine needles. This will help keep moisture in that place so that microorganisms will be active. Pine needles may be shredded - this would increase the surface area - smaller decomposes better. Pine needles have a similar pH to coffee grounds - 6.5.  As they decompose the slight acidity would be neutralized.

Answer by JH: If you’re burying your materials, dog waste is ok to add. However, I would not recommend using any pet waste in a compost operation where the finished product is going on plants particularly vegetables and other consumables.

Likewise, pine needles can also be added, and they are suitable for any compost operation above or below ground.

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