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Composting Vitex, Chaste Tree Trimmings


June 1, 2022

I have a concern about composting my Vitex trimmings here in Albuquerque (87019). Because of the supposed medieval use for it's chemical effect on amorous young females {Ha! :) } I did not want to adversely affect my composting efforts. Should I throw those trimmings right in to the pile? Or, abstain? So happy to have found your website!!!


Answer by JZ:  Vitex trimmings are plant material which will decompose in your composting setup.

Chop them into small pieces then add them.   Compost on !

Answer by MR:  I generally agree with John that it would be perfectly safe to add some trimmings into your basic composting setup. But you didn't mention the quantity of trimmings you will be working with, or offer any details of your "pile." So here are a few other considerations. If you have only one Vitex tree with the usual amount of winter-pruned trimmings, those could easily be chopped by hand into a simple mulch, to be used beneath the same tree/shrub. They will break down fairly rapidly without needing to be turned into the soil and will ultimately benefit the tree and the soil both. They won't do any harm to your neighbors.

If you have a larger quantity, these could be incorporated into a larger woodchip composting setup using chips that are easily obtained--often for free--from tree-trimming operations. I'll be giving a free lecture on Saturday, June 18, at Gutierrez-Hubbell House on composting with woodchips. Details can be found on the website, or just email me with questions.

The longer your trimmings are exposed to the fungal decomposers in your composting setup, the more complete will be the breakdown of the active chemicals (which were also used by sailors to diminish urges on long sea voyages, until fairly recent times). So don't be in too big a hurry to get the compost into your tomato bed. Not that it will do you any harm, but woody materials can take nitrogen that might be better used by most of our annual crops. Forest floors take longer to create than compost from a tumbler, or the average mouldering compost pile.

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