Rhubarb is a perennial plant that grows in cooler regions. The edible part of the rhubarb is its pink stalk which has a sour and tart taste and is extensively used in pies. But the leaves of rhubarb are thought to be poisonous because of the larger quantities of oxalic acid found in them. The leaves are toxic for both animals and plants. Now the question arises can you put rhubarb leaves on your compost heap? Read this guide further to get your answer.
Rhubarb Leaves and Composting
As rhubarb leaves are poisonous to humans and animals, people might think it’s impossible to compost them. That is not true at all because you can compost rhubarb leaves just like you do with other poisonous plants, e.g., ivy. Rhubarb leaves contain oxalic acid, which is a corrosive and kidney toxin. This toxin has no adverse effects on microbial activity in a compost pile.
The concentration of oxalic acid increases around the edges, but it is not high in the center of the leaves. When you add them to the compost and when their breakdown starts, they will not harm microbes and other organic matter present in the compost. Moreover, these toxic molecules don’t survive outside the plant cell. So, when the leaves start to break down, oxalic acid molecules become harmless for the compost.
How to Compost Rhubarb Leaves?
Compost with rhubarb leaves is more or less similar to the regular organic matter compost. Soon after the decomposition of the leaves starts, the oxalic acid molecules break down and are diluted quickly. Thus, the rhubarb leaves are entirely safe to decompose. Plant roots don’t absorb oxalic acids readily, so the rhubarb leave compost can be added to the soil as a fertilizer, just like regular compost.
If you want to compost rhubarb leaves, you have to be very careful as they are poisonous to humans and animals. Please wear gloves before touching these leaves. Until decomposition, rhubarb leaves are toxic, so it’s better to keep pets and children away from your compost pile.
After cutting rhubarb leaves into small pieces, you can add them to the compost pile. If you add big leaves to the compost pile, they will take longer to decompose. It will help if you put them in your compost heap after cutting in tiny pieces. Besides this, also maintain the greens and browns ratio for your compost pile. It’s better to follow 1:1 for greens and browns as nitrogen and carbon are essential for better compost.
Rhubarb leaves are entirely safe to compost as they are only poisonous to humans and animals. The oxalic acid in these leaves doesn’t harm microbes in your compost. Follow protective measures by wearing gloves when you deal with rhubarb leaves.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Can you compost the rhubarb stalk?
Yes, you can compost rhubarb stalk as it is rich in vitamins, calcium, and potassium. Besides making delicious recipes with it, you can also compost it to create a nutrient-rich fertilizer for your plants. Moreover, you can also compost rhubarb leaves as their oxalic acid content is harmless to your compost.
2. How toxic are the rhubarb leaves?
Rhubarb leaves have oxalic acid, a toxin that is poisonous to animals and humans. The lethal dose of oxalic acid is between 15 grams and 30 grams. You have to consume several pounds of rhubarb leaves to reach the lethal dose of oxalic acid.
3. What are the benefits of rhubarb?
Rhubarb is highly rich in antioxidants. The antioxidants present in rhubarb have anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer, and anti-bacterial properties. Anthocyanins and proanthocyanidins (antioxidants of rhubarb) protect us from heart diseases, cancer, and diabetes.