Dry teak and bamboo leaves for mulch/compost?

Are all carbon material created equal?

I have access to dry rice straw and lots of dry teak leaves but some people say neither of them are good for mulch and compost? Is that true? That there is some kind of chemical in the teak leaves that prevent growth?

Are dry rice straw ok to put in the compost as the brown/carbon part? They break down pretty slow…

I have started to use dry bamboo leaves in my vegetable beds - they are easier to handle than the rice straw.

Any recommendations to what to grow to produce material for compost? Here in North Thailand everything breaks down and dry out really fast so I feel I have to add compost all the time. I am thinking to plant Mexican sunflower (Tithonia diversifolia, in Thai: บัวตอง) when the rain comes - it’s also the flower of the Maehongson province so only appropriate :blush:.

Thanks, M

Pretty much everything organic can be composted, included rice straw and teak leaves. Rice straw might acidify the soil when used as mulch, and teak leaves might contain allelopathic substances that can hinder growth when mulched (i don’t know), but both are no problem for the microbes when composting. Just make sure that you have sufficient other materials as well (like manure, green leaves etc.).
Also, you can always make a small trial and see what happens… :wink:

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Green manures/cover crops as well as leguminous trees (agroforestry/alley cropping) can be grown and chopped and dropped in place for mulch/compost. Much less work than hauling materials back and forth, to and from fields.
Urine is an often wasted source of nitrogen for compost. A little vinegar or other acid in the storage container can reduce volatization of urea/loss of nitrogen.

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Tithonia is a phosphorus accumulator.

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Thank you, Martin!

I composted a lot of teak leaves (collected from neighbouring areas since they are burned otherwise) - mixed with other leaves (but still mostly teak). I added a bit of cow manure but I don’t have access to a lot of it and I will add green leaves when I get some (first rain just came!). I also add water mixed with a bit of EM. Do you think will work? or might still hinder growth?

I will try - but I am afraid that I won’t be able to tell if it’s good :blush:

Thanks, Robert!

I planted lots of pigeon pea last year and will chop & drop those.

Urine is an often wasted source of nitrogen for compost

I have been collecting urine and added it to a compost “tea” (compost, weeds, duck manure, water, urine) that I dilute and use as a fertiliser.

Tithonia is a phosphorus accumulator.

That’s a good thing, right?

Tithonia is great. But you have to keep on it. Prune before it seeds and you’ll be fine. Otherwise, it can spread. I’ve seen it take over farms before.

There are so many ways to achieve this goal of mulch and fertility, but the best approach depends on your operation. What is the size and focus of your garden/farm? The more I know, the better advice I can give.

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Thanks, Roger.

I have been thinking to plant the Tithonia along the fence of my property. I want to plant as much as possible of fresh plant material that I can compost. Right now I make compost primarily out of dry leaves, grass clippings (in rainy season) and weeds. However, I have a feeling that there is not much fertility in the compost since it’s mostly from dry leaves (90%).

The property is 2 aces/8000 m2/5 rai. The focus is homesteading and I am relatively new to it (1 year).

Attached is overview over the property. Think to plant Tithonia on the red lines at the top and bottom.

Ok. That is very helpful. About your compost making, I’m not sure how you are using it, but I would encourage you to use it only in your veggie gardens and nursery (if you grow seedlings). In those areas, it makes sense as an investment. But for your rice field and food forest, I would suggest using a regenerative approach, where you grow plants and trees for biomass or green manure/cover crops that you strategically chop and drop for soil structure and fertility. This is kind a deep subject, which is evolving quickly, faster than soil scientists can keep up with.

If you want some more resources about this topic let me know. But along those lines, I would use the tithonia both along the fence lines and in the food forest (at least one for every high value fruit tree).

I hope this helps.


In North India, Uttarakhand state, teakwood and bamboo are present. I would suggest the teakwood leaves for compost and the bamboo leaves for mulch. Just a few teak leaves turns a bucket of water into dark brown tea. I don’t know about any natural chemical in teak leaves which are a problem. Even so, composting should neutralise and certainly dilute any such chemical. Dropped bamboo leaves appear to be very high carbon and low in nutrients. Bamboo being a grass, the leaves might compare to dried out common grass. Or just mix up the two, teak and bamboo.

I am working on a similar project on my land, which consists of rice field, food forest ( in progress) and small plots of garden. The area is 4 acres, in Malaysia,

I have a large bamboo groves and am using the dry leaves as mulches and have planted Tithonia as fertilizers for my fruit trees. I am experimenting with other plants as I am gleaning valuable insight from this site.

What about senna allata, candle bush, what benefits can I derive from this plant for the soil?

I am also facing issues with wild boars that are breaking into the areas. Are there live fences that I can erect to keep this animals away?

I use senna alata as a chop and drop mulch along with ice cream beans, fish bean , glyricidia, Sesbania species. And whilst I didn’t grow them for this I also chop back the heliconia and arrowroot leaves occasionally and use them as a great mulch around the fruit trees. Years of in situ chop and drop mulch has led to highly fertile soil in a high rainfall area that would be otherwise quite leached.
Bamboo leaves make great mulch I’ve found recently.
I also have started using my excess moringa leaves in the compost as I’ve heard that’s very good.
Magic bean ( mucuna pruriens ) and Lablab beans also provide good biomass and mulch o just have to be careful not to plant near fruit trees without watching as they climb and take over. I’ve started planting them around the compost pile and rip them back and throw on the compost every now and then.


For sure, bamboo leaves are being studied for alleopathy. My neighbor has a fantastic grove of yellow groove bamboo and the leaves are very deep and there are virtually no other plants growing under that grove. Plus, I have seen scientific studies about the way varieties of bamboo prevent germnation of things like lettuce etc. so it seems clear that the bamboo is a good mulch for the purpose of preventing weeds in the rows of your garden but that may be risky depending on how mature your plants start out in that garden.