Palm fronds. What southeast Queensland backyard doesn’t have them? And at this time of the year they are dropping fronds on a daily basis creating a bit of a mess, which we at Independent Tree Services know all too well!
Every weekend, we see hundreds of homeowners and their trailers making the trip to the tip where the green waste piles are absolutely groaning with palm waste.
It’s no secret that landscapers around the world are stumped on how to recycle this pesky plant byproduct. The coarse leaves of palm trees can take years to break down, making the plant difficult to compost.
Why palm fronds don’t compost
The fibrous nature of palm fronds slows the biodegrading process significantly. The fronds turn into small, wiry strands as they break down.
Green-waste facilities often refuse palm fronds because the strands can get tangled in shredding equipment, causing damage to machinery and halting recycling production for repairs.
According to gardening experts, some species of palm fronds can take up to 50 years to decompose on their own.
However by combining the fronds with moisture and other plant material that decomposes more quickly would speed up the process.
Here’s our 4 uses for palm leaves:
- Compost when wet. Grab the frond and strip the leaflets from the stem. Then, either chop the leaves into smaller lengths with secateurs, or even easier, run the mower over them. They make up the ‘brown’ or carbon component of the compost and are high in silica. By composting them, that valuable silica is kept on site. To get the decomposition going, try soaking the chopped leaves in water or a weak seaweed solution for a day.
- Use the stems as garden stakes. They are not quite as sturdy as bamboo but they are free! Cut the fat leaf base from the stem and trim the flimsy top end off as well.
- Use the leaf base as firewood. Dried completely, the leaf sheaths (and any stems you don’t need) burn hot and clean, providing good quality ash for the garden that is naturally high in silica.
Use it as Mulch. Stripped leaflets can be ‘chopped and dropped’ under palm trees or other trees to add to the carbon based mulch layer. They take ages to break down and weeds don’t seem to germinate readily in palm mulch.