Herb gardeners and compost enthusiasts interested in creating rich finished compost for soil enrichment often add plant waste from their herb gardens into the compost pile. However, if you need to expose of excess bay laurel (Laurus nobilis) before or after using the leaves for cooking, you must first prepare the leaves for your compost heap. The bay leaves provide nitrogen for your compost when they’re still shiny and green, or carbon once they’ve dried. Like other thick leaves, such as those from oak trees, leathery bay leaves typically take longer to decompose. Add them in small amounts to your compost heap to avoid drastically lengthening your overall composting time.
Shred and cut your bay leaves into small pieces no larger than 1 inch in diameter to allow the compost microbes to break down more easily.
Mix the dried, brown shredded bay leaves evenly with a mix of carbon-rich organic waste, including a variety of dry, brown materials, such as straw, dead leaves, sawdust, shredded newspaper and cardboard. Spread a 3- to 4-inch layer of the carbon-based waste across the bare ground in a 3-by-3 foot area or lay it on the bottom of your compost bin. Trickle water from your garden hose over the waste until it’s damp, ideally about as moist as a wrung-out sponge.
Sprinkle two to three shovelfuls of plain dirt across the carbon waste. Scoop a 3- to 4-inch layer of high-nitrogen organic waste (including fresh, green bay leaves and other materials, such as fresh grass clippings, cow or horse manure, vegetable peels and fruit scraps) over the dirt. Add water to the nitrogen waste, if necessary, to make it equally as moist as the carbon-rich waste.
Add another layer of dry, shredded bay leaves and other carbon-rich waste, followed by a second nitrogen-rich layer of waste, including fresh, green shredded bay leaves. Mist water on the double layers. Build up the compost by adding additional carbon and nitrogen layers until your compost bin is full or your compost pile measures at least 3 feet tall.
Let your compost sit for three to four weeks to give the microbes enough time begin the decomposition process. Mix the shredded bay leaves and other organic waste together with a manure fork once weekly thereafter to introduce fresh oxygen for faster decomposition. Squeeze a handful of waste each time you mix the compost; according to the University of Illinois Cooperative Extension, being able to squeeze out more than two drops of liquid indicates that the compost is too moist. Soak up the extra liquid with fresh carbon-rich waste.
- Leave your bay leaf compost decomposing until the heap of waste decreases in size by about 50 percent. Other signs of finished compost include a brown, dirt-like appearance and crumbly texture.