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The hedge of my small garden is made of cherry laurel (prunus laurocerasus). I have to trim them every year as they increase their volume rapidly. This produces large amounts of organic waste and I don't really know what I should do with it. I don't like the idea of just getting rid of it, as I like to recycle what's in my garden. However, I guess compost is not an option. The leaves just dry out but they hardly decompose. They also contain toxic components that might be harmful for my compost. Is it a good idea to use them as mulch? Do you suggest a clever way to use all this organic matter?

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The toxic component in the leaves of this plant are not a problem in a compost heap, there will be no toxicity left, either in the heap or the remains of the leaves once they rot down. They do, however, take a long time to rot down (up to 3 years),so adding a lot at once to your compost just means you'll have to wait longer to use it all. The toxicity is possibly greatest when you're actually cutting the leaves, but on the other hand, I haven't died from cutting these back on a yearly basis, and so far as I know, nor has anyone else. Although the leaves release hydrogen cyanide when cut,it dissipates extremely rapidly, and is unlikely to cause cyanide poisoning in whoever's doing the cutting.

If you have the space, you can compost them separately, on their own. Further information here http://www.askorganic.co.uk/composting/Composting%20toxic%20plants.htm. Using them as mulch is not a good idea - it won't be attractive as they turn brown and will take too long to biodegrade. You can put them through a shredder and then compost the resulting material, and eventually use it as mulch - shredding will speed up the decomposition process. Shredding of these leaves should be carried out in the open air, outdoors.

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