What can and can't you put on a compost heap?

Discussion in 'Fruit and Veg Gardening' started by Coopes, Apr 11, 2009.

  1. Coopes

    Coopes New Seed

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    Hi all we have just started a compost heap, this may be a silly question, but what can and what can't you put on a compost heap, apart from the obvious.
     



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  2. toni

    toni Mistress of Garden Junque Staff Member Moderator Plants Contributor

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    You might find these two previous GardenStew topics helpful. Basically clean (no chemical treated or diseased) organic matter, no weeds, no animal products except some manures, no fats or oils.
    Water used to steam or boil vegies is a good thing to add since you need to keep it moist anyway.
    Don't forget shredded paper, tea bags and paper napkins.

    http://www.gardenstew.com/about8028.html
    http://www.gardenstew.com/about295.html
     
  3. bunkie

    bunkie Young Pine

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    we put weeds in ours, but before they produce flowers and seeds.:D
     
  4. toni

    toni Mistress of Garden Junque Staff Member Moderator Plants Contributor

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    I forgot to add that, thanks Bunkie. With our almost year round warm temps there isn't much of the year when the weeds aren't producing flowers and seeds :rolleyes: So I don't add them at all.
     
  5. EJ

    EJ Allotmenteer Extraordinaire

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    My compost heap on the allotment is like a huge hungry baby and I put as much in it as I can. Basically, if it was once a living thing, it goes onto my heap. So, wool, cotton, hair, veggie peelings, grass cuttings, leaves, weeds, manure, straw, even shredded newspapers.

    Regarding weeds, unless you are making a hot heap, which is unlikely on an allotment as you won't have the quantities of material quickly enough, I would avoid putting perennial weed roots in. I do not put any bind weed or horse tail in at all, and I snap the roots off things like docks and dandelions.

    If you can, build 2 heaps, then half way through the year you can turn your heap over into the empty area which will get air into the heap making the bacteria and fungi work faster. Also, do water your heap from time to time if it is very dry.

    You can add grass clippings, but don't just pile them in in one thick layer as this will get slimey and smelly and will take an age to break down. Mix it with shredded paper, leaves, or just regular compostable stuff.

    If you have chunkier, woody stuff, then do break it up a little, or you can smash it with a hammer to break thick stems open. This speeds things up. I like to add some chunkier material to my heap as I use my compost as a soil improver and my allotments are on thick London clay so I like the chunkier stuff to open up the structure.

    Honestly, I put old clothes on mine providing they are natural materials, it all breaks down in the end. Hope my ramblings make sense.
     
  6. daisybeans

    daisybeans Hardy Maple

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    I started my first compost ever today and I am really excited! Previous posts on GardenStew have been really helpful. Here is a question that I would be interested in opinions about -- in this area there are a number of REALLY invasive vines -- honeysuckle (lonicera japonica), some type of wild clematis (clematis orientolis or terniflora looks similar in photos), and even my wisteria. I rip or dig them out, cut them back, whatever I can, whenever I can. Should I put them in the composter without the roots? Honestly, they are sooooo invasive, I think they can grow in air... is it risky to put them in the composter? (It feels risky to me, but that may be because of my constant battles...) THANK YOU -- I can't wait to hear your answers!
    Daisybeans
     
  7. EJ

    EJ Allotmenteer Extraordinaire

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    Daisybeans, it sounds as though your invasive vines are similar to our conulvulus (bell flower or bindweed) and ivy. I would tend not to put any part of those on my compost heap as the stems root so darn easily. You can place these in a black plastic sack, add some water, seal and leave somewhere for 6 months. During that time, the plants should fester nicely and then you could add them to the heap. I have never done this as I just don't have the room what with bags of leaves, manure, compost, etc. I dispose of mine either in a bonfire or they are taken away with our weekly refuse collection.

    Hope that helps.
     
  8. daisybeans

    daisybeans Hardy Maple

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    Hi EJ -- Thank you for the advice. You get the picture clearly -- those vines seem to be able to root and take off anywhere so I will follow my instinct to keep them out of the composter. I'll try the black bag thing and see what happens. I'll report back in the Fall with the results.

    Here is another practical question... Where I placed the composter, it sits atop gravel with garden barrier under the gravel... I'm thinking worms won't be able to come up through the ground (oops..). Should I throw some in there when I find them in the yard?
     
  9. EJ

    EJ Allotmenteer Extraordinaire

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    You can do. It is best to site a compost heap/bin on open ground because it isn't just worms that do the business but alsorts of micro organisms, bacteria, fungi and bugs that set about your rotting waste. Over here you can buy compost activator which is a liquid that speeds the composting process up. I have never bought any so am not sure what it contains. Here you can also buy brandling worms for your compost heap, usually from a fishing tackle shop or some online shops sell them. I don't know how that would work for you in the US...

    Another thing you could do is chuck in a couple of spades full of your own garden soil, this should introduce some of the living beings which will get stuck into your compostable waste.

    Hope that makes sense Daisybeans.
     
  10. daisybeans

    daisybeans Hardy Maple

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    Yes, makes good sense for the composter. I was thinking about adding some soil into the composter so you've confirmed that's a good idea. I put the cloth and stones down a few years ago to try to combat the vines in that area, with some success...The cloth has broken down quite a bit and things are popping through. I like that spot for the composter. I'm also going to put some planters back there for some veggies. It gets beautiful sun. I'm starting to like it back there. I'll have to try a few things to smarten it up. I like it too because it adjoins my back fence neighbors' yard and we garden there together chatting over the fence.