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Can I save my compost heap?

(6 Posts)
LittleBirdBlues Sat 04-Nov-17 20:31:31

Hello everyone! I desperately need some advice on what to do with my compost heap...

This particular heap in question was the first one I set up when we got our (very overgrown) allotment 18 months ago. I just threw all the weeds I dug up onto the compost heap - lots of nettles and brambles and grass; an entire field of strawberries; plus lots of random stuff).

Most of the weeding and clearing took place in April/May. I didn't pay any attention to whether the weeds were flowering or not, or whether a particular weed belonged on a compost or not.

I also never did anything with the heap other than throw stuff on it.

It has now been sitting there, filled up and untouched, for about 12 months. It is about 2m x 1m big.

I have two questions:

1) Having never turned the compost - is it a good idea to start doing this now? And how do you go about it?? Do you take everything out and put it all back in? Sounds like a huge job! (I am time poor)

2) Is the compost that has been produced (hopefully) actually usable? Will I just be returning an entire universe of weed seeds to my (now much clearer and cleaner) plot? Is it worth it or should I discard this compost and focus on my new heap? If discard: How do I do that??

Any knowledge and advice would be greatly appreciated...

nong45 Sat 04-Nov-17 20:46:51

We got a £20 compost aerator. You can get all sorts of fancy tumblers but we just got a spiral aerator tool and you stick that in and twist it and pull it out again and it brings all the stuff at the bottom up so mixes it all up a bit without having to empty the whole thing. We have a few smaller heaps around the garden rather than one big one so use them in turn.

I always chuck weeds on ours and I’m sure they always do on Gardeners World. Along with grass, leaves, raw fruit and veg waste, eggshells, cardboard, shredded paper. After a couple of years it’s lovely. Yours sounds like you’ve made a very good start!

LittleBirdBlues Sun 05-Nov-17 00:32:10

What a great idea nong, never heard of aerators.

I read that you shouldn't put weeds that have gone to seed on the compost because you would end up putting all your weed seeds back in the ground in the end... Do most people just do it anyway?

Cantspell2 Mon 06-Nov-17 02:25:56

I wouldn’t use compost that has weed seedheads in especially if I had spent a lot of time and effort clearing the said weeds from the site in the first place.
To kill seeds you need to hit compost which it doesn’t sound like you have been doing.

TheNoodlesIncident Wed 15-Nov-17 23:12:40

It's okay to put small, annual weeds (preferably before they've flowered) on a compost heap. These are only meant to last a "season", ie they will germinate, grow, flower and set seed within the year - some like hairy bittercress can do this in weeks rather than months as it has a very low germination temperature. In a compost heap these will break down reasonably quickly, but weeds with seedheads shouldn't really go in there. Weeds like dandelions will regenerate from a single piece of the plant, not just the root, hence their ability to keep coming back from the dead.

You've put a lot of problem perennial weeds in your heap - the nettles for example. These should be separated and put in a landfill type bin as they are likely to survive and start growing again. A lot of problem weeds spread by an outrageously sturdy rhizomatous root system and putting them in a heap won't destroy them I'm afraid.

I would have a look at it, dig it out and have a look at its structure. Is it brown and crumbly? Does it look remotely soil-like? Are weeds growing within it? If it looks OK and you can't see any living weeds, I might consider using it but keep it to one particular patch. Then if it hasn't broken down yet you haven't spread it all over the entire cleared area.

To break down quickly, compost heaps do need to be turned. The best way to do this is to have a space next to the existing heap and using a fork, start lifting the top layer, slap it down on the ground, mix it up, continue until your back's killing you it's all reversed in the space next to the original place. The heap needs to get hot inside to work fast - this is the result of microbacterial action I think. (I'm sure I've read somewhere that human wee is a good accelerant, so, you know...<waves bottle>)

Do start on another heap, avoiding anything pernicious of course, and in the meantime try to get hold of rotted horse manure to put on the soil, it's wonderful stuff.

CrabappleCake Thu 16-Nov-17 08:15:44

I try not to put weeds gone to seed into my compost heap and try not to put problem perennial weeds in, but frankly it's not possible to completely not do it!

I'd do what the poster above suggested. You can also drown perennial s in water I've got an old bin I put them in and after about a year old! Empty out the sludge on a windless night when not many people are around as it stinks.

Having three compost heaps is suggested, one cooking, one on the way and a space to turn them into two. It's quite hard work but satisfying when you first get compost!!

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