Composting 2

I have a problem with removing pernicious weeds from the allotment and putting them into the council green waste bins.  It means that nutrients locked up in these weeds are exported from the allotment and costly manures need to be brought onto the allotment to replace them.  Keeping the weeds does not mean that no organic matter needs to be imported but recycling weeds means that we can maintain the allotment soil fertility level rather than it dipping due to removal.     I strive to keep all waste organic matter on the allotment.

My pernicious weed dryer
 If these weeds can be dried they can be added to the compost heap, maybe I can change them into a valuable resource for the allotment. 
If they are removed then so too are the nutrients
I want to compost these weeds to retain the nutrients that are locked up in their structures.
Bind weed nodes.

If they are dried then even these weeds can be added to the compost.
All my reading and research told me that this kind of material was unsuitable for composting and digging into the top soil.  The recommendation was to remove it from the allotment.

Furthermore, it was suggested that all woody material should be burnt.  Well you can read what I think about burning on another page.

However, I thought that I would give composting a go and see what happened.  I will not try to mislead you, I was not very confident that I could produce compost that was going to be useful and not full of viable weed rhizomes.

All this weed and woody material was put into some dalek bins.
Woody material and dried weed rhizomes.  These are a bit
dry and need to be watered. 

I did not expect this material to decompose very quickly
Even if I could get this material to decompose, I thought that it would take a long time.

There were lots of woody stems and branches
And lots of rhizomes. 
Not the pristine materials of a lot of compost recipes.  However, this is the stuff that would be the most useful to compost and it was already on the allotment.

The recommendation is that to produce reasonable compost in a fairly small period of time you should turn it every two days.  So after filling all my bins, this is what I endeavored to do.

Compost bins full of weeds and woody stems
So I started the procedure and remarkably kept it up.
The first turning of the compost
To begin with it did not look very promising.  I took the bin off the compost then refilled the same bin putting the top at the bottom and the bottom at the top.  As the compost was very dry, I watered it with neat comfrey liquid. 
Not much decomposition.
After a few turnings the compost turned a dark grey colour.

After a few more turnings, pieces of plastic and metal started to fall out of the compost.  Stones seemed to appear from nowhere and could easily be removed.

Material started to loose its shape and structure.
After a week or so the material started to break down and you could not tell what it had been made from.  I started to chop up the larger pieces with the shovel.  Even the thick woody stems broke up really easily.  I could not measure any significant rise in temperature but there was a reduction in the volume of the compost.
Lots of stuff had broken down after about two weeks

The compost was watered if it seemed dry.

The turning process continued every two days.

After three weeks decomposition was very evident.

It became much easier to turn into the bins.
The compost started to turn into much more friable material
Finally, after about a month, it was fine enough to go through the bread tray sieve.
Trusty bread tray sieve.

Sieving the compost through the bread tray holes.
Got lots of barrows of compost out of the bins
Anything too large to go through the bread tray holes was put back into the bins to rot down even more.
More compost
I decided to use the compost initially as a mulch for the leeks.
Compost mulching the leeks.

There was no regeneration of bindweed, horse tail or couch grass.  I was amazed and convinced that you could easily compost these weeds and, remarkably, very woody material.  What is more surprising is that you can compost woody material very quickly; turning it every two days.  Moreover, this compost did not seem to have a rise in temperature but it still produced some very acceptable organic material. 

Probably not a procedure that I would recommend everyone to try but it does go to show that received wisdom should always be questioned and not just accepted.

So continue with your carefully selected ingredients and recipes.  And I will continue to compost the rough stuff. 


  1. Thank you for this. I was very sceptical but you've opened my eyes.

  2. Awesome very happy for you composting can be hard work but rewarding remember every thing small and it will compost down quickly have a blessed day