banner
Autumn Clearing

How to compost

Composting safely

Which Bin to  Choose?

Your compost ingredients

 

Emptying your bin

To turn or not to turn?

How long to compost?

Worms and Wormeries

Topical Composting

Kitchen Waste

Prickly prunings

Weeds and Weeds

Too much grass
Leaves for Leafmould

 

Seasonal Tips

Troubleshooting

Advice sheets

Unwelcome Guests

Autumn clearing
The garden produces a mountain of plant material for composting but your home composter is working slowly. The sun is weak, temperatures are low, so with the best will in the world, your compostables wonít rot down quickly enough.

Donít imagine an activator will help much. The important thing with composting is to get a good mix of soft, sappy material and more woody, fibrous stuff. Itís ironic that we have too much grass and soft weeds in the summer, and weíre now overwhelmed with the fibrousy stuff. So whatís to be done?

Dave provides some answers in How to compost your autumn clearings

Shredding
autumn shredding
If youíre fortunate enough to have a shedder, this will help hugely. [Iím not talking about the smallest, cheapest types whose engines will burn out after youíve shredded a box of matches but there are robust electric shredders which will cope with prunings and hedge clippings Ė you donít need a massive petrol driven or power take off one]. When shredding this yearís growth, youíll get a good mix of sappy leaves and the green, still sappy stems. This will generate quite a high temperature in your composter amazingly quickly. Older, dry branches, even shredded ones, should only be added sparingly to the heap; bag up the excess and keep to add to your heap next summer when you have a mass of green, sappy stuff.
When shredded, these woody branches actually make an excellent mulch.

Some climbers, like honeysuckle and clematis, have very stringy stems that will wind round the cutting blade and clog up the machine. If you encounter this problem, chop up the stems with secateurs or shears, if you can face it, or simply put them straight into your compost bin. Or make a dead hedge.

Chop and mix
autumn mix in compost bin
Without a shredder, chop fibrousy and woody stems into small sections and mix them with kitchen scraps or the outer leaves of any vegetables. The pieces don't need to be tiny but the smaller they are the quicker they will rot. It will speed things along to mix in a little topsoil. Unlike spent commercial compost which is useless for this, the soil is crammed with micro organisms and will greatly help the process of rotting down.

Chop and store
If you have some space and the time, you can chop up the prunings into smallish pieces using secateurs, shears, a rotary mower or even a sharp spade. Then bag them up and put them aside for next summer when you can add them in with grass clippings. You will enjoy very good results by the end of the year.

We have found in trials, that a mix of chopped prunings and grass is one of the most effective ways of dealing with both Ďproblemsí. By breaking up the grass with the prunings, you prevent it from becoming a compact, airless, smelly mess. Problem solved!

A dead hedge - see Making a Dead Hedge
You can make a dead hedge in a discreet part of the garden where you stack up a lot of these prunings. See our leaflet, Woody Prunings, for information about this. You will be making an ideal wildlife habitat for insects, toads and birds. Be warned, it takes several years for this to rot down, so you will need some space to do this.