Is there anything in my yard that I *can* compost?

marleigh(9)May 5, 2008

I'm in the process of cleaning up my yard after years of neglect (not mine). Sadly, most everything in my yard is a generally undesirable plant - the lawn is a mixture of bermudagrass, johnsongrass, crabgrass and the like. I've got two fruitless mulberries, a eucalyptus falling over in the back, two different varieties of ivy on either side, a row of privets down the north side, full grown Ailanthus on everyone else's property so I have seedlings in every container, the galium is taking over the northwest corner and there's vinca everywhere.

But that's not my point, sorry. I'm starting a compost pile and was wondering if the contents of my yard are unsuitable for compost. I know I can't compost ivy (and eucalyptus??), but what about the rest of these?

Fruitless mulberry leaves

Chinese privet (Ligustrum lucidum)

Galium aparine

Vinca major


Sowthistles, curly dock, groundsel, horseweed, etc

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Why can't you compost those things?

    Bookmark   May 5, 2008 at 3:11PM
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This is from a Googled composting guide. Feel free to point out any misinformation...

A few leaf species such as live oak, southern magnolia, and holly trees are too tough and leathery for "easy" (not saying it can't be done) composting. Avoid all parts of the black walnut tree as they contain a plant poison that survives composting. Eucalyptus leaves can be toxic to other plants. And avoid using poison oak, poison ivy, and sumac.

Grass clippings (and it doesn't matter the type of grass) break down quickly and contain as much nitrogen as manure.

Most weeds and weed seeds are killed when the pile reaches an internal temperature above 130 degrees, but some may survive. To avoid problems don't compost weeds with persistent root systems, and weeds that are going to seed.

Sooo, of the items on your list, I might find alternate disposal methods for the eucalpytus and the ivy. Ivy might just love to keep on growing in the compost pile.

    Bookmark   May 5, 2008 at 4:38PM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

I'd compost it all except for the 'lyptus. Even the ivy assuming it isn't poison ivy? If you can chip and/or shred any or all of it it will compost that much faster. Course you'll have to find plenty of carbons to mix in with all that nitrogen. ;)


    Bookmark   May 5, 2008 at 5:30PM
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Very few of us have anything growing in our yards and gardens that cannot be composted. The Poison Ivy, Oak, Sumac material, or quack grass roots, is not something I would compost, ever, but everything else is compostable. Some things, such as those plants that root readily at leaf nodes whenever some moisture is present, go deep into the compost pile. Plants with roots that are difficult to stop from growing, except quack grass roots, go deep into the compost pile, too.

    Bookmark   May 6, 2008 at 7:32AM
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If it's organic there is always a way to compost it but the real answer depends on how aggressive and talented a composter you are. With a truly hot pile you would probably be o.k. but much caution is otherwise required. Some of the plants you mentioned are very invasive so preventing their spread is your concern more than making compost. For those that are not in seed and can be killed in place (smothering, etc.), I would be tempted to just leave them be after dispatching them (except the really brushy stuff like privet which you will want to get out of the way and chop up). Plants not in seed and that don't have really tough roots or rhizomes are probably o.k. on a cold pile but, again, my experience with invasives is that you should be more concerned with their eradication than putting them to use. Ailanthus is a bit alleopathic. Uprooted vinca would either have to be hot composted or allowed to dry out and die before adding to a cold pile. Vinca clippings without roots would probably be safe on a cold pile. With invasive plants such as these, I tend to let them dry to death off the ground and then throw them back on the ground or in my cold bins. You might want to check out the natives forum and also the management profiles offered by The Nature Conservancy for more advice on how to get rid of these plants.

    Bookmark   May 6, 2008 at 11:38AM
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joepyeweed(5b IL)

Sometimes with the invasive/aggressive/rhizoming plants, I will let them rot in a tote full of water... let 'em get stinky, black and rotten... and then toss them on pile. They surely won't be able to survive that....

Persistent seed heads are snipped off and tossed in the trash and the rest of the plant is composted.

    Bookmark   May 6, 2008 at 2:27PM
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I have a similar problem. I have a redwood tree (!) which IS my backyard. Redwoods are naturally herbicidal; it's the way they keep down competition in the forest.

I also have English ivy. A no-no for my compost bin.

And sow thistle. I will put the leaves into the bin; the rest goes into the yard-waste container for the municipal compost heaps.

And roses! My rose cuttings do not go into the bin; I don't need roses coming up everywhere.

Tomato, melon, etc. seeds--no. I made this mistake early on in my composting experience and had thousands of tomato volunteers under my roses.

Weeds/plants which propagate by roots--I personally do not put them into my bin. At least, not the roots!

Weeds/undesired plants which propagate by seeds--again, I personally do not put their seeds/seedheads into my bin. These also go into the yard-waste container.

Along with (yuck) borer-infested agapanthus roots. Sycamore leaves from the street. Bermuda grass. Juniper.

I, too, would dry the vinca.

Most weeks, my compost bin is happy AND my yard-waste container is full.

    Bookmark   May 7, 2008 at 6:46PM
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led_zep_rules(5 WI)

Some of you are awfully fussy about your compost! I compost pretty much everything straight up except creeping charlie. I am trying to convince hubby not to compost quack grass with lots of dirt on their roots, he thinks our hottest compost bin will do them in. We'll see. But seeds of most things, especially vegies, how are they a problem? They are so easy to uproot where not wanted. I like volunteers, I got the best watermelon we ever grew on this property (that includes my whole family for almost 50 years) as volunteers a couple years ago. The seed bank of weeds is so extensive I find it doesn't matter what it in my compost.

We aren't in a rush for our compost, some piles go more than a year. That will do almost anything in. Just read in the most recent Organic Gardening magazine that weed seeds pretty much die if composted for over 6 months. Partly it is that they start to grow in the pile and the little plants get smothered or cooked.


    Bookmark   May 8, 2008 at 1:57AM
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