Monday, 4 April 2016

Composting Weeds - How to

The snow has melted, and my yard work has begun!  We are still expecting a few more small snowfalls before we can completely celebrate, but hopefully they will not be substantial enough to slow me down.  I've all ready done a few things - cleaned the dog kennel, moved some large rocks, picked up the garbage and raked the front lawn of pine cones.

The pine cones I simply raked to the side to cover the bare soil around my caragana hedges.  I did this because I do not currently have enough compost to spread there, and it seemed better than spending extra money on wood mulch - back to the whole rule I have to "make use of what I have."   I will be contacting friends or coffee shops to get my hands on used coffee grounds, which will balance out the acidity of the pine cones, and add nitrogen to the soil so that I can still get green, leafy hedges.  Again, if I had compost ready at this time, I would use that.  But until then, this will suffice.

Once the snow melted, I was reminded of the large pile of weeds that I had collected onto some landscape paper last summer.  I decided to simply add them to my compost bin, since
a) Weekly garbage pickups don't begin for another month, and I can't afford to use one of those pick ups for a pile of weeds
b) I want them gone now
c) it's totally doable! But  you have to make an effort to achieve the ideal conditions needed to kill the weed seeds.

But hey, I wanted to learn the most I could about composting, and this seemed like a good challenge to do so. Hopefully I'm not kicking myself in a year or so when I've planted my entire yard in weed seeds! :O

Here's what you need to know if you are composting weeds:

1. It takes 30 days of exposure to temperatures of 130 - 145 degrees Fahrenhiet
to kill weed seeds, 145 to kill the tougher weed species.  And hey, since I don't know what weeds are in there, I am going to go for hot!

I have a simple compost bin, which is practically just a compost pile with wooden scrap pieces screwed together to contain it and keep my neighbours from complaining.  Most compost bins are designed to aid in raising the bin temperatures, by being black, or to make it a hot house in other ways.  I am reading the book, Tomorrow's Table (by Pamela Ronald and Raoul Adamchak), and they mention in there a technique they use in organic farming of covering the fields with plastic to create temperatures hot enough to kill weed seeds, before transplanting the vegetable seeds from the greenhouse to the fields.  So until I get a better compost bin built, I will be covering mine with thick black plastic.  

Note - you can buy compost thermometers!  Yeah, this is news to me, but pretty cool!  I will probably go without, since that is my motto... :(  But maybe one day will go for it or borrow one from a friend to see how accurate I can become on my guess work!

2. Turn your compost
because "the exposed surface and localized internal cool spots give weed seeds an opportunity to survive" (source: Want to Keep your Compost Pile Weed Free?" - Awesome read!  Check it out).

Note: weed roots and weeds that have gone to seeds should not be added to your compost pile!  Which is basically what I did... oops.  All because I was in a rush to get my yard looking clean!  Well, better get this pile heated up, or I'll be looking for a new location for my compost pile.

While researching for this article I also discovered that if you have a woody base for your compost pile, it will help with air circulation and create a chimney affect to heat up your pile even better.  I will definitely be taking some of those pinecones from my front yard and putting them on the bottom!

That is pretty much a wrap for today's blog - meanwhile, I've got some work to do before tomorrow!

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