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How do you cut up material for composting?

So, it's late summer and the flower borders are looking the worse for wear.  I've filled a bag full of plants which I've cut down or uprooted.  It's a mixture of roots, leaves, stalks, dead flowers and seedheads, and of course, like a good gardener, I want to compost it.  I could just empty it into the compost bin as it is.  But I know from experience that if I do that, it will take a long time to rot and the finished compost will be full of long twiggy bits which just sit on top of the soil and don't get incorporated.  So, I want to chop it into shorter bits.

I tried four pairs of bypass secateurs this afternoon, none of them were up to it.  Some of the material is dry and brown, some green, some in between.  Thickness varies from 1-15mm.  The secateurs work with the thicker, dry stalks.  Thinner or green stalks just get jammed between the blades, which then have to be prised apart.  Perhaps anvil secateurs would work better? At least, with only one blade, there shouldn't be a jamming problem.  All my secateurs have a device for locking them closed when not in use, but they all lock themselves from time to time when I don't want them to.  Is it possible to buy a pair that only locks when the user locks it?

I have a shredder, a cheapish basic model which I was given second-hand.  That's no help.  It splits stalks lengthways rather than chopping them in bits, so I'm still left with twiggy compost.

Another option I've considered, but haven't tried, is to put the stuff on the ground and run the mower over it, as is often recommended with leaves for leaf mould.  Mine is a hover mower.  (Why are they called that?  They don't hover.  At least, mine never has.  It stays firmly on the ground.)  It's a lot of bother getting it out of the shed and unwinding and rewinding the cable.  Maybe I should try and co-ordinate my border tidying with my grass cutting so I only have to get it out once.

How does everyone else chop up their compost fodder?


  • LynLyn DevonPosts: 16,765
    Secateurs, shears and an electric chopper.
    i just unscrew the locking bit and take it off,  my shears are all like that😀
    Gardening on the wild, windy west side of Dartmoor. 

  • fidgetbonesfidgetbones Posts: 14,809
    Alko impact shredder. I did have an 1100 but I lent it a neighbour and I think they tried putting planks through it. It came back with a broken main blade. I then got a nearly new 1300 version off ebay for £30. I mix shreddings with grass cuttings and turn it once or twice . I have quite a lot of daleks, so I am using up the last of vintage 2018 summer.  At this point it is like peat.  The more you turn it, the faster it rots. If there is a lot of twiggy stuff, It may have a first mixing with grass cuttings, heats up, then gets turned into another bin with another load of grass cuttings for a second heat up.
    You don't stop doing new things because you get old, you get old because you stop doing new things. <3
  • Blue OnionBlue Onion Posts: 2,490

    I just make piles with it around the garden for wildlife and critters to take care of.  The pile behind the rhubarb has been going for years.. builds up in the fall and flattens down over the winter.  Seedy things that I don't want spreading (like finished mint flowers) go to the more wild areas where I know it won't germinate.  
    Utah, USA.
  • Lizzie27Lizzie27 Bath, SomersetPosts: 6,266
    @josusa47, could you chuck it into a trug and cover with water so the hard twiggy bits go soft and soggy first?
  • CloggieCloggie Posts: 1,325
    I use a marvellous old shredder that they no longer make, it has a rolling grinder rather than a spinning disk.  I have a spinning disk one and never use it, it's rubbish, why do they sell them?  If you can find a chipper type, it's good for old perennials, brambles, small tree and shrub trimmings etc but I don't put the woodier stuff in the compost, I have a separate bin because it takes longer to rot.  

    For smaller, softer stuff I chuck it on the grass and mow it up.  All weeds go in the green bin, I don't risk recycling them.  Chunkier wood is chainsaw and wood burner fodder.
  • CloggieCloggie Posts: 1,325
    Oh if I only have a handful of shredder stuff, I either use my secateurs into the heap or pile it up until I can be bothered to get the shredder out but it's much better to get it green.

  • FireFire LondonPosts: 7,358
    I keep large branches for log piles, compost smaller or softer stuff and give the rest (and hedging) to the council.
  • WilderbeastWilderbeast East YorkshirePosts: 852
    I mow everything before it goes in the heap, granted I have a big petrol mower and it does take a lot of hammer in the process. It makes a huge difference and really speeds up the process. I tend not to collect any of the weeds or prunings, I just Chuck them on the lawn and mow them up with the grass. Even the hedge clippings get mown and they get up to 6ft long 
  • CloggieCloggie Posts: 1,325
    Yeah, a petrol rotary mower is what I've got - they'll chew up stuff good!! 😁
  • josusa47josusa47 Posts: 3,532
    Thanks for all these suggestions.  I'm going to try mowing the grass and the spent plants at the same time.  
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