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Biggest mistake this year

pclark42pclark42 Posts: 185
I started a compost heap last year, I made it from used pallets as others do, it filled up with all the garden and kitchen waste, and by November I decided to add a 2nd just so that I could concentrate on the first one, I followed advice from youtube vids, and by the end of January this year I had myself some fairly useable compost (a bit woody but useable) I passed some through a riddle and used it in a 50/50 mix with some John Innes to sow some vegetable seeds and a few Sarah Raven flowers, within 10 days most plugs had something growing (all were labelled up) however I started to wonder at just what I had grown, it turns out most were weeds obviously from my compost, I had to sort through them all, and I couldn't save many of the flowers and had to start again, and so until I find out what I did wrong I will stop the compost production.
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  • FireFire Posts: 18,950
    Just don't put weeds in it. We learn as we go, don't give up. You can probably use your current compost as a mulch if you put other material on top to block light - something like manure, bark, or woodchip. It's trickier if you have put something like bindweed in it the mix. I did that when I first started. My housemates were not best pleased.

    Some leading lights in the compost/no dig world get a evangelical about the composting world. I have seen them stating that you can put anything in, weeds, cooked food, everything, and it will be fine, with no caveats. This is daft. It pays to be careful, esp at the beginning. It takes a certain kind of size and mix to get compost beds hot enough to kill pathogens and seeds. Most people don't get anywhere near that.
  • PalustrisPalustris Posts: 4,297
    The only way to get a heap hot enough to kill weed seeds (and other nasties) is to turn iit over every day and keep it well watered. So who has the time and energy to do that?. the commercial peat free compost makers do that.
    When we had the room we had what we called the non-compost heap. We put into it all the seeding weeds, dock roots, dandelion roots, in other words all the things which should not go into a cold compost heap. The non-compost heap was covered with a black plastic sheet and left for about 5 years. It was usable then.
  • Hostafan1Hostafan1 Posts: 34,856
    The trouble stems from the word " compost ". 
    Garden "compost" is primarily a soil conditioner and not really consistent enough to use for seed sowing. 
    Garden centre "compost" is a sterile growing medium. 
    Devon.
  • LG_LG_ Posts: 4,345
    Your 'mistake' was not in making compost, but in using it for seeds. Pansy's method is the only way I'd do it, otherwise use bought sterile compost for seeds and homemade for myriad other uses. It sounds like you've been very successful in making compost and it would be a shame to stop.
    'If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need.'
    - Cicero
  • DovefromaboveDovefromabove Posts: 87,858
    As has been said, there’s 
    Garden Compost and Potting Compost ... two different things ... I keep saying it ... I have bruises on my forehead ... 

    Gardening in Central Norfolk on improved gritty moraine over chalk ... free-draining.





  • Hostafan1Hostafan1 Posts: 34,856
    As has been said, there’s 
    Garden Compost and Potting Compost ... two different things ... I keep saying it ... I have bruises on my forehead ... 
    Ditto
    Devon.
  • PalustrisPalustris Posts: 4,297
    edited May 2021
    If you read some of the old gardening books the growers then often used their own 'compost' for seed sowing (plus the soil from mole hills). I often wonder how they went on with weed seed germination. Trying to explain the difference between compost heap material and sterile seed sowing material is as Dove says one of those never ending head banging gardening advice problems. It comes up almost as often as identifying Thorn Apple or Shoo fly plants.
  • Hostafan1Hostafan1 Posts: 34,856
    Palustris said:
    If you read some of the old gardening books the growers then often used their own 'compost' for seed sowing (plus the soil from mole hills). I often wonder how they went on with weed seed germination. Trying to explain the difference between compost heap material and sterile seed sowing material is as Dove says one of those never ending head banging gardening advice problems. It comes up almost as often as identifying Thorn Apple or Shoo fly plants.
    and Carex pendula seedlings
    Devon.
  • IlikeplantsIlikeplants Posts: 894
    That’s a great story. 

    Gardening is an art involving a lot of experience. Always learning.
  • TopbirdTopbird Posts: 8,331
    So there you have it @pclark42 - you didn't really do anything wrong. It sounds as though you produced good garden compost, most suitable for using as a mulch and soil conditioner.

    If you want to use it as a potting or seed compost it needs to be sterilised. It is possible but not worth the faff IMO. I think gardeners of old used to steam or otherwise heat the compost if you want to try.

    Composting and producing free black gold for mulching the garden is one of my favourite things to do. Very high on the green gardening spectrum too. Please don't stop doing it🙂
    Heaven is ... sitting in the garden with a G&T and a cat while watching the sun go down
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