Homemade Compost From Perennial Weeds And Couch Grass

During the last week I have been catching up with some overdue jobs at my allotment.

With Mr Thrift’s help over the weekend, I have managed to spread some compost over the beds where my brassicas will be planted this year.

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I haven’t bothered to dig the beds as I don’t walk on the soil (as I always walk on my paths) and brassicas like firm soil anyway.  I will let the worms do the hard work for me.

When I first took on plot number three in March 2010, it was covered in couch grass and weeds.  You can see a photo of it below:

I put all the weeds (couch grass, perennial weeds etc) in a compost bin which I made out of pallets tied together.   I then covered it with weed suppressant.  Over the last four years everything has been rotting nicely and it has now produced the most beautiful, sweet smelling compost:

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Books and magazines are constantly telling you that you mustn’t add perennial weeds to your compost bins, but I do this all the time and produce lovely compost.  I think the main reason they tell you this is because it is sometimes hard to kill perennial weeds (but starving the weeds of light will eventually kill the hardiest of weeds) and because of the weed seeds.  I hoe each and every week at my allotment to remove any weed seedlings and so weed seeds have never really been a problem for me.

  I love making compost as it has so many nutrients in it, which makes it great to add to vegetable beds and it is also free to make.

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Over the past week I have been clearing some areas of my allotment.  I started by clearing my wildflower area.  I had to use an old plank to walk on as the ground is still so wet:

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I also cleared away the canes and straw where my tomatoes grew last summer:

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I am planning on growing my tall peas in this bed soon, which is why I have left the weed suppressant in the middle.

I have moved the old straw that was around my tomatoes to my globe artichokes.  If you surround the crowns it gives them added protection over the winter (though I am a bit late doing this, but we haven’t had a really hard frost yet luckily).  Last year I planted two new globe artichokes that I grew from seed and I have been told that they don’t always make it through their first winter,  so I have built a cold frame around them out of old glass windows:

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I have also cleared the old flower foliage from around my old swing and on the bed next to it.  Incidentally, the clematis that I planted last year should have some lovely flowers on this Spring time, as it grew well last year.

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Everything I have cleared has gone into my compost heap at the bottom of my plot:

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I know it looks like I have put far too much into it, but it will rot down and then I will cover it for three or four years before using it.  Below is a picture of a compost heap that is now just about ready to use that was actually higher than the one above when I first covered it and now you can see how much it has rotted down:

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Another job I did last week at my allotment was to build a more permanent runner bean support.  I dug down a couple of feet and put two old metal posts in the ground.  I then tied some canes to the supports.  You can see from the photo below that I have started to fill my trenches with old peelings etc.  As they rot down they will help to retain the moisture in the soil, if we have a hot summer.  When the trench is full I will cover it with the soil I have taken out and start to fill the trench on the other side.

Runner beans can stay where they are year after year as they require little nutrients, but they do need lots of water, which is why I use this trenching method.

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Over the last few months I have been trying to think of a way to change my fruit area, to make it more low maintenance.  It was a real pain to lift the nets of my two fruit cages every week when we needed to mow.  You can see my fruit area in the photo below (the cages aren’t in the photo as I take them down after I have removed all the fruit):

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I decided to have just one fruit cage this year and bring the blueberries in their pots into the middle and remove two gooseberry plants that really haven’t given me much fruit over the years.

I firstly covered the area with weed suppressant:

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I thought long and hard about how I was going to do this area and in the end I decided to make my edges out of old sticks and hazel that I have at my plot.  This way insects like ladybirds can use this area to hide in over winter.  I just bundled the sticks up and tied them with wire and then pegged the wire down into the ground.

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I used some small lengths of hazel pushed into the ground to ensure the bundles of sticks didn’t move and then I covered the whole area with woodchip (most councils sell woodchip cheaply).

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It looks much neater now and it will be easy to put my fruit cage over it in Spring (incidentally I make my cage out of old handwash bottles and canes).

I’m very pleased with the area now.

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I have also been busy in my kitchen this weekend too.  I decided to use up some of the fruit from my freezer.

I made a ‘Blackberry soaked cake’ which is delicious served with a drizzle of the left over blackberry syrup.  It is a River Cottage recipe which you can find here.

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I also made my daughter some strawberry flapjacks, by just adding a cup full of defrosted (and drained) strawberries to the recipe.  You can find the Flapjack recipe here.

…and they were delicious too.

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I froze the flapjacks on a tray and then put them into an old container when they were frozen.  This stops them from sticking together so you can take them out of the freezer one at a time.  I pop one into my daughter’s lunch box in the morning and it’s defrosted by lunchtime (or even break if she is hungry).

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That’s it for now.

Thank you for reading my blog today.  I will be back on Friday at my usual time.

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26 thoughts on “Homemade Compost From Perennial Weeds And Couch Grass

  1. From compost to flapjacks and all fascinating.
    personally I don’t risk composting perennials, but appreciate your bravery and patience – I have something like a nine month turn around for compost so perhaps couldn’t risk trying your method. I burn the perennials and add the ash to the soil or compost heap.

    Happy plots!

  2. Wow your allotments look fantastic, so neat, I always had problems keeping the weeds under control, incidentally what do you use as paths around the beds it looks like black plastic but I am sure it won’t be as that would be so slippy, I would so appreciate it if you could let me know as the paths are the problem around my vegetable beds, thanks so much.

    • Hi LittleMeadows and welcome. Yes unfortunately my paths are made out of thick weed suppressant and they are held down by bricks (which is a good hiding place for slugs unfortunately). I am always trying to find a cheap alternative to this (as it would cost too much to lay slabs as I have so many paths), but as yet have not found one. It is one of the things I really don’t like about my plots as I have to ‘turn’ the weed suppressant over every year to stop the soil from collating on it.

  3. Wow, you amaze me. You are a tireless worker. A good garden does not just ‘happen’. Lots
    of effort goes into it and lots of thinking. We are just now compiling our list of seeds to order.
    We won’t be planting any of the seedlings until the end of May. To think that you are out there
    working right now. We still have snowcovered everything. Love your blog. Marion

  4. More things that we do alike. We pile all our weeds into a compost bay and cover with weed control fabric too. As we are using weed control fabric and planting through that any weed seeds still lurking will have difficult germinating. Then we have a similar format for fruit beds too.

  5. You really are a hard working lady!
    I haven’t made flapjacks for years, though I do make a lot of other cakes etc. must try them again soon.
    Regarding your comment to Sue, you’re not alone. I should think everyone who reads your blog has the same interest. Most of us don’t have 4 allotments though!
    Best wishes,
    Angela (Devon)

  6. I have never put these weeds into the compost bin, i dont know if i dare! Hoeing every week must save you so much time in the long run.
    SUE

    • Hoeing does save time in the long run….I keep my compost made of perennial weeds separate from the compost I make with old peelings etc. Why don’t you try composting just a small amount over the next three or four years and then spread it over a small area and see how you get on. As long as you hoe each week it will be fine.

  7. Wow Mrs Thrift you have been so busy well done you! Was well enough on Friday to go up to hubbies new allotment. Can’t tell you how lovely it made me feel sitting on a cushion sorting through some soil where they’d been a bonfire x I felt eight again and it was lovely to come home with mucky nails x x

    • Vickie that is brilliant, I’m so pleased you have finally got your allotment. I love being outside in the fresh air, you are right…there is nothing like it. I can honestly say I feel ‘alive’ when I am at my allotment. There is only one thing that would make it better and that is if my allotment was outside my back door lol…but we can’t have everything can we.

  8. Your garden looks great! My mum shoves the grass clippings (from the freshly moved grass) on her garden and it seems to work okay, so long as she keeps digging it it 😉

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