They are a nuisance in our lawns and gardens, and every year, homeowners spend millions of dollars on chemicals trying to control them. For most home gardeners, weeds are enemy number one, and they must be eliminated at all costs!
That may seem a little extreme in most cases, but weeds do ruin all the hard work we put into our yards. It seems if you turn away for just a second, another one pops up.
So if the question is can you compost weeds?
That answer would be that though they are hard to get rid of, there is a way to compost them once you pull the pesky fellas out of the lawn and gardens.
The Benefits of Composting Weeds
Although they tend to ruin the look and beauty of our yards and even try to choke out our precious vegetable plants if left too long, weeds provide excellent benefits for our composting needs once removed. After all, they spent all that time pulling valuable nutrients out of the soil and away from our wanted plants and lawn.
Here are some of the benefits of composting weeds as opposed to just throwing them into the trash or organics bin; if your local waste department offers the service.
Reducing greenhouse gas emissions
When organic matter, including weeds, decomposes in a landfill, it generates methane, a potent greenhouse gas contributing to climate change. Composting weeds instead of disposing of them in a landfill can help to reduce methane emissions.
Conserving natural resources:
Composting weeds and other organic materials helps to reduce the need for synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, which can be resource-intensive to produce and may negatively impact the environment.
Composting weeds and other organic materials helps reduce the amount of waste sent to landfills, saving space and reducing the need for new landfills to be built.
Improving soil health:
Compost is a natural, nutrient-rich soil amendment that can help improve the soil’s structure and fertility. Adding compost made from weeds and other organic materials can help to boost the health and productivity of gardens, lawns, and agricultural lands.
How to Identify Safe Weeds to Compost
Even when adding weeds to your compost pile or bin, there are a few precautions or steps that should be taken to ensure that all is good and that you don’t accidentally do more work for yourself going forward.
Avoid weeds that have gone to seed:
Weeds that have already produced seeds should be removed and disposed of, as they can spread and take root in your compost pile.
If you do maintain a hot compost pile, then these weeds could be added to the center of the mix, and the heat of the composting process is generally far too hot for the seeds to survive and will break down just as everything else does.
Hot compost piles are a great way to make compost very quickly, but it does involve more attention and work. See our “How to make a hot compost pile” page for more.
Don’t use weeds that are diseased or infested:
Weeds that are diseased or infested with pests should be removed and disposed of to prevent the spread of the disease or cause an infestation to other plants in your yard.
Avoid weeds that are toxic or poisonous:
Some weeds, such as poison ivy and oak, are toxic or poisonous and should be avoided.
This is one case in that I use chemical weed killers in my garden. I don’t want to allow the spread of these common weeds to cause harm to myself or my family and pets. If you identify poison oak or ivy, it is easy to get rid of.
While wearing gloves and other protective clothing, I see fit for the situation, I just use an old paintbrush and just paint several of the leaves with a “non-selective” herbicide. The weed killer will work its way to the roots, and the plant will die off.
Familiarize yourself with the common weeds in your area
Learn about the weeds that grow in your area and their characteristics, including whether they are poisonous or invasive.
Consult with a local gardening expert if you are unsure whether a weed is safe to compost. Local experts such as lawn care companies, lawn spraying, and irrigation companies, and local garden centers are great resources for just about anything related to your home garden, including weeds.
The Role of Weeds in Balancing Your Compost Pile
Weeds can be included in a compost pile just like any other organic material. Some weeds can even be high in nutrients and can help balance the carbon-to-nitrogen ratio, which is very important in the health of the compost pile.
However, as mentioned earlier, it is important to be mindful of any weeds that may be invasive or noxious, as these could potentially spread to new areas if not properly composted. And unless you are using a hot compost pile method, It is also a good idea to avoid adding any weeds that have gone to seed, as the seeds could survive the composting process and germinate when the compost is used.
Overall, the role of weeds in balancing a compost pile is similar to the role of any other organic material.
Common Misconceptions About Composting Weeds
Weeds shouldn’t be composted because they will survive and regrow.
While it is true that some weed seeds can survive the composting process, the chances of them regrowing are quite low, especially if the compost pile is well-managed and reaches high temperatures.
All weeds can be composted.
While most weeds can be composted, it is important to avoid adding any weeds that are invasive or noxious, as these could potentially spread to new areas if not properly composted.
Weeds shouldn’t be composted because they contain pesticides or herbicides.
It is true that some weeds may absorb pesticides or herbicides from the environment, the composting process can break down these chemicals, making them less likely to be a concern when the compost is used.
This is a great reason to avoid chemical pesticides and herbicides when possible throughout your whole yard.
Overall, it is important to be mindful of any potential issues that could arise from composting weeds, but they can generally be safely included in a compost pile just like any other organic material.
What are the names of the weeds that you can add to the compost pile?
These well-recognized weeds are found in lawns and gardens. They have bright yellow flowers that bloom in the spring and summer, dandelion leaves are green, long, and jagged. The plants can grow up to about 12 inches tall and have a deep taproot that helps them to extract nutrients from the soil. The weed produces fluffy seed heads that are carried away by the wind.
Dandelions are considered to be a weed by many people because they are very difficult to remove and can spread quickly through a lawn or garden. They are also known for their ability to grow in various conditions, including dry, rocky soil.
Plantain is a type of weed that is commonly found in lawns and gardens. You can recognize it by its long, narrow leaves and small flowers that bloom in the summer.
Plantain is known worldwide and can be found in many different countries. While it’s often considered a nuisance because it grows rapidly and can be tough to control, plantain also has a long history of being used for medicinal purposes.
Chickweed is a small, annual herb that is commonly found in gardens, lawns, and other areas with moist, cool soil. It has delicate, bright green leaves and small, white flowers that bloom in the spring and summer. Chickweed has spread throughout the world and is now found in many different countries.
Chickweed is often considered a weed because it can grow quickly and spread easily, taking over areas of the lawn or garden. However, the weed is also used as a medicinal plant and has been used for centuries to treat a variety of ailments. Despite its reputation as a weed, chickweed can be a useful and beneficial plant in some situations.
Clover is a type of small, perennial herb that is often found in lawns, meadows, and other grassy areas. It has distinctive, three-lobed leaves and small, white, pink, or red flowers that bloom in the spring and summer.
Clover is easily identifiable by its leaves, which have a characteristic trefoil shape. It is a common plant and is found in many different parts of the world. Clover is often considered a weed because it can grow quickly and spread easily, taking over areas of the lawn or garden.
Purslane is a type of low-growing, succulent annual weed that is commonly found in gardens, lawns, and other areas with well-draining soil. It has small, fleshy leaves and stems, and small, yellow flowers that bloom in the summer. Purslane is easily identifiable by its distinctive, spoon-shaped leaves
Most thistles have spiny, prickly leaves and stems, and large, showy flowers that are typically purple, pink, or white. Thistles are often considered weeds because they can be difficult to control and can take over areas of the lawn or garden.
Crabgrass is a very invasive type of grass that has a tendency to take over any lawn or garden area that it is allowed to establish itself in. It is an annual, so it dies each year and the seeds are why sprout up the following year and spread throughout the yard.
Crabgrass is easily identifiable. Look for course, light green clumps of grass that have long thin stems with what look like “knuckles” or the joints of crab legs throughout.
It’s important to note that while these weeds are generally considered safe to add to the compost pile, you should avoid adding any weeds that have gone to seed or have been treated with pesticides. It’s also a good idea to chop or shred the weeds before adding them to the compost pile to help them break down more quickly.
Expert Tips for Successfully Composting Weeds
Unless using a hot composting method, Avoid adding weeds that have gone to seed. This will help prevent the spread of weed seeds through the compost.
Avoid adding any weeds that are invasive or noxious. These types of weeds could potentially spread to new areas if not properly composted.
Shred or chop the weeds into small pieces before adding them to the compost pile. This will help them break down more quickly.
Balance the carbon-to-nitrogen ratio in the compost pile. Weeds can be high in nitrogen, so adding an equal amount of carbon-rich materials (such as dried leaves or wood chips) can help balance the compost pile.
Turn the compost pile regularly. This helps to aerate the compost and promote the breakdown of organic material.
Below, I’ve added a short video from Tyler at crazyaboycompost.com on how he deals with weeds