Woody waste

Question ...

I have quite a wild garden with lots of large shrubs and climbers, fruit trees and bushes and so on. It seems to generate a lot of woody material, and there are always a few larger branches to deal with too. I don't want a shredder, but there is quite a lot of spare space.

Could I compost it all without shredding first?

Answer ...

You have three options:

  1. Heap all the woody stuff up in an out-of-the-way corner and forget about it for a few years. It will provide food and shelter for all sorts of wild creatures - and everything will decay eventually.

  2. Woody material is slow to decay because it is tough (carbon rich) and tends to be dry. To speed up the decay, mix in other materials to supply and/or hold on to moisture, which is essential for decay, and to supply some nitrogen (to help break down the carbon). Suitable additions include used potting compost, turfs, soil, autumn leaves, weeds, grass mowings.

  3. Use the Centre for Alternative Technology's slow stack system. This is similar to a normal compost heap - but is works better if the container is taller than it is wide. Fill it with woody waste (up to 2cm (3/4in) diameter) and all the other ingredients mentioned above. Leave it for 2-3 years. There is no need to cover the heap.

If you would like further advice on your organic growing, why not become a member of Garden Organic? It costs as little as £2.75 a month, and not only gives you full access to our advisory service, but also free or discounted entrance to many gardens across the UK. Call 02476 308210 or email membership@gardenorganic.org.uk