Factsheet 1
Living microscopic organisms break down the materials we compost by feeding on them. These microbes include bacteria and other very small organisms. In order to live, microbes need food, air, moisture and warmth – just like you and me!

The key to making good compost is to use a balance of different types of materials. Young, wet, sappy materials, like grass cuttings and vegetable peelings, rot quickly and are known as ‘greens’. Greens need to be mixed with tougher, dry items like old bedding plants and cardboard; known as ‘browns’. Browns add structure to the compost allowing air in and providing the microbes with a balanced diet.
Aim for a 50/50 mix of both wet greens and dry browns. For example, for every handful of fruit and vegetable peelings you add, match it with a handful of scrunched up paper and cardboard packaging (e.g. egg boxes).
Tip: If your compost heap tends to be wet & smelly, add more browns; if it is dry, add some greens.

The microbes that make the best compost need air to live. It is important to allow air into the bin to aid composting. This can be done in a variety of ways:
• Add scrunched up paper, cardboard egg boxes or loo roll tubes to ensure air pockets
• Stick a broom handle or aerator stick as far into the compost as possible and give it a good wiggle!
• Dig your compost over using a garden fork (if you use a compost bin please make sure you have good access to the material before you do this)

Enough moisture:
If you have the right balance of ‘greens’ and ‘browns’ you should have the correct amount of moisture. However, if it is too dry add some more greens, and if it is too wet add some more browns. For a quick fix you can add moisture with a watering can (SEE FACTSHEET 2).

Factsheet 2:
Microbes need warmth to thrive, so siting your bin in partial sun and keeping the compost covered will ensure plenty of warmth.

Half full bins:
If the bin is quite empty lay some flattened cardboard over the top. This will keep heat in. You can keep adding waste on top of it as it will rot down as well.

Don’t forget – microbes need a balanced diet just like you and me! So don’t put in too much of one thing!
Fruit scraps (inc citrus peel)
Vegetable peelings
Garden pruning’s
Tea bags
Grass cuttings
Egg shells
Cardboard egg boxes
Loo roll tubes
Old flowers
Pet bedding
Rhubarb leaves
Newspaper (scrunched up)
Straw & hay
Coffee grounds
Wood ash
Wood shavings
Woody clippings
Spent bedding plants
Hedge clippings
Young annual weeds
Comfrey leaves

Cooked food
Cat & dog faeces
Coal & coke ash
Dairy products
Disposable nappies
Glossy magazines
Meat & fish
Tin cans

Home Composting


Composting troublesome weeds, like ground elder, couch grass, nettles and docks can be easy.
These weeds have large roots systems, so absorb a lot of valuable nutrients from the soil. Use all this goodness by recycling it in the garden. Don’t throw it away.
Killing perennial weeds by composting takes 2 years.The roots must be starved of light for 2 years, so these plants will not be killed if they are added to a normal compost bin and left for only one year. We need to use different methods to make sure we don’t spread them round our gardens.


The quickest way to dispose of perennial weeds.

  • Cram them into a bucket, roots and all.
  • Fill the bucket with water and weigh down the weeds with a brick or stone so they are under the surface.
  • Cover the bucket to exclude light, to stop evaporation and prevent rain making it overflow.
  • Leave for 4 weeks. Even the roots of perennial weeds will then be drowned.
  • Strain off the liquid and use it as a liquid feed – dilute 5 parts water to 1 part feed.
  • Put the dead roots into your compost bin.


A solution for the grass cutting season.

  • Put the perennial weeds into a heavy duty black plastic bag.
  • Mix in an equal quantity of fresh grass mowings.
  • Tie up the neck of the bag and leave it in a sunny spot.

The heat generated by the grass mowings and the sun will turn the contents of the bag into a brown, gooey mess.
After 3 or 4 weeks the roots will have turned to slime and the whole lot can safely be added to your compost bin.


There are only a few summers when you can use this simple method.
Lay the roots of the perennial weeds, in a thin layer, on a hard, flat surface like concrete or corrugated iron to keep them off the soil.
After 2 or 3 weeks, the summer sun will dry and shrivel the roots.
Once the roots are baked hard, they can safely be added to your compost bin.

Adding to a Compost Bin

If these methods are too much trouble, add all your perennial weeds to a special compost bin that you use just for these weeds.This should be a plastic one because it would be difficult to exclude all light from a wooden box.
Keep it covered and leave for 2 complete years to rot down.
When using the compost, check that there are no living roots left: healthy ground elder and couch grass roots are white and nettle yellow.


CELANDINE (Ranunculus ficaria), BINDWEED (Calystegia sepium) or JAPANESE KNOTWEED (Fallopia japonica).

Horsetail, Bindweed and Lesser Celandine can be drowned or stewed but leave them “cooking” for 2 months to be on the safe side.

Japanese Knotweed is a notifiable contaminated substance if removed from your garden. Both the weed and the surrounding earth should be removed. Contact your local authority.

For more information on home composting or to contact us – or 01450 860778

ASK Organic, in partnership with Scottish Borders Council, has a Home Composting Display within Woodside Plant Centre, by Ancrum, Jedburgh.

For information on Waste and Recycling contact Scottish Borders Council Recycling Team on 0300 100 1800


Text © ASK Organic.