What can I do with woody garden waste?
I prune my privet hedge twice a year. What can I do with all the clippings other than taking them to the tip?
Young green clippings such as these can be mixed into a conventional
compost heap, watering well if dry. If quantities are too large for this,
make a separate heap, mixing the clippings with grass mowings - which will
provide nitrogen and water to help them rot.
Other alternatives are to add them to a 'slow stack' < described below> or just leave them as a mulch around the bottom of the hedge.
I have a large Leyland hedge which produces quantities of material after its annual clipping. I shred this, but am not sure what to do with the heap (albeit reduced in size) of shreddings.
These, and other evergreen shreddings, could be used
directly to mulch an informal path.
Heap them up - in a compost bin if you have one spare - and water well. Watering with nettle liquid (nettles soaked in water for a couple of weeks) is smelly, but adds vital nitrogen that speeds up the decay process. Diluted urine is another option. Otherwise you could mix the shreddings with grass mowings. Cover the heap and it may well heat up in a few days. Leave for 3-6 months then use the result as a mulch on shrubs and other plants where it will not be dug into the soil.
How can I deal easily with prunings from a Leyland hedge? I haven't got a shredder or a car - so taking them to the civic amenity site for recycling is not an option.
Simply heap the prunings up under the hedge, where they will slowly decay. By the time you get round to the next trimming, they will have reduced in bulk, so there will be space for more.
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?
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) To speed up the above process - which is so slow because it is tough and dry - mix in various ingredients to supply and/or hold on to moisture, which is essential for decay, and to supply some nitrogen (to help break down the woody stuff). 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 bin - but is better if it 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.
Is it better to shred prunings and other stuff fresh, or to leave it to dry out first?
Newly cut material will shred much more easily than dead and dried out stems. Because it will still contain some moisture, material shredded when fresh will rot down much more quickly.
I am thinking of buying a shredder to deal with woodier stuff in the garden - but I wonder if this is not just a waste of energy?
If you have space to recycle this material in the
garden without shredding it first, then this would be the most environmentally
friendly option - but many gardens are too small for this to be practical.
A shredder makes sense if you only use it for items that cannot be chopped
up with a spade, smashed with a hammer or otherwise 'tenderised'. The alternative
options of a bonfire or a trip to the civic amenity tip both have environmental
For efficiency, buy the biggest shredder you can afford - shared between friends perhaps. Choose a quieter model if you have near neighbours.
I have a heap of old raspberry canes, blackcurrant stems and deciduous shrub prunings. Can I shred them then add the shreddings to the compost heap?
Yes - as long as you get the balance of ingredients right. If the stems are dry and woody, then you will need to mix them with more sappy ingredients.