The Q&A Archives: soil from compost for new gardens

Question: Hi,

I pile up my leaves and lawn clippings. There is some very rich soil at the bottom of the pile which I used when I reseeded parts of my lawn. Unfortunately, there were more weeds than new grass!! Where did I go wrong? I don't like to use chemicals, so how can I prepare this soil for use in a new vege garden I'm planninig?

Answer: A nice, hot compost pile will cook any weed seeds that are present. It sounds as though you are practicing passive composting - just allowing things to break down naturally rather than actually working your compost pile. If you prefer the passive compost method, simply keep weeds that have flowered out of the pile and you will avoid introducing new weeds into your garden in the future. If you want to compost all the waste from your garden, including weeds that have gone to seed, then you'll want to work the compost pile so it heats up enough to kill the weed seeds. Here's how: as plant material decomposes it heats up. Usually the center of the pile is the hottest and the outside edges are the coolest. You can turn the material to help it heat up and "cook" by using a garden fork and moving the material around - hot inside stuff to the outer edges and cooler stuff from the edges into the center. Add a shovel full of garden soil (which contains microbes which aid in the decomposition process) and your organic matter should heat up and cook. Not only will you be killing off the weed seeds, but your compost will break down faster and you will have more to use in your garden. Best wishes with your landscape!

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