Permaculture Review the HOTBIN Compost Bin – They Love it So Much….
John Adams and Maddy Harland at the Permaculture Magazine review the HOTBIN compost bin. They loved it so much, they decided to add it to their green shopping supplement.
Over the years I have tried most ways of making compost but I have never found one that really suited my requirements until Maddy showed me her Hotbin. I was really impressed that it worked even in winter, how quickly it made compost (about 90 days) and that it could even cope with cooked food scraps. I just had to have one.
The Hotbin certainly gets hot. Last summer it was positively thrumming (up to 60ºC). There is never any smell from the bin and the process is fast. There were also no flies as their eggs cannot survive the heat in the bin.
We both love this product so much we have added it to our Green Shopping catalogue.
Download and read the full review here.
Buy your HOTBIN compost bin online today.
KEEPING THE HOTBIN HOT
How do I keep my HOTBIN composter working hot? My HOTBIN seems to have stalled – It won’t go above 40C any more…
Here at HOTBIN composting we are passionate about our brand promise that given the right volume and mix of waste everyone can hot compost at 40-60C.
We do not have many customers who struggle, and normally a combination of our Q&A database, email support or our unique composting photographic analysis service get their HOTBIN composting on track.
You can imagine therefore we get a bit hot under the collar when we find a customer where everything seems perfect, they have been hot composting for a while, all the settings are right (valve, door on, etc) the mix is right and there is nothing obviously wrong and yet the HOTBIN suddenly sticks persistently at 30-40C and will not rise. We have termed this “a stalled HOTBIN”.
Who is affected by stalling?
Firstly this is not to be confused with customers who have never reached 60C (if this is the case, please check out the FAQ: How to get to 60C check list. Stalled HOTBINs are where it has been working perfectly for months at 40-60 then suddenly it will not rise above 40C.
This is not a common occurrence and there are only a handful of reported cases. A dedicated customer (Andy U) wrote in and suggested an adaptation to help and this kicked off a summer of activity and research.
Why does it happen?
We have identified one central issue: restricted airflow through the base layer. (Think of the HOTBIN as a fire in the chimney, you add new waste onto the fire to fuel it. As the heat rises is ‘draws’ fresh cold air in at the base. This air is drawn up through the base layer. If not enough air flows, the bacteria are restricted and hence the heat produced is restricted.
What causes restricted airflow?
The HOTBIN works under many different waste conditions. However, we have identified the causes that can tip the balance and create restricted airflow:
- Base plate is ‘plugged’ (see below)
- Ultra compressed base layer
- Dense, compressed, wet layer of either paper or grass
Top tips for fixing A stalled HOTBIN
If you are suffering from a stalled HOTBIN, here are our tips for fixing it:
- Check to see if your base plate is ‘plugged’ (check this post to understand what we mean by plugged rather than normal operation where the holes are covered with compost).
- Sprinkle a couple of handfuls of wood chip on the base plate after each emptying to reduce the chance of plugging.
- Empty out the base layer at least every 6 months. Longer and it will lead to ultra compression of the base layer.
- Always add bulking agent – this is critical with Food waste, but it will also help prevent compression of any waste
- If stalled, stir the top half of bin to help aerate and break up any dense layers.
- Check for thick layers especially in lower half bin. – eg a solid layer of wet grass or compressed wet paper.
- Check mesh plate for leakage of water/leachate. If lots of leachate cross check to see if your real issues is that your waste is “too wet” for hot composting
HOTBIN is diverting food waste
Waldringfield Community Composting scheme is successfully diverting food waste from landfill.
Last weekend we visited our friends at Waldringfield Community Composting to look at the results of the first 3 months of the HOTBIN use.
Everyone was keen to learn how much food waste the 12 households had actually diverted from landfill. The results are in and the weighing scales revealed: 5 Kg/week per household. (It was much higher in the B&B – but they have guests each week which accounted for the 10Kg/week.)
What a marvellous community composting effort.
How does this compare to other customers and the national picture?
Nationally the WRAP figures indicate that 5 Kgs per household per week is the average – I’m sure they will be happy to learn they are normal!
Our own HOTBIN customers survey is less rigorous in terms of weighing exact amounts, but it also indicates HOTBIN users divert around 3-6 Kg of food waste per week from landfill The main difference is between users who choose to really get stuck into what you can hot compost such as cooked food waste and chicken carcass etc. versus those that choose to only compost vegetable peelings.
What does all this mean? Does it make a difference?
If we take all the HOTBIN customers across the UK, the total diversion is still not that huge but as they say from little acorns….
There are 30 million households in the UK, if just 3% actively composted all food waste at home, that would remove 250,000 mt of waste from landfill. That also happens to be about the same amount of waste 10 major anaerobic digestion facilities to be built would process.
Clearly it works in our favour if more people have a HOTBIN but the figures speak for themselves!
What does this mean in terms of garden compost?
Each household is also composting garden waste. A total of 250-500 Kgs of starting material will give 75-150 Kgs of compost which is 5-10 bags of compost a year. That’s saving around £25-50 (maybe £10 more if we include car petrol) over buying from the garden centre.
Are there other benefits?
Yes. There are two huge, almost hidden, benefits of composting:
- More food waste results in more compost. More compost results in more humeric substances. More humeric substances means more fertile soil which means stronger plants and vegetables which in turn means more and better food.
- Humeric substances are ‘recalcitrant forms of carbon’ – they are resistant to further decay so they store carbon in the soil. Adding stable humeric substances to the soil results in carbon sequestration which off-sets the impact of global warming due to CO2.
What could be simpler, compost more!
Grass composting in the HOTBIN
How to compost grass in the HOTBIN composter. What can you expect when you add grass into the HOTBIN
As we explained in our previous grass post there are advantages to adding cardboard (or shredded paper) plus bulking agent (wood chip) to the HOTBIN to help you compost grass most successfully; it helps calm the ammonia smell and creates extra structure.
Here’s what happens to grass in your HOTBIN through a series of pictures.
Grass added to the HOTBIN
One hour later …
24 hours later…see how it has shrunk already!
48 hours later…
4 days later…this picture speaks for itself
7 days later…It’s almost gone and is steaming away!
Our control experiment!
We put some grass in a bag outside with no insulation… the temperature never gets above 30C
After 24 hours…
After 48 hours…We added some insulation on the top to see if this helps?
After 4 days…The insulation hasn’t made a difference!
After 7 days…there is still no real drop in volume
How to compost grass lawn mowing
To get fast superb results when composting grass lawn mowings in the HOTBIN:
Add 40 parts grass with 20 parts shredded paper and 1 part wood chip (bulking agent)
Typically this is a medium sized lawn mower collection box (40 litres) with a full carrier bag of shredded paper (20 litres) and 4 hands full (one 2-litre measuring jug) of bulking agent.
If you want to view a photographic sequence of grass compost stages, you can jump to our post on steps / stages of grass composting.
Below we explain why this recipe works, why just adding large amounts of grass can be problematic and offer 6 different options for handling large volumes of grass cuttings
The problem often seen when composting grass is you end up with a black slimy layer that stops the compost heap working.
In a HOTBIN you should get brown mulch in 7 days
Grass is one of the quickest materials to compost. In the HOTBIN you can typically convert grass to mulch within 7 days. Grass is so quick to heat up to 60-70C, the HOTBIN team recommend it to help accelerate and increase temperature quickly.
BUT! You can end up with a black anaerobic slime
In traditional compost heaps, it is one of the most troublesome materials to compost. Grass often heats up for 2 days and produces a very distinctive whiff (ammonia/urine). After 2-days it then ‘collapses’ into a cold, wet, slimy black mass that smells horrible (anaerobic mush).
Funnily enough we don’t have a picture of this as if you do it correctly in a HOTBIN it shouldn’t happen!
Composting grass successfully requires a little bit of extra composting knowledge but the real secret is matching the amount of grass you generate with the time and effort you have available.
Why does grass turn into a slimy putrid mess?
The ‘black slime’ is due to anaerobic conditions, i.e. excess water and too little airflow. Grass (lawn mowing) has a high water content (>80%) and no lignin (i.e. no woody stalk). As grass starts to decompose, the plants cells break down and become soft; water is released. The grass collapses and forms a thick impervious layer and airflow decreases. This in turn means the water is trapped, the process slows and a vicious circle is created where water is not removed, all oxygen stops flowing and aerobic bacteria cease to release heat. The heap cools and anaerobic bacteria take over releasing obnoxious odour and resulting in a ‘black slime’.
The golden rules for successfully composting grass are:
- Remove excess water
- Keep the grass aerated
- Balance the mix to avoid ammonia odour
So how do we get rid of excess water, keep the waste aerated and avoid both ammonia and or anaerobic odour?
- To remove excess water
You need lots of heat, i.e. you need to be ‘HOT composting’
- To keep the grass aerated (i.e. get air/oxygen into the grass layer)
You need buoyant airflow which requires a temperature gradient and a structure with spaces and gaps so the air can flow up.
Unless you have the means to force airflow (e.g. a pump / blower), or you can constantly turn/tumble (yes we mean constantly), then you are reliant on “buoyant airflow via the chimney principle” – and this requires the grass to maintain a structure with small air spaces (ie not a thick wet slimy mass!).
To get a structure that stops grass collapsing into a slimy heap, you need to add what we refer to as a bulking agent (typically this is wood chip). The bits of wood chip act like ‘stacking blocks’ and the air flows around them. Simple but essential!
- To avoid ammonia odour
To prevent excess ammonia, you need to be adding a fast/easy to digest carbon material like shredded office paper or chopped up corrugated cardboard.
The odour is caused because grass has an excess of nitrogen which the bacteria are unable to use as fast as it is released. So it forms ammonia gas and evaporates away. You are most likely to notice this when composting and/or turning large quantities of 1-2 day old grass lawn mowing. After 3 days things slow down and the nitrogen is no longer in excess. Turning grass heaps does not prevent the odour – it enables the trapped gas to escape ‘all in one go’. (If you have done this job, you may well come back inside the house and realise your clothes smell of ammonia!).
The HOTBIN does have an odour filter in the lid that does remove ammonia odour. But, when you add a whole box of grass in one go without anything else, the filter gets temporarily overload for 2-3 days. To prevent the odour during the initial 2-3 days you need to balance the carbon/nitrogen ratio.
You achieve this by adding a dry high carbon waste. The key here is to add ‘easy to digest carbon’ such as corrugated cardboard or paper shredding. Woody items like sawdust, shavings, wood chips are high carbon – but they are not easy to digest, so will not balance the C/N during the critical 2-days of intense activity. Here is the challenge – you need a lot of dry carbon! A 40L grass box (a typical mower box), needs 20L of paper – that’s a whole carrier bag full. It also needs to be mixed with the grass. Not everyone wants to do this, especially after cutting the grass. Below we outline a few options about different methods you might want to follow.
Large amounts of grass waste need extra steps to compost quickly, without ammonia and without turning putrid. Is the extra effort worth it? We think so! Each year fertilising grass lawns consumes considerable inorganic fertiliser – adding the nutrients back via compost is environmentally better.
Below are six options/choices for composting grass. Often you can ‘mix ‘n’ match’ routines at different seasons and times of the year to cater for the varying grass volumes.
1) Small to medium lawns – add grass into your HOTBIN each week
The HOTBINn will easily compost grass from a small-medium lawn (approx 40 litres/week or 1 large grass box per week, filling about a quarter of the bin each time).
This will generate some odour that you may well notice for 2 days. If this bothers you, there are a couple of methods to solve this:
- add shredded paper or corrugated cardboard in ratio 2 parts grass to 1 part paper
- Only add half a box, then return 3 days later add the other half
|Grass volume / Weight
||To Avoid wet slime
||To Avoid Ammonia
|40 litre (approx 20 Kg)
||Add 2 litre (a measuring jug) of bulking agent. Mix in well
||Add 20 litre (a full carrier bag) of shredded office paper or chopped up corrugated cardboard).
Results in approx 1.6 Kgs of compost in 30-90 days
2) Large lawn – use a dedicated HOTBIN for grass
If you have a large lawn and generate 3, 4 or more boxes each week, then you will need to consider a dedicated HOTBIN. It will cope with 2-4 boxes (about 60-80L) per week.
The same rules apply – but adding and mixing in large amounts of paper is intensive and requires a high degree of commitment – perhaps not what you want straight after cutting the lawn! Large lawns allow the HOTBIN to be located away from your seating area – so we suggest you save your effort of adding shredded paper to eliminate ammonia odour – just leave the HOTBIN down the garden and reap the benefit of fast compost without anaerobic slime.
|Grass volume / Weight
||To Avoid wet slime
||To Avoid Ammonia
|80 litre (approx 40 Kg)
||Add 4 litre (a measuring jug) of bulking agent
||Leave remotely and accept ammonia for 1-2 daysAdd 40 litre (a full carrier bag) of shredded office paper or chopped up corrugated cardboard).
Results in approx 1.6 Kgs of compost in 30-90 days
3) Leave the cuttings to compost on the lawn
Many gardening sites now actively promote leaving grass cuttings on the lawn. Normally you use an adapted/special mower blade that chops the grass into very small pieces (2-5 mm) and thoroughly spreads them. The method is to weekly trim of top third of grass and spread this evenly so it composts quickly, adding nutrients back to soil, but not creating thatch. If you have the grass ‘trail line’ down side of mower, then this will rot into mulch that blocks light and growth and does create thatch. Please refer to manufacturer for correct mower blades/settings. If you walk regularly on your lawn – you may find bits get on your shoes and are walked back into the house!
4) Best of both worlds’
Add the first few cuts of the year which tend to be large (say 3-4 boxes) into your empty HOTBIN. The bin is full for a week or so, and then rapidly becomes half-empty allowing ongoing use with food. After the spring cut, leave grass cuttings on lawn. Occasionally (e.g. when cutting hedges) add the grass box back on the mower and collect grass to complement garden ‘browns’.
5) Transfer grass to Local Authority
This is unlikely to interest HOTBIN users, but it is possible to have grass collected at the kerbside and taken to the council recycling centre. We are strong believers in home composting and believe in the environmental benefits of saving fuel and transport.
6) Allocate a large, remote area of garden to build smelly grass mounds
The mounds will tend to be smelly and go anaerobic, but it is fast to empty and dump lots of grass. We had rave reviews on how fast and efficient the HOTBIN is with grass – so maybe you do not need this option anymore!
So in essence it is easy to compost grass in your HOTBIN but depending on the amount you need to consider which methodology is best for you.
2. Recycle Present Wrapping
Christmas can be an amazing time of year and the exchange of gifts large or small can be fun. You may end up with lots of paper, card and boxes.
Remember you can treat your HOTBIN too, as it loves cardboard and many other bits, and all the rest can be recycled.
You will find more detailed information in our post on adding different types of wood and paper to the HotBin.
Here are a few simple dos and don’ts
Wrapping Paper – Recycling bin is probably best
Some types of wrapping paper (not the shiny looking sheets) can be put in the HOTBIN to compost. However you will need to shred each sheet and mix it in well. It might just be easier to recycle.
Corrugated Cardboard boxes – Keep and add to your HOTBIN throughout the winter
You might be getting Amazon deliveries (or should that be a visit from Santa’s sleigh). Corrugated cardboard is a fantastic resource to use in your HOTBIN during the winter months as they are easy for bacteria to digest. Chop up or shred and add a big handful with each caddy of food waste.
Xmas Cards – Recycling bin is probably best
You should not add whole cards. If you are short of corrugated card and have a shredder then you can mix the shredded bits in with food waste. Otherwise it might just be easier to recycle.
Cardboard sheets from packaging – Can be shredded and mixed in
Hopefully Santa has been kind but don’t get tempted to add big pieces of card (above 2cm) to the HOTBIN, it has to be chopped up. If you do get lots of things to play with – you might find it easier to put this type of card in the recycling bin.
Ribbon – Some but not all
Ribbon can be made from many different threads. Cotton is compostable, but most others (nylon, polyester) are not. So why not get crafty and find a reuse for them.
Other useful posts are Using the HOTBIN in Winter and Adding corrugated cardboard and shredded office paper
BEST NEW COMPOST BIN 2012 TWO AWARDS FOR HOTBIN COMPOSTING
THE HOTBIN WINS TWO AWARDS ON FIRST BIRTHDAY
HOTBIN composting is celebrating its first Birthday with two awards under its belt. Just after being awarded Northumberland Green Business 2012 they were told that Grow Your Own magazine readers had voted the HOTBIN ‘Best New Product 2012’.
“To receive these two awards just a year after launching the HOTBIN makes us feel really special,” says Tony Callaghan, Managing Director. “It certainly has been a busy year helping HOTBIN users to break with some of the traditional composting dos and don’ts. It is great to know that so many people are supporting us and enjoying a more sustainable future.”
“I invented the HOTBIN as I got frustrated with an overflowing compost bin and failed to find an alternative that could compost all food waste satisfactorily together with garden waste. These awards show the ups and downs were worth it and I appreciate everyone’s acknowledgement and support for HOTBIN,” Callaghan continues.
In a recent HOTBIN survey users suggest having the ability to hot compost food waste at home has a huge impact on a more sustainable future. 90% of users agreed that it was important to have the ability to compost cooked food waste; 61.5% of users are now adding all food waste to their HOTBIN and 72.9% are now diverting a lot or nearly everything from landfill.
And as one user said “The HOTBIN quickly converts waste into good stuff for the garden whilst taking me a step further towards the good life.”
From a standing start HOTBIN will have sold nearly 2000 units by year end and has been told on good authority (the biggest retailer of compost bins) that it could easily be the best selling specialty compost bin. It has already appeared on The Radio2 Simon Mayo show, the Alan Titchmarsh Show and was declared one of the best three composting bins by The Telegraph.
The HOTBIN is made from a robust insulated engineering material to help defy Newton’s law of cooling. The unique design makes hot composting manageable by the average family in their own back yard. As the HOTBIN truly reduces heat loss you can achieve temperatures between 40-60C allowing you to recycle all food waste alongside your garden waste all year round.
The HOTBIN can help millions of existing home composters to compost ALL food waste without the inherent problems of odour, vermin and flies. Traditionally only 40% of domestic food waste goes into the compost bin, the HOTBIN can increase that to 100%, reducing the amount sent to landfill.
Why choose to HOT compost
HOT composting means you can actually compost ALL food waste which is much harder to achieve in COLD composting bins.
Now we really do understand £185.00 is a lot for a household to pay for a HOTBIN. However when you look at the big picture there is certainly more than £185.00 worth of argument for people to support the ‘concept’ behind HOTBIN composting!
There is a staggering 7.5 million tonnes of food waste going to landfill every year. Based on the “Love Food Hate Waste” analysis, even if you already home compost, it is likely that you only compost about 40% of your food waste (i.e. kitchen peelings, tea bags). Most food waste has to be collected, transported and dumped in landfill. Going forward it will be collected (at the kerbside) in buckets and sent to anaerobic digestion plants. In the UK, we will need to build around 300 of these plants, one in each district! Each one will cost around £10-20 million to build and then we’ll still need to give every house a plastic caddy plus starch bags for the waste and load it on a lorry each week before it is reprocessed.
The HOTBIN can and does handle ALL domestic food waste.
We can compare the cost of handling food waste via a HOTBIN directly with what we all pay our councils to collect and dump and/or reprocess food waste. At present, the HOTBIN will breakeven with the alternatives in 2.5 years. If we can get support and move the production forward from thousands into tens of thousands then the price will eventually fall and this breakeven will be 1.5 years. Our breakeven estimate excludes the environmental cost of carbon emissions from transport fuel.
The HOTBIN was launched a year ago and as you will know most councils have no budget to give anything away in the current climate so unfortunately there are no more subsidies available to help home composting any more.
We have tried to compensate for this by having our ‘TWIN packs’, ideal for bigger gardens or those who want to share and save. For businesses or larger groups of friends there is the ‘QUAD pack’ and more recently we have launched the ‘Composting Dozen’, to help support local community groups who want to make a collective difference.
If you are interested to learn more about hot composting take a look at our extensive FAQ on www.hotbincomposting.com
How to start your HOTBIN in winter
Plus how to keep the HOTBIN hot in winter
From scientific angle, it is not that much harder to start the HOTBIN in winter than it is in summer.
From a practical standpoint it is harder because;
1) there is less garden waste around to create the minimum 40 cm base layer
2) In winter there is less ‘easy to consume’ waste (e.g. grass) and more ‘slow to consume’ waste (e.g. brown leaves)
How do new customers get going in Winter?
There are two options – which route you take depends on what waste you have available and to some extent on your willingness to actively seek out waste to ensure you have the right components. In the end not everyone wants this challenge. We have also noted a more laid back ‘patient’ approach.
Just be aware – we cannot change the laws of physics on heating and rates of cooling. If you do not have the quantity and type of mix to create heat, be patient you are going to have to wait until late spring.
The rule of thumb to getting started and getting the HOTBIN hot is: the more you add the easier it is, the more digestible the waste the faster heat is produced. If the temperature is below 10C (which it is most nights and days after September) you need to also ‘kick start’ the base layer in the HOTBIN with the winter heater (aka a hot water bottle!).
Fast – for those willing and able to search out enough waste
To get going you need a base layer – add lots of waste – at least 40cm (above hatch paneldoor) and more if available. Also ensure the mix has lots of easy to digest waste. As you are unlikely to have cut grass in winter – cheat as follows:
- Shredded office paper (or chopped up corrugated card) is easy for bacteria to digest. You need lots – think a 1-2 carrier bags full to start and several handfuls each week
- Add a handful of chicken pellet (poo) or blood bone meal from the garden centre each week. Buy big cheap buckets – and don’t worry – you are merely delaying the application of the fertiliser – all the nutrients will still be in your compost
- Add a few handsful of autumn leaves on alternative days – but not masses of cold leaves in one go. Leave time for the leaves to heat before adding more cold leaves. Drain rain water off from exceptionally wet leaves
- Add your kitchen peelings and food waste – but do ensure you also add shredded paper (or cardboard) and bulking agent too
Still not enough waste? Get creative…
- Seek out friends with allotments, larger families with waste, even your local grocer – and ask for waste
- Not enough shredded paper? Most offices produce sacks full of shredded office paper every day. Your company pays to dispose of this – ask for a sack full!
Once going you need to keep the heat up. This will require at least 5-10L of waste a week. It is even more essential in winter that your waste is not ‘too wet’. Always amend your mix with 30g (one large handful) of shredded office paper per one Kg of food waste. That is 2 handfuls of shredded paper per caddy. The easy way to do this is add the paper into the base of the caddy after each empty.
ALWAYS add bulking agent with food waste.
Using the ‘Kick Start’ bottle
Some people find this ‘amazing’ and they find they have a hot heap in 6-12 hours, others try it a few times, nothing seems to happen and give up. So here’s a little bit of background on how it works, and the essential thing to get it to work
The science behind the ‘heater’ is:
- Compost heat is a by product of bacterial activity (i.e. growth)
- More bacterial activity = more heat
- Bacteria do not grow much (or produce heat) below 5C and almost not at all at 0C
- When the waste is cold, only a tiny amount of heat is created by the bacteria and this is quickly lost. (Hence outdoor heaps stay cold/frozen in winter). The HOTBIN’s Insulated walls help retain heat, but there is still not enough heat to raise the temperature of the waste.
- Why add boiling water? 1 litre of boiling water contains 4200 J energy. The heat moves from the water into the cold waste and is retained within by the insulated walls for a few hours – the HOTBIN acts like a Thermos Flask!
- The waste heats up around bottle to 30-40C for an hour or so
- During this short period, bacterial activity increase 8-16 fold. More activity = more heat and the waste moves into a self sustaining increase in temperature
- There is enough heat to increase the waste temp – i.e. the HOTBON increases, rapidly towards 60C
The technique only works if there is enough easy to digest food waste.
I liken it to a human diet – if you eat a high fibre breakfast you get steady energy all day, but drink coke and sweets and you’ll be on sugar high for a hour! Since the heat from the bottle only last an hour or so, the bacteria need fast food during this hour.
If your bin is full of woody stuff that they find hard to digest, then no new heat is generated. The bottle works when bacteria have a diet of ‘fast food’ i.e. shredded white paper, food waste, cardboard, soft plant material (grass nettles, comfrey).
All the above might be a little too energetic for some users. Below is an alternative winter method.
Just be aware – we cannot change the laws of physics on heating and rates of cooling. If you do have the quantity and type of mix to create heat, be patient you are going to have to accept ‘warm’ rather than hot composting wait until late spring.
Patient winter method – for those unable to track down enough waste
Add waste ‘as it comes’ and let it build up over time. It won’t ‘take-off’ and get into the hot 40-60C range, more likely to move along at 10-30C. But this is still much better than a frozen open heap that is inactive. As with the fast method, the key in winter is to ensure your waste is not too wet – so add lots of shredded office paper and bulking agent.
Please note the Kick Starter Heater comes with the HOTBIN with all the extras. It is a 2-litre HDPE screw top container that can hold boiling water which you can pop into the top layer of the HOTBIN when it needs a winter boost.
Can I compost Horsetail (Mare’s Tail or Equisetum Arvense)?
Yes you can compost it. BUT!!
Problems will arise if the heap does not get above 40C – the seeds will survive cold composting and you will spread the seeds when the compost is used. A hot compost heap (40-60C) will kill the seeds.
However as this is such an invasive and tough weed, you need to check that the seeds/bits are only added to the top of a already hot pile, that they stay near the top (do not fork in or turn the pile/HOTBIN as seeds will fall down to cooler base). Finally, after hot composting, give your compost a ‘germination test’ – By this we mean leave the compost in an open maturation pile for a few months to check to ensure the Horsetail does not re-sprout. If it does, gently tease out all roots and rhizomes again and zap it through the hot compost again.
This may sound painstaking – but so will your efforts to remove it from soil in the first place. Are there any other options? Passing the waste on to your local authority to handle is not a great option. The seeds and bits can drop and disperse on roads and neighbours plots. If you are unsure, perhaps this is one case where it is better to burn the weeds (subject to local authority rules of course!).
- Horsetail or Mare’s Tail (Equisetum Arvense) is an invasive, deep-rooted perennial weed with fast-growing rhizomes (underground stems) that quickly send up dense stands of foliage that will spread quickly to form a dense carpet of foliage, crowding out less vigorous plants in beds and borders.
- Horsetail is easily recognised by its upright, fir tree-like shoots that appear in summer. In spring, fertile light brown stems, 20-50cm (10-20in) tall, appear with a cone-like spore producing structure at the end of the stems. In summer, sterile green shoots develop into fir tree-like plants, 60cm (2ft) tall.
- The creeping rhizomes of this pernicious plant may go down as deep as 2m (7ft) below the surface, making them hard to remove by digging out, especially if they invade a border. They often enter gardens by spreading underground from neighbouring properties or land.
You can also find more advice at: Garden Organic Website