A composting bin

Can I put herb stems in my compost bin?


You can put herb stems into your composting bin!

Key info
Brown material📂
2-4 months

Get the right balance of brown and green composting materials in your bin with our expert guide.

Composting Herb Stems: Turning Garden Waste into Black Gold

Identifying Compostable Herb Stems and Scraps

When composting herb garden waste, we focus on selecting scraps that are rich in nitrogen and moisture. Soft herb scraps, such as parsley and cilantro leaves, chives and their flowers, fennel fronds and spoiled bulbs, and basil stems and wilted leaves, are excellent candidates for composting. Semi-woody herb waste, including rosemary, thyme, and marjoram stems, sage and lavender stalks, and lemon verbena and scented geranium branches, can also be composted. Kitchen vegetable and fruit cuttings provide additional nitrogen to the compost pile. For more information on the ideal green-brown mix for your compost, consider checking out our Master the Green-brown mix ebook.

Setting Up a Convenient Composting System

To make composting herb stems and scraps as easy as possible, we recommend locating your compost system near your herb garden or potted herbs. Some gardeners allocate a corner of their ornamental beds for collecting scraps, while others use lidded composting bins positioned close to their herbs. When choosing a location, prioritize convenience and discretion over aesthetic appeal, as functionality is key to efficiently producing high-quality compost.

Preparing Herb Waste for Efficient Decomposition

Proper preparation of herb waste significantly speeds up the decomposition process. To ensure rapid rotting, we follow these essential steps when adding herb garden waste to our compost:

  1. Chop/Shred: Mince or shred twiggy stalks, thicker branches, and lignified stems to increase surface area and promote faster decomposition. A compost shredder can make this process more efficient.
  2. Mix Greens & Browns: Blend nitrogen-rich green matter, such as fresh herb stems and leaves, with high-carbon browns, like dry leaves or shredded paper, to maintain a balanced compost pile.
  3. Mind Moisture: Prevent the compost pile from becoming too soggy, as excess moisture can lead to anaerobic rotting and unpleasant odors. A moisture meter can help you monitor the moisture levels in your compost.
  4. Turn Periodically: Regularly aerate the compost pile by turning it, which introduces needed oxygen and helps prevent foul smells.

By carefully preparing and monitoring our herb waste, we ensure that it breaks down quickly into usable compost.

Utilizing Mature Herb Compost in Your Garden

Once our herb stem compost has fully matured, we can use it as a versatile soil amendment throughout our gardens. Some of the ways we incorporate herb compost include:

  • Potting Mix Component: Amend seed starter mixes and potting media with herb compost to improve soil structure and fertility.
  • Ornamental Topper: Use herb compost as a mulch for flower beds without the risk of burning delicate plants.
  • Edibles Booster: Side dress vegetables, fruits, and herbs with herb compost to provide a nutrient boost during the growing season.
  • Soil Conditioner: Incorporate herb compost into native soil when planting to improve overall soil health and structure. The Environmental Protection Agency provides helpful information on the benefits of composting for soil health.
  • Acidifier: Lower the pH of growing media for acid-loving plants, such as azaleas and blueberries, by adding herb compost.

By composting our herb stems and other garden waste, we can close the loop on waste recycling and create a valuable resource that nurtures new growth in our gardens.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I compost all types of herb stems?

Yes, most herb stems can be composted. Soft stems, like those from basil and cilantro, break down quickly, while semi-woody stems, such as rosemary and thyme, may take longer to decompose but still make excellent additions to your compost pile.

Do I need to chop or shred herb stems before composting?

Chopping or shredding herb stems, especially thicker or woodier ones, can help speed up the decomposition process by increasing the surface area exposed to microorganisms. However, it's not strictly necessary for softer stems.

How long does it take for herb stems to break down in compost?

The time it takes for herb stems to decompose in compost varies depending on factors such as the type of stem, the size of the pieces, and the overall conditions of the compost pile. Softer stems may break down within a few weeks, while woodier stems can take several months.

Can I compost herb stems with other garden waste?

Yes, herb stems can be composted along with other garden waste, such as vegetable scraps, fruit peels, and grass clippings. Aim for a mix of green (nitrogen-rich) and brown (carbon-rich) materials to create a balanced compost pile.

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