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Help, I have roots in my compost

Saint Louis, MO(Zone 6a)

I started composting last year with a Soil Saver Compost bin. I am a newbie to trying to use a bin. It is very difficult to try to turn the compost in this bin (I just read that it is easier to pick up the bin and move it to turn the compost). This spring, I had beautiful compost except it had a lot of roots in it. I went ahead and used it on my vegetable garden and it was a garden was so full of grass I could not possibly pull it out or keep up with it. It turned out to be a weed and grass garden! I won't do that again! It is better to buy the compost I need, if that is the result!

I just started shoveling the compost and the bin is full of roots again. I shoveled it out and there are a lot of roots coming in from the bottom.

Is there a way that I can use my compost, or do I need to throw it out? How can I prevent this from happening?

Murfreesboro, TN(Zone 7a)

I don't know how well this will work, but here's some ideas

* Put several layers of newspaper on the ground or overlapping cardboard before and set your composter on it
* Run a "hot" compost pile instead of a "cold" one
* Spread pulled weeds and grass on newspaper to dry before adding to compost pile
* Don't put in weeds or grass that has seeds on them
* "Sanitize" compost by putting a layer on newspaper, dampening, cover with clear plastic and let "cook" for a week (maybe more?) to help kill grass and also seeds. I don't know if this will kill all the seeds, but it should help.

Good luck. Haven't had this particular issue, but we had a lot of grass and weeds this year due to unusually cool weather, so the compost that is cooking now may very well bring lots of weeds to my garden next year. Hope this helps.


Saint Louis, MO(Zone 6a)

Thanks Kmom, I will try your suggestions, especially how to "sterilize" the compost before using it. I cleaned the bin out and got down to the bottom. It looks like a nearby silver maple tree is my problem. The roots were coming up from the ground. Now that I think about it the grass probably came from grass my DH threw in last year. I can live with the tomato and squash that came up, but not the grass. I do need to try to get the compost hotter. It decomposes but I have never noticed any heat in it. It is possible if it was hotter, the roots wouldn't survive. I put a rubber backed mat and several layers of cardboard down under the bin.

Murfreesboro, TN(Zone 7a)

If the roots are tree roots, then it probably won't hurt your compost (although it may not be great for the tree). Somehow I thought the roots were grass roots. I think now that the fact that you cold compost has more to do with having weeds and grass than anything else.

Maybe someone else will chime in and give you some clues. (I add droppings from my chickens when I want to heat things up. I read that other people put in grass clippings, add manure tea or alfalfa tea to heat things up.) Crossing my fingers for you.

North Ridgeville, OH(Zone 5b)

Have you considered putting an old window screen down first? It might keep the tree roots out, while allowing soil life to move back & forth.


An old window screen is metal and will rust in short order. If this sounds like a good idea use modern synthetic screening. It will last for many years of use.

Murfreesboro, TN(Zone 7a)

I can tell you that at least pecan tree roots will grow through the metal screens. :-(

Anne Arundel,, MD(Zone 7b)

I am afraid, very afraid, that maple roots will go right thru screen too. I like the newspaper idea better. THick newspaper or solid cardboard sheet, the roots will run elsewhere a while.
Please don't sterilize your compost. You want the good organisms. Don't throw grass clippings in if you think they're full of weed or crabgrass seed.
The compost only caused the grass if you got lot of grass seed in their some way, or its a grass with underground runners (common here), or you added grass that you had weeded out roots and all that may have lived and sprouted.

By the way, turning the soil for the garden in itself would stir up a lot of seeds


Those barrels are nearly all limited to anaerobic conversions which do not kill weed seeds. In fact they rarely heat up because their very size and design are less than a third the size of suggested compost piles that do heat up when properly built.

I have one so called compost barrels and have worked with it to try and create conversion levels of heat. The hottest I have ever achieved is about a hundred degrees. To get that temperature I was pouring in blood and fish meal which to me makes no sense. I consider my barrel an anaerobic convenience just outside the kitchen door. I have added to it now for four years just using kitchen scraps and a light sifting of garden soil. It might be two thirds full with the top third of it still slowly converting. I am really sure the bottom two thirds is good anaerobic compost.

At my service are the contents of EM 1 used when I rebuild the top third a couple times each summer. The noteworthy contents are: 1% Lactobacillus plantarum, Lactobacillus casei, Lactobacillus fermentum, Lactobacillus delbrueckii, Bacillus subtilis, Saccbaromyces cerevisiae and Rhodopseudomonas palustris. These are the discovery of Dr. Teruo Higa's Original Effective Microorganisms. With a touch of molasses to feed them this enables the barrels to break down faster.....still anaerobically but a bit faster and more efficiently. Now go hence forth and educate yourselves a bit by using Google and reading up on this discovery of Dr. Higa. The Japanese are light years ahead of us using organic principles. This is one they use a lot. I do not know but am willing to bet the Aussies are doing this too.
You can become a Road's Scholar. None of the above "big words" are in my dictionary either. I did not add them because I may never use them again. LOL

Morrisville, PA(Zone 6b)

Gee Doc .... nothing like Keeping It Simple Silly.

Perhaps when I am bored and not so tired I will look up that info.


Everett, WA(Zone 8a)

This may not solve the grass-in-compst problem, but it might reduce it. Add a step after the compost looks finished.

Spread the compost a few inches thick (probably over newspaper to prevent new weeds from getting into it).
Water it. Wait for as many weeds as possible to sprout.
Rake them out, taking their roots too, dry them well in the sun, then throw them back into your next batch of compost.

Maybe stir up the "finished" compost and try sprouting it again. Try to get as many weed seeds to sprout as possible, before you use it. If weeds or grass keep coming from your compost, don't put it in your garden.

If these are coming from roots, not seeds, e.g. crabgrass or horsetail roots, maybe nothing will help.


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