Since time immemorial, the planet has been colonized by plants. Even the Antarctic continent that is almost all ice and snow, has a portion that is inhabited by plants. The major plant types found on earth include trees, shrubs, and of course flowers. Oh, what is the world without flowers?
Flowers are romantic, beautiful, agents of rituals, religion, medicine and a source of food, especially for bees. Imagine it is February 14th and your spouse has given you some flowers, lovely, right? Oh, and also, Happy Valentine. What will you do when that flower starts to wither and die? Throw it away? Maybe, but could there be another use? This article looks into flowers and introduces the concept of composting flowers.
Can You Put Flowers in Compost?
Undoubtedly, yes! You can compost flowers. Most flowers and their plant parts are good compost ingredients. Composting allows organic materials to decompose in a controlled setting and is a natural and beneficial process.
The process sees organic soil enrichment through the combination of greens, such as newly cut flowers, other fresh yard waste and kitchen scraps, and browns, including dried flowers and dried leaves. Fresh flowers should be considered green compost material, while dried flowers should be considered brown compost material.
Both garden flowers and cut, commercial flowers are beneficial in compost. When adding flowers given as a gift to compost, make sure you separate the ribbons and wires from the flowers, as these should not be thrown into the compost pile. You can also opt to or not to shred them into smaller pieces, which ensures the decomposition process is quicker
However, there are some kinds of floral waste to avoid, because they are difficult to decompose or include compounds that may add poisonous residues to the soil.
First things first, never compost anything that could be diseased. As such, do not compost diseased flowers. They might pass on the disease through the composting process to your garden and other crops, including other flowers.
Secondly, do not add thorny rose stems, bulbs, any flowers that have been treated with toxic herbicides and certain poisonous plants to your compost. The overall reason is that they can slow down the decomposition process, with the thorny stems as well as bulbs, corms and tubers taking up to two years to rot.
Also, for the flowers sprayed with herbicides, the problem is that they may pass the product to other crops, making it deadly for them and even for the humans who consume such foods.
Thirdly, be very wary about commercial flowers as they are exposed to feeds, like the ones that come in little packets with bouquets. These feeds often include a biocide used to kill bacteria while at the same time protecting the flowers. Unfortunately, the same might also harm the useful bacteria in your compost heap.
On the other hand, basic homemade feeds or preservatives such as sugar or lemonade are fine to go into the compost heap. What’s more, is that even the vase water from cut flowers can also be added to the compost heap. Just ensure the flowers did not have too much (commercial) feeds or preservatives.
Can You Compost Dead Flowers?
Without question, you can and should compost dead flowers. As mentioned above, fresh flowers are considered green compost material, while dried flowers are considered brown compost material.
Some might argue that dead flowers are ‘green’ in the compost mix, which is not necessarily wrong. Even when they dry out, there is still a ‘green’ element in there because they are not completely dead. This makes dead flowers a generally balanced mix.
This means that if you had a compost heap, pile, or bin full of nothing but dead flowers, they would rot down into compost by themselves. Dead flowers are organic, in the true sense of the word and anything organic will rot down into compost.
A compost heap, pile or bin, will take dead flowers and turn them into compost. You can also opt to shred them into smaller pieces, ensuring they decompose much more quickly, although it is not a requirement.
When adding dead flowers into the mix, consider also adding water and hydrated white lime. The former is only necessary if you have loaded in a large number of dead flowers and they are particularly dry. The latter is a deacidification agent which is used to neutralize the acids that will be generated when the compost is forming.
General garden clippings and trimmings can rot down without the need for white lime. However, it might take a while longer because of the acidity levels brought in by the flowers. Hydrated white lime is of most use when making compost from ‘green’ kitchen waste. Regardless, dead flowers will rot inside the compost bin, just like vegetables would.
Can You Compost Dry Leaves?
Dry and dead leaves can and should be composted. A single dry leaf contains minuscule amounts of the nutrients that plants need to grow. However, when combined in large quantities along with green plant material, dry leaf compost can be very valuable. Dried leaves are rich in carbon, which is an essential ingredient in composting.
They are considered “brown” composting material, along with tree branches, twigs and even paper. For a quick decomposition process, gather your dry leaves for composting and break them down into smaller pieces, using a shredder, lawnmower or a chipper.
The composting process also requires some ‘green’ material, which introduces nitrogen to the mix. Therefore when composting dry leaves, add some freshly cut grass, leaves or even flowers. Then hydrate, aerate and regularly turn the mix for some days.
Dry leaves not only contribute carbon to the composting process but their texture also helps to keep the compost pile aerated, which is key because the microorganisms that decompose organic matter need oxygen to perform their biological functions.
Dry leaves are also required in large numbers as the carbon to nitrogen ratio should be about 30 parts carbon or dry matter for each part nitrogen by weight.
Can You Put Dead Plants in Compost?
Yes, you can put dead plants in compost. However, take care before doing so, as you might end up shooting yourself in the foot if you do not take the necessary precautions. Dead plants such as dead flowers and leaves are an excellent source of carbon in the composting pile. Therefore, in general, they should be composted.
However, take precautions. First, only do so if the dead plants were healthy. If they were diseases, dispose them of in other ways, like burning or trashing them, but do not compost them. This is because they might pass the disease through the compost to the plants in the garden, or re-infect your garden with the same disease the next time you plant.
Secondly, ensure you completely understand your dead crops. This is because some harbour nasty insects and diseases and when you compost them directly, the pests might survive the compost and be transferred back to the garden.
Thirdly, understand your vegetable debris. Some dead plants like vegetable debris can be very coarse or woody, making them hard to decompose. Finally, for each dead plant you add to the composting bin, remember that it is brown, dead and dry. Therefore, you will have to add some source of nitrogen as well as additional water.
Can You Compost Tulips?
Yes, you can compost tulips, but it might be a little tricky. The tulip species multiplies and forms clumps that grow bigger each year. This means if you uproot the tulips, most likely they will grow again. It also means that if you threw them inside the composting bin, especially together with the bulb, they will not decompose, but rather continue growing.
This is a general assumption but does not mean that there are exceptions. If you compost the flowers, leaves and stems alone, they will most likely decompose. However, if the bulb is still there, it might bloom inside the composting bin, or on the garden when applied as compost
Can You Compost Lilies?
Also, like with tulips, you can compost lilies. The problem also comes in if they have the bulbs, as this makes it harder to compost them. If the bulb or roots are small enough, it is possible to completely kill them in the heat generated inside the composting bin.
However, if they are slightly bigger, they will most likely continue to bloom either inside the composting bin or when applied to the garden. If it is just the stem, leaves and flower, they can decompose with ease, even if they are not cut up.
How to Make Compost From Flowers?
1. Get your flowers first
Pinch the spent blossoms from your flowering plants. Separate the petals and toss them in an outdoor compost heap contained in a covered bin or pit in the ground. The flowers could be dead, providing the carbon to the mix, or fresh or a bit spent, providing the nitrogen required.
2. Cut them
You should also cut the flower stems and leaves into bits before adding them to the compost. Cutting them ensures they decompose more quickly, hastening the entire process in general. It also ensures you can place enough materials in the compost bin. Additionally, you will be able to turn it with a bit of ease
3. Organize them in the composting heap
You should organize them in sandwich-like layers. Try and alternate sections of green materials with layers of brown materials. The brown material could include dried flowers, dried leaves, or shredded paper and of course, the green material includes the freshly cut flowers.
4. Water the layers
Do not forget to water between the sandwich-like layers. However, do not drench the heap in water as it could slow down the process
5. Remember to turn
Do not forget to turn in the compost about once a week. This aerates the compost and also encourages the growth of heat-loving bacteria that help decompose the flowers. It also ensures every part of the waste decomposes as it should
6. Incorporate it in the soil
This is the final stage where you get to use your ready compost in your garden. After adding it to the soil, cover it with up to 4 inches of soil and till it into at least the upper 6 inches of soil. This readies the soil days or weeks before planting.
You can also add the compost to the soil in vegetable gardens, annual flower beds and around new perennials as they are planted. you can also use the compost as mulch around trees, vegetables, shrubs or flowers in landscape beds. Just apply a 3-inch layer and be careful not to apply the much too close to the main stem or trunk of the plant.