Can You Compost Ragwort? A Gardener’s Guide

In the world of gardening and composting, there’s always a bit of a dance when it comes to what can and can’t be tossed into the compost pile. One common question that arises is whether you can compost ragwort, a plant that can be found in many gardens. In this article, we’ll explore the ins and outs of composting ragwort and provide you with some valuable insights.

What is Ragwort?

Before we delve into the composting aspect, let’s understand what ragwort is. Ragwort (Senecio jacobaea) is a biennial or perennial plant known for its bright yellow flowers and feathery leaves. While it may seem like an attractive addition to your garden, it has a reputation as a potentially toxic plant for livestock, particularly horses.

Can You Compost Ragwort?

Yes, you can compost ragwort, but with some important considerations. Composting ragwort requires a bit of finesse to ensure that the toxic compounds it contains are broken down properly. Here’s how to do it:

How to Compost Ragwort

  1. Proper Handling: When handling ragwort, it’s essential to wear gloves to protect your skin. Remove the plant from your garden, taking care to uproot it entirely, including the roots.
  2. Chop it Up: To facilitate the composting process, chop the ragwort into smaller pieces. Smaller fragments break down faster.
  3. Balance with Other Materials: Ragwort should not dominate your compost pile. Mix it with other green and brown materials. Green materials include kitchen scraps and fresh plant matter, while brown materials include dry leaves and cardboard.
  4. Monitor Temperature: Maintain a compost pile temperature between 120°F to 160°F (49°C to 71°C). This helps break down the toxins in ragwort.
  5. Regular Turning: Turn your compost pile regularly to aerate it. This promotes decomposition and helps ensure that the ragwort breaks down effectively.

How Long Does It Take to Compost Ragwort?

Composting time varies depending on several factors, including the size of the pile, the ratio of green to brown materials, and environmental conditions. Typically, it can take anywhere from 6 months to 2 years for ragwort to fully compost. Regularly monitor the compost’s progress, and when it resembles dark, crumbly soil, it’s ready for use in your garden.

Other Plants to Compost

When it comes to composting, a wide variety of plant materials can contribute to creating nutrient-rich soil for your garden. Here’s a list of some common plant materials that you can confidently add to your compost bin:

Plant MaterialBenefits for Compost
Grass ClippingsRich in nitrogen, help heat up the compost pile.
Fruit and Vegetable ScrapsAdd valuable nutrients and organic matter.
LeavesProvide carbon and improve compost structure.
Garden TrimmingsIncludes pruned branches and plant clippings.
Herbaceous PlantsAdd diversity and break down easily.
FlowersGreat for adding color and organic matter to compost.
HouseplantsPerfect for recycling old or overgrown indoor plants.
SeaweedRich in nutrients and can accelerate decomposition.
Wood AshProvides potassium and can help raise pH levels in compost.

These plant materials, when properly balanced with green and brown components in your compost pile, can transform into rich, dark compost that nourishes your garden and promotes healthy plant growth. Remember to turn your compost regularly and maintain the right moisture level to ensure efficient decomposition.

What Not to Include in Your Compost Bin

Composting is a fantastic way to reduce waste and create nutrient-rich soil for your garden. However, not everything should find its way into your compost bin. Here, we’ll explore what you should avoid composting and why.

1. Meat and Dairy Products

Why to Avoid:

Meat and dairy products can be problematic in a compost pile. They tend to decompose slowly and can attract unwanted pests like rats and raccoons. Moreover, the decomposition of these items can produce unpleasant odors, making your compost pile less enjoyable to work with.

2. Pet Waste

Why to Avoid:

Pet waste, such as cat litter or dog droppings, should steer clear of your compost pile. This waste can contain pathogens and parasites that may not break down effectively in a home composting system. The resulting compost might still harbor harmful microorganisms, making it unsuitable for use in vegetable gardens or areas where you grow edible plants.

3. Diseased Plants

Why to Avoid:

Diseased plant material can introduce plant pathogens into your compost. These pathogens may not be fully killed during the composting process, and using infected compost in your garden can lead to the spread of diseases to healthy plants. It’s best to dispose of diseased plant material separately or through other means.

4. Weeds with Seeds

Why to Avoid:

While many weeds can go into the compost pile, be cautious with those that have gone to seed. Composting these weeds might not destroy the seeds, and they could sprout in your garden when you use the finished compost. It’s better to place such weeds in a separate pile or dispose of them in a way that ensures their seeds won’t cause future problems.

5. Synthetic or Treated Materials

Why to Avoid:

Avoid composting materials that contain synthetic chemicals, such as treated wood, painted or stained materials, or items with synthetic glues. These chemicals can leach into your compost, potentially harming your plants or rendering the compost unsuitable for organic gardening.

6. Invasive Plants

Why to Avoid:

Invasive plants, if not properly handled, can regenerate from small fragments in your compost. Be cautious with invasive species like Japanese knotweed or creeping Charlie. It’s better to dispose of them in a way that prevents their spread.

By being mindful of what you exclude from your compost bin, you can ensure that your composting efforts are successful and result in high-quality, nutrient-rich compost that benefits your garden without any unintended consequences.


In conclusion, yes, you can compost ragwort, but it requires careful handling and proper mixing with other materials to ensure safe and effective decomposition. Composting is a valuable practice for any gardener, and with the right techniques, you can turn your garden waste into nutrient-rich soil that will benefit your plants for years to come. Happy composting!