The simple answer is ‘yes’, though it is ultimately dependent upon the size of what you have removed.
While pretty much anything trimmed from, say, a privet hedge or laurel can go straight for composting, thicker, woodier stems and branches are not really suitable even for a well organised and managed domestic-scale compost heap…
Small Clippings (Up to 1cm in diameter)
The general rule is that anything with a diameter 1cm or less can be added directly to your compost bin or heap, though if you have a fully-functioning composting system with plenty of other organic matter, it should be able to cope with clippings up to 1.5cm.
Larger Clippings (1cm – 4cm in diameter)
Larger stems, twigs, and branches up to 4cm in diameter can still be composted but should not be added immediately to the compost heap or bin. Instead, it is better do one of the following:
- If you have space, stockpile the clippings and allow them to rot before being added to your main compost. This will take at least a full year but while you are waiting, local wildlife will be most grateful for the haven you have provided. Woody material that has been on its own for at least a year and has become friable makes an excellent soil improver.
- Snip them into short lengths and used as an alternative to a woodchip mulch
- Pass through a ‘domestic’ shredder and use as a mulch or add to your main compost. Shredded material is rich in carbon but low in nitrogen and therefore needs to be mixed with nitrogen-rich material (grass cuttings are ideal) to speed up the composting process
Large Clippings (4cm + in diameter)
Either create a wildlife friendly log pile or hire a more powerful ‘professional’ shredder capable of handling thicker branches – if there is sufficient quantity to justify the expense. Follow the same guidelines for mulching and composting as above.
Please note that anything cut or clipped from a conifer will release tannins which can harm other plants. They should therefore be stacked on their own and allowed to compost for at least three months before being used anywhere in the garden.
Seasoned branches and woody stems can be used on open fires and wood burning stoves and, if all else fails, check your Local Authority’s web site and see what facilities they have for the disposal of green waste. Many will even collect for a small charge. A local garden contractor may well offer a similar service. Avoid bonfires, though, as a means of disposal.
Rotting wood (especially if it has bark) will often be colonised by fungi of various kinds. Don’t worry as these are harmless saprophytic fungi doing nothing more than their job of breaking down organic matter.