15 Tips around the compost

Compost provides all important plant nutrients in ideal composition, improves the soil and keeps plants healthy. Making it takes little more time than it takes to get fertilizer and planting soil.

For a compost to rot through properly, you should turn it at least once. Dieke van Dieken shows you how to do that in this practical video
Credits: MSG/CreativeUnit/Camera+Editing: Fabian Heckle

  • 1. Create the composting area
  • 2. Three containers for optimal composition
  • 3. Compost waste: The main thing is to mix it up!
  • 4. Chop shrub cuttings beforehand
  • 5. Microorganisms in compost need nutrients
  • 6. Compost citrus peels
  • 7. Wild herbs harmonize the rotting process
  • 8. Bentonite for better soil structure
  • 9. Hardworking workers: fungi, compost worms& Co.
  • 10. Cover compost against wind and weather
  • 11. How to recognize ripe compost?
  • 12. Sift compost before sowing
  • 13. Spreading compost – when and how much?
  • 14. Where to put the sick plants?
  • 15. Making liquid fertilizer from compost
  • 1. Creating the compost heap
  • 2. Three bins for optimal composition
  • 3. Compost waste: The main thing is to mix it up!
  • 4. Chop shrub cuttings beforehand
  • 5. Microorganisms in compost need nutrients
  • 6. Composting citrus peels
  • 7. Wild herbs harmonize the rotting process
  • 8. Bentonite for a better soil structure
  • 9. Hard-working workers: fungi, compost worms& Co.
  • 10. Cover compost against wind and weather
  • 11. How to recognize mature compost?
  • 12. Sifting compost before sowing
  • 13. Spreading compost – when and how much?
  • 14. Where to put the diseased plants?
  • 15. Make liquid fertilizer from compost

With compost, the "black gold of the gardener, you can significantly increase the yields of your kitchen garden. The compost not only provides nutrients, but also improves the soil structure. We have compiled 15 tips on composting for you.

1. Creating the compost heap

If you want to create a new compost, you should choose the place carefully. It is best to place them under a larger tree, because the waste does not dry out as easily in the cool, moist shade of the trees as it does in the blazing sun. Aeration is mainly a question of the right container: most models have wide air slits in the side walls, through which the carbon dioxide produced during the rotting process can escape and fresh oxygen can enter. Do not place the composter on a paved area – even if this is the supposedly "cleanest" place solution seems to be. Soil contact is important so that excess moisture can seep away and earthworms and other "composting helpers" can grow can penetrate.

2. Three containers for optimal composition

Professionals swear by the three-chamber principle: waste is collected in the first, the first rotting phase takes place in the second, and it decomposes completely in the third container. Once the finished compost is consumed, the contents of the second container is transferred to the third. The waste from the first chamber is then used to build up a new pile in the second chamber. Commercially available composters made of wood or galvanized metal usually have a capacity of one cubic meter. Even homemade containers should not be larger, so that the ventilation inside the pile is guaranteed.

In a composting area consisting of three chambers, the material can be easily rearranged

3. Compost waste: The main thing is to mix it up!

Prunings, crop residues, autumn leaves, uncooked vegetable kitchen waste: The list of ingredients is long – and the more varied the mixture, the more harmonious the rotting process will be. Garden waste varies in structure and content: shrub cuttings, for example, are loose, dry and low in nitrogen, while lawn cuttings are very dense, moist and high in nitrogen. To ensure that everything rots evenly, it is important to alternate waste with contrasting properties in thin layers or to mix them together immediately: Wet with dry, dense with loose, and low nitrogen with high nitrogen.

This is not easy to do in practice, because suitable waste is seldom in the garden at the same time. One option is to store chipped shrubbery next to the compost and then gradually mix it in with the resulting lawn clippings. But may everything on the compost, which accumulates in the garden of wastes? Seed-forming weeds can also be composted – provided they are weeded before they flower! Let stoloniferous species such as couch grass or creeping buttercup dry out on the bed after pulling them out or, even better, process them together with nettles or comfrey to make plant slurry.

Variety in the compost ensures rapid decomposition

4. Chop shrub cuttings beforehand

Branches and twigs decompose fastest if they are shredded with a garden shredder before being composted. However, few hobby gardeners know that the design of the shredder also determines how quickly the wood decomposes. So-called quiet shredders, such as the Viking GE 135 L, have a slowly rotating cutting drum. It presses the branches against a pressure plate, squeezing off small pieces and, unlike the classic knife shredder, also breaks up the fibers in the process. The microorganisms in the compost can therefore penetrate particularly deeply into the wood and decompose it in a short period of time.

Video: Garden shredders in test

The garden shredder is an important tool for amateur gardeners. In our video we test nine different devices for you.

We have tested different garden shredders. Here you can see the result.
Credit: Manfred Eckermeier / Editing: Alexander Buggisch

5. Microorganisms in compost need nutrients

Leaves, wood and shrubbery residues consist to a large extent of carbon (C) and contain hardly any nitrogen (N) – the expert refers to this as a "wide C-N ratio". Nitrogen is needed by almost all bacteria and protozoa to reproduce. As a result, such waste is slow to decompose in the compost. If you want to speed up the rotting process, you have to promote the activity of the microorganisms with a compost accelerator. It is simply sprinkled on the waste and, in addition to guano, horn meal and other organic fertilizers, often contains algae lime and rock meal, depending on the manufacturer.

6. Composting citrus peels

Untreated peels of lemons, oranges, tangerines or bananas can be composted without hesitation, but because of the natural essential oils they contain, they rot more slowly than apple or pear peels. Fruit treated with chemical fungicides (diphenyl, orthophenylphenol and thiabendazole) can disrupt the activity of composting organisms, especially the red compost worm, which takes flight. In smaller quantities, however, they are of little concern and also leave no detectable residues.

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