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Compost - natural fertilizer for your garden
Compost - natural fertilizer for your garden

Video: Compost - natural fertilizer for your garden

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With a compost of leaves, grass clippings and brushwood, you not only get a healthy fertilizer for your garden, but also relieve landfills of organic matter. Unfortunately, persistent prejudices against composting persist, as do bad habits when dealing with the compost heap. We show you what you need to consider when composting.

Composting is not only the collection of garden and kitchen waste, but also the correct mixing and targeted rotting. As a result, bacteria, worms and fungi convert organic substances such as kitchen or garden waste into soil. In nature, this normally works automatically as an uninterrupted cycle: a leaf falls from the tree, rots on the ground and is converted into nutrients. These in turn enable the tree to form new leaves. This cycle is disturbed in the home garden because we plant our garden more intensively than nature would allow it to grow and because we specifically remove plants by harvesting. Composting returns nutrients to your garden.

What is allowed in the compost?

Those who indiscriminately compost everything organic often do more harm than good. Especially with small compost heaps, which do not necessarily reach high temperatures during rotting, one should limit oneself to healthy starting material. Otherwise, you cannot rely on the killing effects of the hot rots - this is the phase in which the compost warms up to 70 degrees Celsius. Seed-bearing weeds or the roots of quills or sweet peas therefore belong in the municipal composting plant. The same applies to parts of plants that are infected by pests or plant diseases. However, mold is contained in every compost heap during the decomposition process.

Gartenabfälle als Kompost
Gartenabfälle als Kompost

Lawn or hedge trimmings, leaves, petals and branches are ideal as compost.

Photo: pixelio / RainerSturm

Lawn or hedge trimmings (the latter chopped), leaves, petals and branches are ideal as compost. For example, one cubic meter of Lauberde contains more humus than 12 bales of peat. Another important component of the compost is kitchen waste, especially the residues of local fruit or vegetables. Exotics sometimes bring a lot of crop protection and preservatives with them. However, if untreated tropical fruit waste arises, it can also be composted. Recent studies show that even citrus fruits rot well - they were long considered non-compostable.

Eggshells loosen up and bring lime, and coffee grounds are also a popular nutrient for compost worms. Of course, tea leaves and tea bags are also suitable, as are unprinted cellulose towels or compostable sponge towels. If the compost gets too wet, you can compost paper waste from time to time. Small amounts of wood ash are also suitable. However, it is actually too valuable for composting, because it works extremely well against snails. Well-stored manure is also an asset to any compost.

However, the material as a whole must not be too big and strong - wood logs, leather or bones are organic material, but they take a very long time to rot. Caution should also be taken with cooked dishes. Because they bring a lot of moisture with them, compress very much and also attract rats and other uninvited guests.

Ideally, two compost containers

It makes sense to schedule two compost heaps - one in progress and one that has rotted or finished compost ready. In small gardens, it is definitely better to set up two small containers than one large one.

Compost heaps vary in size depending on the need. The largest model is the so-called rent. This means a compost heap up to two meters wide and of any length, which is usually piled up in a trapezoidal shape. The exact opposite of this is all-round closed compost containers. You can get these in the hardware store made of plastic, wood or recycled plastic. Make sure that they do not contain any toxic substances.

With these modern boxes you can even make your own compost on the balcony. A common model for the home garden is the wooden compost bin. You can make it yourself relatively easily or buy it commercially as a kit. It is important that only non-toxic substances are used to protect the wood and that the construction allows an adequate air supply.

If you are serious about composting, you can frame the composting area with stone or concrete. A wire frame as a support for the compost is less complex. For this purpose, a stable wire mesh is set up and fixed in a barrel shape. These frames are easy to load and can also be covered or protected with cardboard to protect them from drying out. Before purchasing, it is worth calling the responsible municipal or city administration, because more and more municipalities subsidize private composting.

Kompostbehälter
Kompostbehälter

Compost containers come in different sizes and shapes, depending on your needs.

Photo: pixelio / Erika Hartmann

The right place to compost

The composting site should neither be in the blazing sun nor in total shade. Because on the one hand it must not dry out, on the other hand constant wetting is also not beneficial. A properly laid out and well-kept compost heap shouldn't be a problem. But before you put your compost on the property line, you should talk to your neighbor. Perhaps you can dare to experiment with a shared composting site. In normal cases, however, a sufficient distance from the neighbor is advisable as a preventative measure.

Composting - Here's how

Unfortunately, it is not enough to simply pile up the garden and kitchen waste on top of one another, depending on the amount. In order for the waste to rot, it must be mixed in a reasonable mix. This way the compost is sufficiently aerated and neither too wet nor too dry.

Start "putting up" the compost by loosening the soil at a depth of about a spade. First a hand-width of roughly shredded, about five to ten centimeters long branches comes to earth. In this way, air is also supplied to the compost heap from below. The resulting substances are now piled up and mixed well from time to time. If you notice that the compost is getting too dry, you can moisten it gently with rainwater and possibly cover it or protect it from the wind. Compost that is too wet needs more chop material or straw. Rain protection may also be necessary. Lawn clippings should be wilted best and always mixed with other material so that it does not form a compacted layer.

When the compost is put on, the so-called hot rotting begins at the core. In this phase, the innermost point is up to 70 degrees Celsius. To ensure that the outer layers also rot well, the entire pile should be moved twice at intervals of around three months. After about nine months, the rotting should be complete and the compost should be ready. A simple test helps to make sure that it can be used. To do this, fill a thin layer of compost into a flat freshness container with a transparent lid (if necessary, transparent film is also possible). Fast-germinating seeds (cress, radishes, alfalfa) are sown on the pressed and slightly watered layer. After a few days, most of the seeds should show strong cotyledons. Then you can use the compost.

When the compost heap stinks

Many people think that stink is part of composting - that's not true. The material is said to rot in the compost with the help of oxygen. This process mainly releases odorless carbon dioxide. If the oxygen is missing because the ventilation slots are too narrow or the material is too wet or compressed, it will start to rot or ferment. You can add oxygen to your compost by repeatedly poking holes in the pile with a stick or by thoroughly mixing it with dry structural material such as straw or chopped material. Covering the rotting material with finished compost, soil or bark mulch also dampens the smell. If the compost heap is in the rain, it must be protected against moisture with a tarpaulin.

How to avoid vermin in the compost

In addition to the feared odor nuisance, vermin are the second plague that makes people shy away from the compost heap. The same applies here: if you exercise some care, you shouldn't have any problems. Rats, mice and flies are attracted to leftovers. If you still want to compost it, it is best to always cover it carefully with soil or other material. Mice also like to nest in the compost. On the other hand, frequent repositioning, small ventilation openings or knocking out the container with a tight wire mesh help.

A compost heap also attracts snails. On the one hand, good, because they shred the waste and thus accelerate the rotting. But when the snails are done with the compost, they turn to the beds - and then the friendship ends. However, the compost also acts as a snail trap: they meet there at dusk and are then easy to catch. If you want to destroy the snail eggs, you first have to find the eggs, which are usually in cracks in the ground or under stones and boards and also in the compost. Once found, they can be exposed to the birds and the sun. It is more effective to reapply the compost in autumn and to undercut fresh grass clippings. The compost heats up again due to the fresh material and the eggs are killed.

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