A compost heap in the garden is simply practical. It offers tons of advantages:
Organic waste from the garden and household can be disposed of at lightning speed.
Household waste is reduced.
You get the organic fertilizer free.
And by the way, birds find numerous small insects there. With kitchen and garden waste, you can easily produce compost yourself, because it is decomposed by microorganisms such as bacteria, fungi, microbes, earthworms and snails and converted into valuable fertilizer at no cost. Compost not only provides plants with many nutrients (especially phosphorus and potassium), it also improves soil structure. If soil is enriched with compost for years, it is loose and can store nutrients and water extremely well. It was only in the middle of the 19th Century, the term compost, which comes from French, gradually found its way into garden literature. That organic substance will rot over time and become valuable humus was unquestionably long in advance.
The right location
The best place is a partially shaded, sheltered place where the compost is protected from extreme weather. In order not to disturb the look of the garden, it is ideal if the compost heap is hidden behind a hedge or a garden house and is still easy to reach. The subsoil must never be sealed with plates. Otherwise, the useful animals from the subsoil cannot migrate into the pile. It is best to loosen the subsurface a little beforehand. The microorganisms dry up quickly in the blazing sun and work too slowly in wet and cold corners. If the summer is very dry, you should occasionally water the compost with water from the rain barrel. In return, dry material is mixed in if there is too much moisture.
And what to do with the waste?
Composters are available in different versions: made of wood, metal grids and plastic. No matter what material, bought or built yourself, always plan an area of at least 1 x 2 meters. Overall, a compost heap should not be taller than two meters and should ideally be half a meter away from the neighboring garden. Thermocomposters made of plastic, which you can buy ready-made in the garden centre, often have a practical removal flap for the finished compost; also, the rotting process is the fastest in them. However, such composters are prone to putrefaction due to lack of good ventilation, and especially if a lot of kitchen waste is poured in. The classic is the wooden compost heap. Models with a removable sidewall are particularly practical because it will be easier to get the finished compost later. A wooden composter ensures good ventilation, is easy to put on, and the otherwise loosely heaped pile is visually enhanced. You need two containers: one for the rotting process and a second one in which the fresh materials are filled.
It’s the mix that matters.
The secret of the perfect compost heap is the right layering and mixing of the waste. Therefore, it is important to know first what can and should not be thrown up. Kitchen waste such as eggshells, nutshells, fruit and vegetable waste, coffee grounds or tea bags are allowed on the compost. Be sure to remove the small metal clip from the tea bags! Garden waste such as leaves, straw, moss, manure, hedges, shrubs and grass clippings as well as chopped branches can also be disposed of safely on the compost. No matter what you throw on the compost, it should be well chopped up so the conversion can be done faster. Kitchen waste is best shredded in the kitchen. Of course, you can also compost weeds, but you should make sure that it does not carry any seeds.
And what shouldn’t be on it? Parts of diseased plants remains of fish or dairy products, as well as citrus peel and other chemically treated fruit peels, have lost nothing on the compost. Old bread and leftovers attract rats and mice. Thick branches, lacquered wood, vacuum cleaner bags, street dirt, textiles and any metal, plastic or glass are not compostable.
Make sure you fill-up dry and moist garden waste alternately and also mix coarse and fine waste. This way, enough oxygen gets into the compost; this prevents the pile from starting to rot. The proportion of nitrogen-rich (kitchen and garden waste) and carbon-rich waste (cutting and straw) should be balanced.
Step by step – on the “Black Gold” mission.
First, lay an approximately 20 cm high layer of shredded branches and twigs (e.g. from autumn tree pruning or hedge trimming) on the floor. Any moisture can escape downwards. To stimulate the rotting process, a layer of already decomposed compost from last year is always suitable. If you do not have decomposed compost, you can also use grass clippings or old leaves. You can cover this location with well-shredded garden or kitchen waste. Then there is another layer of grass clippings and so on. It is important that the layering of alternating materials is always loose – so nothing can rot. If the container is full, it should be covered with garden soil, for example, because the compost needs two things: Heat and oxygen – this is how the rotting process can proceed ideally. It is best always to manage two containers alternately. So there is always someone with fresh soil. After about four months, you have the first raw compost, which already contains many nutrients. You can already use it or implement it again and let it mature further. Regular repositioning ensures better ventilation and a temperature balance between the cooler outside and the warmer inside.
And what happened?
The compost is ready when the earth can crumble and has turned a dark brown colour. It also smells pleasantly of earth. Depending on the weather and stratification, this is the case after about six to twelve months. During this time, small animals such as worms and microorganisms (e.g. fungi and bacteria) decompose organic material into fertile soil. It is quicker if you spread compost accelerators between the individual layers.
Ripe compost is ideal for the vegetable garden, for flower and shrub beds, berry bushes, as well as tree slices from fruit trees. Usually, 5 to 30 kilograms are distributed over 10 square meters, depending on the nutritional requirements of the respective plants.