Nature knows no waste

Composting is child’s play. (Source: G. Bronner)

For many it is a matter of course, others still hesitate: Some households could do without the brown bin if the organic waste were composted. The recycling of raw materials in the garden saves waste fees. After all, 25-40 % of household waste is compostable.

Through the work of microorganisms, the organic waste is broken down into nutrient-rich humus. The resulting compost soil is ideal for soil improvement in vegetable gardens and makes the use of expensive and problematic artificial fertilizers superfluous. On the one hand, humus ensures better aeration of the soil, on the other it stores nutrients and thus prevents wash-out by rain.

Here are some tips for composting so that no waste heap is created instead of compost: The ideal location is a place sheltered from the wind in semi-shade. It is important that the compost material is in contact with the soil so that earthworms, woodlice and springtails can migrate. Finally, they take over the actual heavy work of transformation.

What can be composted? Everything that rots is suitable. Nevertheless, there are some things to consider: Rotting grass leads to a strong heat development and tends to rot. It should therefore only be applied in a thin layer or mixed with other materials. Here leaves, chopped tree and hedge cuttings or garden soil are suitable. The same applies to kitchen waste and vegetable residues or tea and coffee filter residues. Too much fresh material causes the compost to accumulate moisture and begins to rot.

The manure from small animals such as rabbits or hamsters is well suited for composting. Small quantities of crumple paper or corrugated cardboard can also be brought in for aeration (no glossy brochures!).

When building up a compost, the various materials are stacked on top of each other at a maximum height of 1.5 metres. First, coarse material (tree and hedge cuttings) is piled up to 20 cm high so that the air can circulate and the water can drain off. The different types of waste are then filled in layer by layer. It is important that old compost or garden soil is always put in between.

Additives to accelerate the rotting process are available on the market, but can also be replaced by garden soil, manure or finished compost. The compost is covered with grass and straw to protect it from drying out or cooling down.

In order to accelerate the composting process, the compost rent is converted after approx. three months. Until the compost is ripe, it takes 4-6 months in the summer half-year and 6-9 months in the winter half-year. The finished material should not be stored for too long, otherwise the humus will be degraded. If you want to check whether the compost is ripe, put some compost soil in a container and sow cress seeds. If the leaves turn pale after six days, the material must still be stored for some time.

Now to the compost application in the garden: The coarser parts are removed from the humus soil by means of an inclined coarse sieve. As it serves as a wholesome food for the plants, there is no need to spare the spring application. The material is applied in a 1 cm thick layer and slightly mixed in. Do not undermine!

If you don’t want to wait until the compost soil is ready, you can also use the raw compost: ideal for covering the soil in autumn and winter. Trees and hedge plants such as blackthorn, hawthorn or woolly snowball react extremely positively to some shovels of raw compost. The fertilizing effect, however, lies more in the finished compost soil. In addition to nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus, it contains a large number of microorganisms: A handful of compost is enough to bring a new compost to life.

Fast composters (preferably made of recycled plastic) save space and are particularly suitable for areas close to houses. When filling, however, care must be taken to ensure that the material is well mixed. A good ventilation (drilling holes if necessary!) is certainly problematic, and they are not faster than open compost heaps.

How about community composting? It offers the advantage that every garden owner has the possibility to compost.

Gerhard Bronner

Print Friendly, PDF & Email