Recycling with a difference: Creating compost correctly: How coffee grounds and leaves become valuable humus

“Every good gardener makes a pile in some corner of his garden,” a Berlin comedian almost correctly observed in the 1970s.

Recycling with a difference: Creating compost correctly: How coffee grounds and leaves become valuable humus

“Every good gardener makes a pile in some corner of his garden,” a Berlin comedian almost correctly observed in the 1970s. What he exactly meant was a compost pile. And it belongs in every well-maintained allotment garden – but not in “just any” corner, but more on that later. Properly created compost is the heart of every garden. Admittedly, the pile of organic waste is usually anything but fragrant. But the humus that develops is a blessing for the soil and vegetables. That's why some call it the "gardener's gold". And the best thing about it: Earthworms and many millions of microorganisms do the most important and largest part of the (dirty) work.

If you want to create a compost now, you should think about a few important things. The star explains:

Essentially, a compost pile is nothing more than a small and inexpensive recycling facility. Soil creatures such as earthworms and compost worms, snails, woodlice, various insect larvae and countless microorganisms absorb the applied waste, decompose it and excrete it as highly concentrated nutrients. But just like with people, the working conditions have to be right. And this is exactly where the gardener comes into play. Because it has to create the conditions so that the hard-working animals can do their job undisturbed and as efficiently as possible.

The success of the practical recycler of organic waste depends on the correct location of the compost heap. If the compost is in the blazing sun, it risks drying out (exception: thermal composter). The waste rots in a shady place - and the dream of home-grown humus is shattered. Experts therefore recommend a location in partial shade. If possible, behind the gazebo, under the protection of a leafy tree and in such a way that it can be easily reached with a wheelbarrow. But that's not all. In order to really get going, a compost also needs enough fresh air. The place of choice should therefore be as sheltered from the wind as possible, but not completely windless. If you want to avoid unnecessary discussions with your garden neighbors, you should maintain a distance of half a meter from the property line.

Final tip: The compost should never be built on concrete slabs or tiles. This leads to waterlogging and rot.

As is often the case in life, when it comes to composting, the dose makes the poison. Diversity is also crucial. Some things have no place in the compost, others should be added in doses. Compostable waste is basically divided into “green” and “brown” material. An overview.

This can go on the compost – brown material

This can go on the compost – green material

This is not allowed in the compost

In the small 1x1 of composting, there is another important rule that determines the welfare and woe of the compost. In technical jargon we speak of the so-called C/N ratio, the ratio of the brown carbon-containing starting materials to the green nitrogen-containing materials. A ratio between 15:1 and 20:1 is recommended here. If the proportion of green materials is higher, there is a risk of excessive nutrient losses. However, if you put the earthworms and microorganisms on a “nitrogen diet,” sooner or later they will stop working.

Overall, care should be taken to ensure that the different materials are not only stacked alternately, but ideally mixed together when they are added to the compost.

Well, without human help, the earthworms and microorganisms cannot convert the compost waste into valuable humus.

Tip 1

Flower and perennial cuttings, twigs, branches, flowers and the like should always be shredded with secateurs or an electric shredder before they end up in the compost. Not only does the compost overflow more slowly, the material also rots more quickly.

Tip 2

If possible, individual components should not be stacked higher than 20 centimeters. This also inhibits the composting process.

Tip 3

A compost pile should always be kept moist. If the material can be easily formed into a small ball, there is enough moisture. Otherwise, the compost should be watered with a shower.

Tip 4

As a rule, the compost is “half-ripe” after about three months, meaning the waste is already half-rotted. At this stage, the compost in the same container should be shifted using a compost fork or moved to a second chamber. This way the pile is well ventilated. In addition, the volume is reduced significantly. After about seven more months, most of the components are well broken down.

The safest way to sniff finished compost is with your nose. Because the dark humus smells intensely of the forest floor. Isolated components that have not yet completely rotted can be fished out with a compost sieve and put back in the heap. Depending on the season, composition and care, complete composting takes up to ten months. The humus is best applied to the beds in spring. Properly and completely covered, the “Gardener’s Gold” can also be stored for a longer period of time.

Sources:  utopia.de; mein-schoener-garten.de; ndr.de; gardentips.com; rootwerk.net

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