Which fruits rot the fastest

15 tips for everything to do with compost

With compost, the gardener's "black gold", you can significantly increase the yields of your kitchen garden. The compost not only acts as a supplier of nutrients, but also improves the soil structure. We have put together 15 tips on everything to do with compost for you.

1. Create the composting area

If you want to start a new compost, you should choose the place wisely. It is best to stand under a larger tree, because in the cool, moist shade of the wood, the waste does not dry out as easily as in the blazing sun. Above all, ventilation is a question of choosing the right container: Most models have wide air slots in the side walls through which the carbon dioxide produced during rotting can escape and fresh oxygen can penetrate. Do not place the composter on a paved surface - even if that seems to be the supposedly "cleanest" solution. Contact with the ground is important so that excess moisture can seep away and earthworms and other "composting aids" can penetrate.

2. Three containers for an optimal composition

Professionals swear by the three-chamber principle: In the first, the waste is collected, in the second, the first rotting phase takes place, and in the third, it decomposes completely. As soon as the finished compost is used up, the contents of the second container are transferred to the third. The waste from the first chamber is then put into a new heap in the second. Commercially available composters made of wood or galvanized metal usually have a capacity of one cubic meter. Even self-made containers should not be larger to ensure ventilation inside the pile.

3. Compost waste: the main thing is to have a colorful mix!

Cuttings, harvest residues, autumn leaves, uncooked vegetable kitchen waste: the list of ingredients is long - and the more varied the mixture, the more harmonious the rotting will be. Garden waste is different in terms of its structure and ingredients: shrub pruning, for example, is loose, dry and low in nitrogen, whereas lawn clippings are very dense, moist and rich in nitrogen. So that everything rots evenly, it is important to alternately layer waste with opposing properties in thin layers or to mix it with one another: damp with dry, dense with loose and nitrogen-poor with nitrogen-rich.

This is not easy to implement in practice, as suitable waste rarely occurs in the garden at the same time. One possibility is to store chopped shrub cuttings next to the compost and then gradually mix them with the grass clippings. But can everything that is generated in the garden be put on the compost? Seed-forming weeds can also be composted - provided they are weed before they bloom! Runners-forming species such as couch grass or creeping buttercups can be left to dry up on the bed after they have been torn out or, even better, processed into plant manure together with nettles or comfrey.

4. Chop up the shrub pruning beforehand

Branches and twigs rot the fastest if you shred them with a garden shredder before composting. Very few hobby gardeners know, however, that the design of the chopper 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, squeezes small pieces and, in contrast to the classic knife chopper, also breaks up the fibers. The microorganisms in the compost can therefore penetrate particularly deeply into the wood and decompose it in a short time.

Video: MSG shredder test

The garden shredder is an important companion for every garden fan. In our video we test nine different devices for you.

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

5. The microorganisms in the compost also need nutrients

Leaves, wood and shrub residues largely consist of carbon (C) and hardly contain any nitrogen (N) - experts speak of a "wide C-N ratio" here. However, almost all bacteria and protozoa need nitrogen in order to multiply. The result: Such waste is only slowly decomposed in the compost. If you want to accelerate the rotting, 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 also contains algae lime and rock flour, depending on the manufacturer.

6. Compost citrus peel

Untreated peel of lemons, oranges, mandarins or bananas can be composted without hesitation, but because of the natural essential oils they contain, they rot more slowly than apple or pear peel. Fruits treated with chemical fungicides (diphenyl, orthophenylphenol and thiabendazole) can disrupt the activity of the compost organisms, in particular the red compost worm takes flight. In smaller quantities, however, they are hardly harmful and do not leave any detectable residues.

7. Wild herbs harmonize the rotting process

In biodynamic cultivation, specially prepared extracts of yarrow, chamomile, nettle, oak bark, dandelion and valerian are added to the freshly placed material. Even in small quantities, the herbs harmonize the rotting process and indirectly promote the build-up of humus in the soil as well as the growth and resistance of the plants. In the past, calcium cyanamide was often recommended as an addition to decimate germinating weed seeds or pathogens and to increase the nitrogen content. Organic gardeners do without the aggregate, which is harmful to small creatures, and increase the fertilizing effect by adding cattle manure or moistening the compost with nettle liquid.

8. Bentonite for a better soil structure

Bentonite is a mixture of different clay minerals. It is applied to light sandy soils in order to increase their storage capacity for water and nutrient salts such as calcium and magnesium. Bentonite is even more effective if you sprinkle it regularly on the compost. The clay minerals combine with the humus particles to form so-called clay-humus complexes. These give the soil a favorable crumb structure, improve its water retention capacity and counteract the leaching of certain nutrient salts. In short: sandy soils become significantly more fertile with this "special compost" than with conventional humus.

9. Hardworking employees: mushrooms, small animals & Co.

Did you know that a handful of compost contains more living things than humans live on earth? In the start-up and conversion phase, the heap heats up to temperatures of 35 to 70 ° C. Above all, fungi and bacteria are in action. Woodlice, mites, ground beetles, red compost worms and other small animals only migrate in the build-up phase, when the pile has cooled down (8th to 12th week). In the ripening compost you can discover cockchafer grubs and useful rose beetle grubs (recognizable by their thick abdomen), and wild herbs such as chickweed germinate on the pile or on the edges. Earthworms only migrate in the final ripening phase, when the compost gradually becomes earthy.

10. A cover against wind and weather

Covering open compost bins is a must, because this prevents the pile from drying out on the surface, cooling down too much in winter or becoming wet from rain and snow. Straw or reed mats as well as thick, breathable compost protection fleece, in which you can also completely wrap the compost in if the frost persists, are suitable. You should only cover the compost for a short time with foil, for example during particularly heavy rainfall, so that too many nutrients are not washed out. The big disadvantage: foils are airtight. The waste below is not oxygenated and starts to rot. In addition, you should not keep the compost completely dry, because the microorganisms feel most comfortable in a humid and warm environment.

11. How to recognize ripe compost

Depending on the season, it takes six to twelve months for coarse plant remains to turn into dark humus soil. Ripe compost smells pleasantly of forest soil. Apart from eggshells and a few pieces of wood, no coarse components should be recognizable. Repeated repositioning and mixing can speed up the process. The rotting process can be easily corrected. If the material is too dry, you mix in fresh green cuttings or moisten each new layer with a watering can. If the pile rots and smells musty, stalky shrubs, leaves or twigs ensure that wet material is loosened and ventilated. The stage of the compost can be checked with a simple cress test

12. Sift compost before sowing

If you prepare your vegetable patches or your cold frame for sowing in spring, you should sieve the required compost beforehand - this will make it easier to make even seeding grooves later. The best way to sieve it is to use a self-made sieve with a mesh size that is not too narrow (at least 15 millimeters) and toss the compost through with a digging fork. The coarse components slide off the sloping surface and are mixed in again later when a new compost heap is put on.

13. Spreading compost - when and how much?

The best time to spread the finished compost is when preparing the bed in spring. You can also spread it around all garden plants during the growing season and rake it in on the surface. Nutrient-hungry vegetables (heavy consumers) such as cabbage, tomatoes, courgettes, celery and potatoes receive four to six liters per square meter of bed area annually. Medium eaters such as kohlrabi, onions and spinach require two to three liters. This amount is also sufficient for fruit trees and the flower or perennial bed. Low consumers such as peas, beans and herbs, as well as the lawn, only need one to two liters. Loamy soils usually need a little less compost than sandy ones. In the vegetable garden it is brought out in the spring after the soil has been loosened and it is raked in flat. Permanent crops such as fruit trees and berry bushes can also be mulched with compost in autumn.

14. What to do with the sick plants?

Scientific studies show that plants whose leaves are affected by fungal diseases such as powdery mildew, star soot or brown rot can definitely be composted. Tests with compost even suggest that when the infected material is composted, antibiotics are formed that have a positive effect on plants. Prerequisite: a good rotting process with initial temperatures above 50 degrees Celsius. Root disease pathogens that persist in the soil, such as carbonic hernia, also survive in compost, so it is better to dispose of infected plants elsewhere!

15. Make liquid fertilizer from compost

Compost water is a fast acting, natural and inexpensive liquid fertilizer. To do this, put a shovel of compost in a bucket of water, stir vigorously and, after settling, apply undiluted with the watering can. For plant-strengthening compost tea, let the broth stand for two weeks, stirring thoroughly every day. Then filter the extract through a cloth, dilute it (1 part tea to 10 parts water) and spray it over the plants.