The gardening season kicks off

The art of composting in the home garden – helpful hints

compost heap in a gardenClick to enlarge
Kitchen and garden refuse can be turned into valuable humus on the home compost heap.
Source: Piotr Malczyk / Thinkstock/iStock

Whether it is greenery from the home garden or fruit and vegetable scraps from the kitchen, some waste is just too valuable to become residual waste. The compost heap at home can turn kitchen and garden waste into valuable humus. Composting in one's own garden nevertheless requires that a few rules be observed: location, content, and moisture must all be in balance. The German Environment Agency (UBA) has updated its manual on composting with hints and advice on how to make good compost.

For millions of years nature's waste products have decayed into humus wherever they happen to fall. Composting applies this natural process in the home garden – the oldest and simplest recycling method in the world. Composting has several advantages: kitchen and garden waste which is composted does not need to be disposed with other household waste. Compost also rejuvenates soil and is an excellent fertiliser. However, it only makes sense to compost if it is actually needed as fertiliser. If adequate garden space (lawn and flowerbeds) is lacking, compost fertilisation could lead to oversupply of the soil.

It is important to find the right place for good compost, namely a (half) shady spot on open soil. Wire netting on the ground can prevent rodents from gaining access. To avoid rowing with the neighbours, the compost heap should be placed at a reasonable distance away from the property line, and away from terraces or windows in particular.

The art of composting consists of creating favourable conditions for the microorganisms (bacteria, fungi) and microbes (e.g. worms and isopods) which are "responsible" for the decomposition process so that they can break down the biomass (garden and kitchen scraps) into its individual components and supply important nutrients such as nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus available to plants. In addition, the compost must be able to air properly and be damp (though not wet). The easiest rule of thumb is to mix different composting materials onto the heap. The best materials are: dry waste from the garden (small branches, bark mulch, sawdust or straw). If needed, fresh fruit and vegetable scraps or mowed grass can be added to the mixture.

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