It borders on a miracle: You throw your kitchen waste on a pile and after some time you get crumbly, dark humus that smells like fresh forest soil. You spread this on the garden beds – from which the plants draw their nutrients and grow magnificently until they die and become humus again after six to nine months.
A perfect cycle in which millions of living creatures do a lot of feeding work. Compost provides shelter for insects and micro-organisms and thus increases the biodiversity in your garden. Even in a small garden, there is always an opportunity to create a compost pile. This is not so difficult if you consider some things beforehand and prepare them well.
Having your own compost pile is something really fine, because it offers several advantages at once! For example, if you put kitchen and garden waste into the compost, you not only get good fertilizer, you also relieve the disposal system. What’s more, a compost pile can be created in no time.
You can, for example, simply build a pile (which is rather not recommended in the allotment garden) or build a composter out of wood, although it is easier to get one in a specialized shop – there you can find them from cheap to “compost Porsche”. It can be quite useful to run two compost piles, one that you have “in progress” and one that holds rotted or finished compost.
Alternatively, you can opt for what is known as a thermal composter. In parts, these actually offer more benefits than a regular composter.
The most favorable location?
The best location would be in the partial shade of a tree. In the blazing sun, the compost material dries out too much. By the way, squash plants do great in the pile and their large leaves provide the ideal sun and rain protection.
Compost worm and earthworm
The earthworm produces more humus through its eating than any other living creature. If it is unlucky, it ends up as a morsel for hedgehogs, moles or robins. Every healthy soil is crisscrossed by a labyrinth of worm passages, allowing water to drain away and oxygen to enter.
During drought, the earthworm burrows deep into the lower layer of soil, curls up and waits for rain. The compost worm, on the other hand, is slightly darker and smaller and survives only in compost. As long as these dark red worms are there, the compost is not yet ripe.
Let it mature!
Young compost, e.g. from the quick composter, has a good and gentle fertilizing effect. However, old compost (matured for up to two years) stays in the soil longer because it contains gray or black humic acids, which are broken down very slowly and only then help the plants to thrive. This permanent humus also has a positive effect on soil structure for years and improves soil fertility. If permanent soil improvement is your top priority, you should choose the conventional compost pile over the rapid composter.
Don’t overdo it, because even with compost you can overfertilize your soil. As a rule of thumb, a small bucketful of compost (about 5 kg) every two years is enough for one square meter. It is best to work well-rotted compost (= permanent humus) about 25 centimeters deep into the soil, while with young compost (= nutrient humus) a superficially worked-in layer of compost about 3 cm deep is sufficient.