During the hot summer months, it can quickly happen that the compost heap dries out. You can recognize this, among other things, by a cracked, crumbly surface – and by the fact that ants suddenly cavort on it. However, a compost that is too dry is not an ideal environment for the compost and earthworms that are so important for decomposition, and they will therefore retreat. As a result, the rotting process stops. You can prevent this by regularly reaching for the watering can.
Why you should water compost
A compost pile needs sufficient moisture to keep the rotting process going inside it. The rainworms and compost worms responsible for this process only feel comfortable in a warm and moist environment, which is why they retreat in dry conditions. But disturbed decomposition is not the only important reason for watering compost: Piles are often a source of fire, as they can quickly self-ignite, especially in sunny and hot locations. You effectively counteract this danger with a vigorous watering from the watering can.
How to keep the compost pile moist
There are many reasons that cause a compost pile to dry out. The most important is the location: if the compost is in a sunny and warm place, it will dry out faster because of the location. Nevertheless, you should not move it if possible, because the compost worms, which are so important for the rotting process, also appreciate such a location. Instead, water it more frequently so that the material remains sufficiently moist. Another common reason, however, is the wrong composition of the pile: if many dry, perhaps even woody, plant parts are used for composting, it will dry out more quickly. It is better to layer the compost properly:
- always pile thin layers of different materials on top of each other
- dry materials are always followed by moist ones, such as lawn clippings or fruit and vegetable scraps
- shred lignified plant parts if possible and moisten thoroughly before filling in
- always fill in a layer of ripe compost in between
- this inoculates the material with the microorganisms that are important for rotting.
Watering compost properly – this is how it’s done
To water the compost pile effectively and deeply – after all, the valuable moisture should also penetrate into the deeper layers – it is best to take a garden tool with a long handle, such as a hoe. Now poke deep holes in the pile at regular intervals with the handle first. Now water the compost using a watering can with a fine attachment – this distributes the water better and more evenly, and also reduces the water pressure.
While compost piles should ideally be in sunny and warm locations, they benefit from shade such as shrubs or sunflowers planted all around.