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Turning over compost

Now that planting time is nearly here, more soil is needed again. Compost, in particular, lends itself to this. It is rich in nutrients and minerals and therefore offers everything which plants need in order to thrive. Since compost is a good fertiliser, it is ideal for breeding young plants.

To obtain composted earth as quickly as possible, the compost must be turned over at regular intervals. This can be done from February until well into spring. The oxygen which it is best to supply when turning over compost encourages decomposition, and it may even be possible to use the freshly obtained earth the very same season.

Turning over compost is actually not a big job. It is best to use a large strainer placed at an angle to the compost heap. Then use a pitchfork to mix everything up and sieve through it. Anything remaining in the strainer goes back onto the compost heap. Very little earth will pass through at first. But if you repeat this process several times, you will soon get a nice pile of fresh composted earth.

Whilst turning over compost, make the most of the opportunity to take a closer look at your compost heap. Is it too dry - does it need some water? If it is too moist, the rotten parts should be removed. You can also work in some chaff to soak up the moisture.

Compost should be turned over every two months. It will then provide soil which can be used for fertilising your garden after six to twelve months. Below is some important advice for dealing with compost.

Create a balanced carbon/nitrogen ratio. This is easily achieved by putting equal proportions of material containing carbon, such as leaves and bush cuttings, and material containing nitrogen, such as grass cuttings and nettles, onto the compost heap. Kitchen waste usually has an ideal ratio of carbon to nitrogen, too.

Grass cuttings should be left to dry out for at least two days before being put onto the compost heap. To prevent a strong smell, we recommend putting only thin layers of grass cuttings onto your compost heap. To ensure the correct moisture level in your compost heap, you should perform a fist test at regular intervals. Take a handful of composted earth and press together firmly in your fist. If a few small drops of water run out between your fingers, the compost has the right moisture level. If too much water runs out between your fingers, the compost is too wet. If there is no water at all, you can assume that the compost is too dry.

What should you put on your compost heap?

You can throw leaves, dung, fruit and vegetable peelings and other kitchen waste onto your compost heap with a clear conscience at any time. Hair, garden waste and any uncooked organic materials are also fine.

What shouldn't go on your compost heap?

Sprayed peelings of tropical fruits, nappies, and treated wood or plastics of any kind should not be thrown onto your compost heap. Cigarette ends, bones and ashes from wood and coal are also not suitable.

Using compost

We recommend using a mixture of half composted earth and half garden soil or sand for flowerpots and window boxes. For woody plants and ornamental shrubs, work about three centimetres of compost into the top layer of soil. Flowerbeds are best maintained by using half compost and half soil when establishing the bed and then placing compost on the surface of the bed and working it in for subsequent refertilising.

In conclusion, it remains to be said that compost is of good quality if it has adapted to normal soil temperature and no soil creatures are evident.