Composting – 2

The most awaited article of the season : How to make compost ?

Kindly note that following is a procedure for making compost on a small scale. If you have a farm or if you need to start composting on a large scale please contact me here.

Take a huge container (something like an old bucket or a tub or a big cardboard box)

Let’s start layering the container.

Start filling the first 25% of the container with dried leaves or any other carbon rich organic matter.

Fill the next 10% with kitchen waste. As discussed earlier the kitchen waste is a good source of Nitrogen, Potassium, Phosphorous, magnesium and Calcium.

Again fill the next 25% with dry waste/dry leaves/sawdust

Fill the next 10% with kitchen waste.

And fill the last layer with dry waste/dry leaves.

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Now if you have analyzed you will notice that 80% of the container contains dry waste (carbon) and only 20% contains wet waste. The reason behind this is :

  1. The elements are required in these proportions.
  2. More of wet waste might stink during the decaying process. It may also attract some small insects and mosquitoes. In order to avoid that we add more of carbon especially on the top most layer.
  3. The dry leaves are very fluffy and bulge up but once you add kitchen waste on top of it, it will go on compressing.

COMPOSTING – 1

As we all know compost is nothing but decayed organic material used as fertilizer for growing plants. We also now know about the nutrients required by plants. Now all we have to do is add these nutrients to compost and eventually add the compost to the soil. But the question is to identify which organic material contains which element!

I’ll give you a very brief identification methodology:

Carbon : Anything brown in color contains carbon. Let’s take for example a leaf. Leaf when green in color does not contain much carbon but a dried leaf which is brown in color is a very rich source of carbon. Similarly you can use sawdust or rice husk.IMG-20160825-WA0027

Hydrogen & Oxygen : Plants obtain the required quantity of Hydrogen and Oxygen from water(H2O). So keep watering the plants regularly !! 🙂

Nitrogen : Anything green in color has nitrogen in it. So all the green leaves and kitchen waste (which are mainly fruit and vegetable peels) act as an excellent source of nitrogen.

Phosphorous & Potassium : One logic says any fruit or vegetable will have phosphorous and potassium in it because it is utmost necessary for its growth. So if you add any fruit or vegetable to the compost it is sufficient. You need not add fresh fruits and vegetables to the compost. Any leftover or spoiled or unconsumed fruits/vegetable can be added to the compost. This logic applies for all the elements here on. But if you are still not satisfied you can add rock phosphate (directly to the soil) which is an excellent source of phosphorous. You can also add wood ash (directly to the soil) which acts as an excellent source of potassium as well as phosphorus.IMG-20160825-WA0021

Calcium & Magnesium : You can add calcium rich fruits/vegetables like cabbage, broccoli, banana, papaya, sweet potato, etc. I repeat you need not add fresh fruits/veges. You can add their peels or leftovers or the spoiled parts that you will not be consuming.

I would not appreciate you spending even a single penny for making compost!! The whole motto of making a compost is to use all the kitchen and garden waste. Happy Gardening!! 🙂

NITROGEN IS NOT THE MOST IMPORTANT NUTRIENT!!

We have always heard and believed that Nitrogen is the most important nutrient!! The fact is Nitrogen is just one of the important nutrients required by plants. However the producers of chemical fertilizers have somehow succeeded in convincing us that Nitrogen is the most important nutrient. To judge how important any element is; let us first understand the macro and micro nutrients required by plants. The following is a simplified version of the study of nutrients!

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MACRO NUTRIENTS:

GROUP I : Carbon, Oxygen and Hydrogen : These are the most important nutrients without which the plants cannot survive for a long time.

GROUP II : Nitrogen, Phosphorous and Potassium : These are again very important  nutrients required for flowering and fruiting of plants.

GROUP III : Calcium, Magnesium and Sulphur : These are required in little quantities however are important.

MICRO NUTRIENTS : All other elements fall into the micro nutrient category like iron, zinc, sodium, chlorine, copper, etc. They are required by plants in a very minuscule quantity.

Enhancing Soil Using Compost

IMG_20160315_093554As we all know compost is nothing but decayed organic material used as fertilizer for growing plants. All plants require nutrients for healthy life. We have already discussed about the hazards of chemical fertilizers. Hence compost is the best way to provide plants with all the essential nutrients. We will now understand how does compost help in fixing/enhancing different types of soil.

We can correct any soil by adding compost to it.

Let’s take the example of clay soil. Clay soil has tightly bonded minute particles which do not allow air and water to penetrate very easily. By adding compost to the soil we can loosen the bondage of soil particles and allow air and water to penetrate very easily; thereby creating a perfect condition for plants to grow and flourish.

If loam contains more of sand and less of clay it can be corrected by adding compost whereby the compost provides all the vital nutrients required by plants and also helps in water retention.

Hence composting is one of the most important aspects of gardening.

What is wrong with my plant?

IMG_20160428_101316I have been asked by many of my readers as to what is wrong with their plant because the

  • The plant does not have flowers or the flowers wither before blooming
  • The plant got infected or there are white spots visible on the plant
  • The plant looks unhealthy and is drying up very quickly

To solve the above problems we will have to first identify their causes:

Whenever you buy plants from any plant nursery/ seller, please understand that those plants have been supplemented with lots of chemical fertilizers. It is because of these chemical fertilizers that you see those wonderful flowers blooming and many a buds on the plant. The effect of these chemical fertilizers stays for about 1-3 months. Now what happens once you have bought these plants:

  1. The chemical fertilizers have killed all the microbes present in the soil. The soil is now devoid of any nutrients.
  2. To this plant you have not added any fertilizer/compost.
  3. With no nutrients available, the plant first stops flowering. Then slowly it develops a weak immunity to resist pests and other diseases.
  4. The plant either gets infected or it just dries up.

SOLUTION:

Once you have bought the plant, immediately while potting it, add Organic Compost to it. For initial 6 months keep adding compost, every month, to the soil. Once you have added organic compost for 6 months the soil has abundant supply of nutrients. You will see the plant flowering as well as being healthy. It will now have a very strong immune system and it will fight any pest on its own. You will not need any pesticide or insecticide. After 6 months you can add compost once in 2 months and then gradually after a year, once in 3 months. I sincerely request you, please do not use any chemical fertilizers for your plant!

I hope this answers your questions. If not, please do contact me here.

Silt & Loam

Silt:

Silt is a very fertile soil mainly found near river banks. The soil particles of silt are smaller than sand and bigger than clay. It is one the best soils for any type of plantation. However silt is not easily available everywhere.

Loam Soil:

Loam (also known as Red Soil because of its red color) is a soil which is a perfect mix of Sand, Silt and Clay. The perfect Ratio is 40% Sand, 40% Silt and 20% clay. However the proportions differ and so does the soil properties. If the loam contains more of sand it is called as sandy loam or if it contains more of silt then it is called silty loam and likewise for clay loam. Loam being a mix of all the three is the most ideal soil for gardening.

Loam does not suffer any drawbacks of either clay or sand. The presence of sand allows air and water to penetrate easily. Clay helps in water retention and clay and silt both ensure ample supply of nutrients.

Synopsis: Loam does not create any Stress on the plant and is one of most ideal soils for gardening.

[Now you know why the Gardener always prefers red soil! The next time you visit the plant nursery do observe the soil!] 😉 🙂

Sandy Soil

Sandy soil is nothing but sand or soil composed mainly of sand. The color of sandy soil may differ from white to beige to golden brown. The sand particles are very distinguished and detached. They are not united with each other. As a result it is devoid of minerals (nutrients).

Now that we have understood the soil properties lets understand how the stress works.

Air: Air can easily penetrate through sandy soil because the sand particles are very detached. Hence there is no stress on the plant as far as air is concerned.

Water: Water percolates very easily through sand however Sand does not retain water.  Hence the plant undergoes a big stress as far as water is concerned.

Nutrients: Sandy soil does not contain any vital nutrients required by plants. Hence this is a major stress factor.

Synopsis: Lack of nutrients and non-retention of water makes this soil almost useless for gardening.

CLAY SOIL

The soil particles of clay soil (also called as black soil because of its color) are very minute and are tightly bonded to each other. So tightly are they attached to each other that it is difficult for both air and water to penetrate. Water percolates very slowly through the soil. Clay soil is a very fertile soil, full of minerals (nutrients).

Now that we have understood the soil properties lets understand how the stress works.

Air: As mentioned earlier the air penetrates very slowly through this soil. Hence inadequate supply of air causes a stress on plant.

Water: Water percolates very slowly through this soil. There is a high possibility of excess water clogging around the roots of the plants. Hence excessive water supply causes a stress on plant.

Nutrients: clay soil is one of most mineral-rich soil and plants receive ample of nutrients. There is no stress on plant as far as nutrients is concerned.

Synopsis: Clay soil creates two stresses on plants and hence is not the most ideal one. However these stresses can be corrected/removed with composting. We will study about it in detail in my upcoming posts.

UNDERSTANDING STRESS

cropped-dsc00532.jpgLike any being on this planet, plants too have three major requirements:

  1. Air
  2. Water
  3. Nutrients

All of the above should be available to the plant in the soil. I repeat, the SOIL should contain adequate amount of air, water and nutrients for the roots to absorb and grow.

Inadequacy of any of these leads to STRESS thereby resulting in a not-so-healthy plant. Hence it is a gardener’s prime duty to ensure that the plants receive all of these. This can be ensured only when one understands and studies the types of soil thoroughly.

Don’t worry!! I had assured you that I’ll not be using any technical terms nor will I get too deep into the technicalities! The following is a simplified version of soil study!

Soil is majorly classified into three categories:

  1. Clay soil
  2. Sandy soil
  3. Loam soil

This is a simplified classification. The rest of the soil types are nothing but different proportions of clay, sand and silt!!

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