When I realized that Mulching is the most undervalued Gardening practice, my quest for best mulching options began. I realized that there is nothing at par with dry leaves when it comes to mulching. During my search for dry leaves, I came across BROWN LEAF – a forum founded by Aditi Deodhar dedicated to stop the burning of dry leaves! What a beautiful concept I thought!
Dry leaves are often considered as waste or litter and are burnt away. This not only pollutes the atmosphere but is also a substantial loss for the environment as what comes from the soil should go back to the soil. Aditi was deeply moved by this method of dealing with Dry Leaves. She shares that when she started to advice the city sweepers against burning of these leaves, they started piling the leaves; to a point that they didn’t know what to do with the heaps of leaves. It was to address this issue that BROWN LEAF was born.
BROWN LEAF was founded by Aditi Deodhar in Feb 2016 in the city of Pune. BROWN LEAF adopts 3 way solution for dealing with Dry Leaves – Mulch, Compost & Donate. It now co-ordinates demand and supply of Dry leaves.
BROWN LEAF has a dedicated app wherein you can inform about the availability of excess Dry leaves in your area/locality/Streets which will be then coordinated to somebody who is in need of these leaves.
Aditi says, she wishes to replicate this model all over India where the dry leaves are burnt off! If you wish to take BROWN LEAF to your city or if you wish to know more you can contact firstname.lastname@example.org!
I have a very different approach when it comes to fighting pests. I believe, if your plants are healthy, they have a strong resistance towards pests. However if you have NOT been regular with adding your compost, the plants turn weak due to reduced supply of nutrients; thereby having a lower immunity which makes them vulnerable to attacks by Pests.
So the Golden rule is to keep your plant healthy with regular supply of compost. I believe in curing the infected plant by giving plants additional dose of Compost.
Rule No.2 says don’t have same plants besides each other. Different plants attract different pests. So if the same plants are not positioned next to each other, there is a very rare chance of spreading the pests. So only one of the plant gets infected.
Rule No 3: Wait patiently for the plant to fight the pest on its own. Human intervention is not always required.
Rule No 4: Take special care during change of season. Plants are mostly attacked by pests when there is a change of season. So in the last month of a particular season, add generous quantity of compost than you usually do. This enables plants to fight the stress caused by the changing season and the pests.
Rule No 5: In case you want to use any pesticide, use an organic one! Cow urine, Neem Extract and Sour Buttermilk are great pesticides!!
None of the discussions on gardening/ farming/ organic produce/ manure/ composting is ever complete without talking about COWS!!
Cow dung and urine are considered one of the most elite sources of compost. Cow dung is rich of minerals and bacteria cultures which turns the soil very fertile. However there are many ways in which we can apply this cow dung to the soil. I’ll be discussing a few of those methods. Cow dung can be added to the compost bin/pit as well. There is no right or wrong way of application just a better way.
The first method that I am going to talk about here is called
AMRUTJAL (literally translated as NECTAR-WATER)
For making AMRUTJAL we require
1kg of fresh cow dung
1 liter of cow urine
10 liters of water
50 grams of jaggery
Now all you have to do is add all of the above contents in a container/bucket, mix them all thoroughly, cover the container and keep it aside for three days. During these three days you have stir the mixture (clockwise and anti-clockwise, 12 times each) three times every day. Fourth day onward you can use this mixture.
How to use: Dilute the above mixture with water in ratio of 1:10 i.e. for every one liter of mixture you can add 10 liters of water and use it to water plants. This acts as an excellent compost for plants.
Mulching is nothing but covering the soil around the plants with dried leaves/grass or coco peat. Such a covering stops water from getting evaporated and helps to retain moisture in the soil. Mulching is very beneficial in the winter and summer season.
After sometime the leaves start decaying and get converted into compost. This improves the fertility and health of soil.
Mulching also reduces the weed growth around the plants thereby saving all the nutrients in the soil just for the plant.
Mulching is ideal for slightly bigger plants. You can also mulch the soil around bigger plants by planting smaller plants around them. This may not add to the fertility of soil but it definitely help to retain the moisture in the soil and reduce the weed growth.
Maintain the Air and Moisture level in the compost bin : Adding more of green waste increases the moisture and thereby a possibility of stink and insects. However a correct level of moisture ensures that there is no stink. The microbes (bacteria) need air (oxygen) in the process of decomposing. Unavailability of air (oxygen) slows down the process. Hence it is advisable to stir the entire contents twice a week once the compost bin is 50% full.
If you are covering the compost bin please ensure that the cover has holes in it for ventilation. You can also tie a cloth for covering the bin.
If there is a lack of dry leaves and surplus of kitchen waste; you can dry the kitchen waste in sunlight for a day or two and then add it to the compost bin.
All the materials added to the compost should be finely chopped/crushed.
Put uncooked waste only (at least in the initial stage till you get familiar with composting).
Egg shells are fine but do not add any meat.
Avoid putting any kind of seeds in the compost.
Do not add any citric fruits like lemon to the compost. (I’ll write about other ways in which you can use these citric fruits)
It is advisable to add some ready organic compost to the compost bin as this ready compost contains bacteria culture. This will ensure the speedy conversion of the waste into compost.
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.
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.
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!! 🙂
By Organic, I mean 0% use of any chemicals. Making our garden chemical-free. Chemicals are mainly used in fertilizers and pesticides.
I believe in going 100% natural i.e. organic. I will be explaining in detail about organic compost and composting techniques in my upcoming articles.
We will now understand what happens when we use chemical fertilizers:
Chemical fertilizers once mixed with the soil do give the desired output. However they destroy the microbial ecosystem (microbes and other organic life like insects and fungi) that live within the soil. With destruction of the organic life, the soil slowly turns impotent and becomes dependent on these chemical fertilizers forever.
From the plants’ perspective, growing in such chemically treated soil, the plants develop a very weak immune system and are not in a position to resist pests! They get affected immediately by the pests and diseases!! To protect such weak plants from pests they are further sprayed with hazardous chemical pesticides and insecticides. These pesticides along with killing the pests also kill the honeybees and other useful insects that help in pollination.
Going 100% organic is the first step towards sustainable living. With growing awareness, there are lot of organic manure and pesticide available in the market. We can easily use these instead of the chemical ones. In my upcoming articles, I’ll be discussing in detail about composting and fighting pests in an organic way!!