Inexpensive Gardening – Part 3 – Compost

Over a period of time I have spoken a lot about organic composting and even experimented a lot with them. Here’s a quick recap to all the Composting Ideas!

  1. Cow Dung & Cow Urine always stand at number one position when it comes to compost. To read more about application of manure click here.
  2. Dry leaves are the second best option as they are carbon-rich! To know more about how to use dry leaves as manure click here.
  3. Potassium and Phosphorous are the two vital minerals required for flowering and fruiting. Use all the fruit and vegetable peels from your kitchen. You can also add ash if you find it. To know more about plant requirements click here.
  4. To keep them safe from pests keep them well nourished! A well nourished plant has a good resistance towards pests and rarely gets infected.
  5. Another most crucial thing, to keep the plants safe from pest, is to grow them in right season. I’ll soon come up with an article on seasonal and Perennial Plants!
  6. Mulching is the best way to keep the soil hydrated and prevent it from developing cracks and losing nutrients. To know more about mulching click here.
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MULCHING

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.

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This is just a reference picture. This doesn’t belong to my garden.

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.

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This is just a reference picture. This doesn’t belong to my garden.

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.

Composting – 4

How will you know if the compost is ready?

It normally takes around 3 months for the composting process to get completed.

You know your composting process is going well when you can sense a slight heat in your compost bin.

Also slowly the contents will start turning black. When all the contents in the compost bin have turned black, the compost is ready.

Composting – 3

Some Dos and Don’ts :

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.IMG-20160825-WA0023
  4. All the materials added to the compost should be finely chopped/crushed.
  5. Put uncooked waste only (at least in the initial stage till you get familiar with composting).
  6. Egg shells are fine but do not add any meat.
  7. Avoid putting any kind of seeds in the compost.
  8. 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)
  9. 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.

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 : (60%) Carbon, Oxygen and Hydrogen : These are the most important nutrients without which the plants cannot survive for a long time.

GROUP II : (30%) Nitrogen, Phosphorous and Potassium : These are again very important  nutrients required for flowering and fruiting of plants.

GROUP III : (10%) 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.