It all begins and ends with Soil. She Provides. She Nurtures.
Whether you want to learn about Gardening, Farming, Philosophy, Spirituality or Psychology – soil is the best place to start with. You understand her and she will understand you. You take care of her and she will nourish you. You love her and you are loved forever.
Talking from an agricultural point of view- we start with studying different types of soils, their basic traits and nutritional composition.
Soil is made up of billions and billions of micro-organisms, insects and worms. It is very important that we acknowledge and appreciate their existence. They are very crucial for ‘our’ existence. Yes, you read it right. OUR existence.
Soil, in the absence of these microbes is called a dead Soil. Whereas a soil that is abundant with these microbes, insects and worms is called a living soil.
So here are four main things that we need to study in detail when it comes to soil –
Properties of different types of soil.
Soil nutrients and ways of supplying nutrients i.e. Chemical and Natural.
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!! 🙂
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!
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.