Composting is a topic I have been asked about a lot. I have had a lot of queries over the last few weeks and so I decided I try and write about it.
First things first; Composting is basically allowing the organic matter to decompose efficiently to be used as a highly nutritious manure for plants. There are a lot of methods to do this and each composter will have his or her own tips and tricks to apply to this. The mind-boggling amount of info on composting can make any beginner quite overwhelmed.
I am sharing a basic process that everyone can use at home.
- A perforated container.
- Brown matter (for carbon):Dried leaves, cardboard pieces, saw dust, coco peat, dry soil, sand, peanut shells, rice husk etc.
- Green matter(for nitrogen):Fresh vegetable peels and fruit peels (Avoid strong acidic peels like citrus, lemon, garlic and ginger)
- Peels must be chopped evenly before adding it to the compost. This helps quicken the process of breakdown of the organic matter.
- Eggshells can be added by crushing it before adding them to the compost.
- Coffee grounds, tea powder works well with composting too.
Never add cooked food, dairy products, meat and bones or heavily coated paper. You may add white papers but not printed papers as it may contain lead.
The cardboard must be non-laminated and not have any synthetic coating.
If you are not able to get brown matter, you may get some soft coconut fiber, tear them to tiny chunks and put them in a mixer grinder to make it a fine powder. This can be added to the compost.
Maintain the moisture level of the compost and do check it every day.
- Ash: Adding ash to compost will enrich the quality of the compost, maintains alkalinity.
- Charcoal: Acts like sponge absorbing extra moisture also has the ability to store nutrients and release them slowly when added to the soil. Ironing shops are good source of charcoals.
- Sour buttermilk: Improves and increases the microbial activity. Sprinkling butter milk increases the rate of composting.
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- Put a layer of carbon/brown matter (twigs, coconut fibers etc.) to form the bottom most layer of the perforated container.
- To the wet kitchen waste (that is drained of all excess water), add half its volume of ‘browns’. Mix well and make sure that the resulting matter is moist but not soggy.
- Add this to the container and cover with thin layer of browns and close the lid. This layer prevents flies and other insects from visiting the pile.
- Repeat the step 2 and 3 every day.
- Stir the pile as often as you can to allow a lot of air.
- When the first container gets full, start in a new container and follow the same procedure.
- Keep stirring the compost pile in the first container throughout the process. The pile will become hot in its initial phase.
- By the time the second container becomes full, it is possible that the first pile cools down and the contents look dark and half composted. You can transfer the partly composted matter into a jute sack/rice sack for further composting making the container available for a fresh batch. Or, if you have more containers to spare, keep using newer ones to start the process and retain the compost in the bin until all of it is completely done.
- It might take 2 to 3 months for the compost to get ready. You will see black powdery matter when it is fully ready.
- Sieve the contents and add the big pieces that need to break down further to a next batch of waste for composting.
That’s it. You have your black gold ready!
Now that we have tackled the composting process, I want to tell you how I do it on my farm. It’s a given that organic gardening and composting go hand in hand; the “black gold” is definitely a faithful companion for any organic farmer.
When I first started understanding composting, I read a lot of different methods of composting and each one seemed a bit more complicated than the previous one. If a lay person wants to understand about composting this information overload is enough to discourage one.
I don’t know about you but I am a bit lazy, especially when it comes to composting and can’t be bothered with meticulous proportions and tedious procedures to follow. There are a LOT of things on the farm that requires my time and attention and I don’t want composting to be one of them.
So here is what I did:
- Dig a pit or a trench in the corner of the garden.
- Start dumping kitchen waste (veg scraps, fruit peels etc) , garden waste (dried leaves, twigs, grass cuttings), animal waste (cow dung, cow urine etc)
- Sprinkle enough garden soil to cover the waste.
- Repeat step 2 then step 3 and keep repeating the process till the pit is full.
Sprinkle a little water to keep the pile moist aiding the microbes to work their magic.
Gently stir the pile periodically to aerate.
And… that’s it. Basically dump, sprinkle soil and repeat. Easy peasy… I’m sure this will make any organized, meticulous compost-er shudder but hey, this works for me…Please be warned that this process might take longer than others methods. If you need quicker results, you will need to put in more effort too. Can’t have it easy and quick, can we? So, there.
If you have a piece of land where you grow, you can try doing this “lazy composting” but if you are a balcony or terrace gardener, then I suggest you stick to the process I mentioned above.
Well enough about me…let’s talk about you.
Moving on to some final tips on composting before I sign off…
Things to watch out for:
It very difficult to mess up your compost unless of course you have been very careless about it. You have to check on it every day and stir it. Following are the things you need to keep an eye out for;
- Keep your compost pile covered. This is to ensure that your compost doesn’t attract flies and critters and also to avoid the compost getting smelly.
- Avoid the compost from getting too soggy. This means your green matter is more than the brown. A good balance of carbon and nitrogen source is important. Immediately try and balance it out to avoid compost turning into a stinky, sloppy mess.
- Make sure your compost isn’t too dry either. This would mean microbial action is less and the compost won’t decompose faster. Sprinkle water or sour buttermilk to improve the humidity level.
Remember, like all things in life, the more effort you put into something, the better the outcome and this is true for making great compost too!
So, are you ready to convert all your kitchen waste into a wonderfully nutritious manure for your plants? Why waste precious kitchen waste when it can yield a wonderful byproduct…