Most of us have the habit of gardening at home. One of the most important points to note while gardening is to take care of the plant as well as the soil in which it is planted. Unless the soil is rich in nutrients, the plants would not grow fully and might wither away after sometime. So, it is of prime importance to pay attention to the treatment of the soil. Chemical fertilizers, which are easily available in the market, are sometimes added to the soil to increase its fertility. However, it involves a considerable wastage of money. To a certain extent, they are also inimical for the environment as sometimes these chemical fertilizers might get washed away due to rain and enter the food chains causing irreparable harm to all kinds of species. A good alternative to these chemical fertilizers is home compost. Composting is the process by which one can add humus to the soil, since it is rich in nutrition. It literally rejuvenates the soil. Compost can be easily made at home and is also eco-friendly.
Let us look at some of the benefits of compost.
Composting adds nutrients to the soil,thereby leading to the healthy growth of plants. It also helps in retaining the moisture content of the soil.
It is made by recycling kitchen and garden wastes. Almost thirty percent of household wastes can be recycled and thus, garbage vans can heave a sigh of relief.
It accelerates the growth of helpful microorganisms in the soil. The entire process aerates the soil, breaks down the nutrients for plant consumption and even helps in keeping away plant-related diseases.
Being a perfect substitute for chemical fertilizers, it is beneficial to the environment. Also, most of the material from landfills can be used for composting.
Now, let us see how to make compost at home.
Fruit and vegetable scraps, leaves, grass clippings, garden plants, flowers, coffee powder, tea leaves, newspapers, shredded papers, cardboard, sawdust pellets and wood chips are some materials that can be used for making compost. As we can see from the above mentioned list, almost all these are daily household wastes. However, care should be taken not to add fish scraps, meat or bone-parts to the compost, since pests will be attracted to these items.
Compost should be made on bare earth. All the materials should be piled up, which would attract worms and various microorganisms. This process helps in aeration of the pile. Dry and moist items should be piled separately. Dry items like wood chips should be sprinkled in fine thin layers, or else, they may clump together, thereby delaying the breakdown. Green manure like wheatgrass and cloves should be added to the heap. When the process of composting gets activated, the garbage pile should be watered occasionally so as to keep it moist. Keep it covered to protect it from sunlight. The entire imbroglio should be given a turn with a shovel such, so that, it reacts with Oxygen.
We must note that compost is basically a mixture of Carbon and Nitrogen. So, we should aim at attaining a healthy balance between the two. For that, we must remember that we can get Carbon from materials such as dried leaves, branches, coffee filters, stems, peels, bits of wood, shredded brown paper bags, bark dust or sawdust pellets, conifer needles, egg shells and so on. Nitrogen is obtained from protein-rich matter like food scraps, leafy materials like lawn clippings, manures and green leaves. Carbon gives the compost a light and fluffy body while Nitrogen helps in enzyme creation.
Some of the other composting methods are:
1) âNo Turnâ Composting– One of the biggest hassles of composting is churning the pile periodically with a shovel in order to aerate the pile. However, with âno turnâ composting, the aeration of compost will be achieved by adding enough coarse materials like straws to the pile while building it. The compost forms at the same place as when turning is involved, while the level of Nitrogen here may even be higher!
2) Composting Leaves– Sometimes, we might compost just the leaves, if they have been accumulated in huge quantities. The pile of leaves should be kept in a shady area to prevent it from drying up. The diameter of the pile should be approximately 4 feet and the height should not exceed 3 feet. A dirt layer should be uniformly spread between the different layers of leaves. Care should be taken to see that the pile is not packed very tightly and that there is enough moisture in it. It would take about 4 to 6 months to form compost. This compost is generally used as a conditioner for the soil and not as a normal fertilizer.
3) Leaf Mould Tea– We can also make a nutritious âteaâ for the plants. A pile of leaves can be taken in a jute bag, soaked in a water bucket and kept for around three days. The âtea bagâ should then be removed and the leaves could be added to the compost. The nutrient-rich water can be used to water the garden plants.
For composting outdoors in a small scale, one can use bins. A compost bin called âcompost digesterâ is relatively inexpensive to buy and can be an easy way to make compost. The only limitation is that it becomes difficult to churn the components inside the bin. Another such bin is âcompost tumblerâ. These bins help in preventing the spread of unwanted stench, especially in the residential areas and can also contribute to the composting process throughout the year. They also prevent dogs and other animals from coming near the compost.
Thus, one can easily make compost at home and provide healthy nutrients to the soil, which are absorbed by plants.