Use of a number of toxic chemical fertilizers, in the last several decades, has poisoned the soil and made it infertile for food production. Human beings are, now, turning to organic manure for growing food. One way of producing organic manure is by composting. Organic Compost can be used in fields on a large scale as well as on a small scale in gardens. Here we will talk about what is organic compost, and how composting organic wastes on a small scale for your gardens can be beneficial not only to you but also to the environment.
Organic compost or simply compost is, just, decomposed organic matter. We are returning to the soil, what it had given to us. It is a natural recycling process of organic matter like leaves and vegetable scraps to boost the soil health. Gardeners fondly call this Black Gold. This Black Gold is a very important part of organic gardening. Composting not only regenerates the soil but also prevents the spread of toxins into water resources and to neighboring plants.
You may want to choose Organic Compost because
- Organic Compost acts as a soil conditioner.
- Composting creates high-quality humus for your garden and lawn plants.
- Humus helps plants easily absorb the nutrients in the Organic Compost.
- It helps retain the soil moisture.
- Organic Compost has all the nutrients required by the plants.
- Composting recycles culinary and yard waste. If the waste goes to the landfill, it is not aerated enough to decompose fast and generates the toxic methane gas. Methane gas contributes to global warming and drastic climatic changes.
- Landfills are rapidly filling up. Many of them have been closed down.
- Diverting the organic waste to composting, can reduce the formation of new landfills and even save the remaining forest area from becoming new landfills
- Compost increases the presence of essential microorganisms inside the soil.
- These microorganisms aerate the soil.
- They breakdown the organic matter to the micro constituents that can be easily absorbed by the plants.
- They keep plant disease at bay.
- Natural alternative to chemical fertilizers.
The raw material you can compost depends on the type of composter you have. However, there are some common rules. 2 types of composting raw materials – carbon-based and nitrogen-based – in varying degrees, can go into a healthy compost pile. A working balance between these 2 types can give you the healthiest garden compost.
Carbon in an organic material gives the lightness to the compost. It allows the entry of the air, which is important for the growth of the microorganisms in the soil. Organic materials like stems, branches, dried leaves, bits of wood, peels, bark dust, brown paper bag shreds, sawdust pellets, conifer needles, corn stalks, coffee filters, egg shells, peat moss, straw, wood ash, etc. form carbon-based matter.
Protein-rich or nitrogenous matter helps in the manufacture of enzymes that help plants in all their daily metabolic activities. Manures, green lawn clippings, food scraps and green leaves contain nitrogen.
Ideally, a healthy compost pile will have more carbon than nitrogen. The best combination is perhaps 1/3rd green and 2/3rd brown materials. Too much nitrogen can cause the formation of a dense slowly decomposing unaerated mass that emits bad odor. Fresh nitrogenous material needs to be covered to avoid the smell. When in doubt, add more carbon.
Avoid these like the plague
- Bones, meat and fish scraps can be put into a specially designed composter like the Green Cone Solar Waste Digester.
- Perennial weeds or diseased plants. They will spread weed seeds and diseases through the compost.
- Avoid pet manures that are ideal only for food crops.
- Orange rinds, peach peels and banana peels should be kept at bay because they may contain chemical pesticide residues.
- Black walnut leaves.
- Sawdust can clump on proximity with moisture. So, it should be scattered thinly. Also, you may want to make sure that the sawdust is clean and without any oil or its residues from the machine.
How to Make Organic Compost
Organic Garden Compost can be made easily through the following steps:
1. Beginning your compost pile on the uncovered soil is ideal. This way worms and other beneficial microorganisms will be able to aerate the compost and remain in it until the compost reaches the garden bed.
2. First, place straw or twigs till a few inches high. This process aerates the pile and helps drainage.
3. The raw materials, now, need to be added in layers – alternating dry ones with the moist. Straw, leaves, wood ashes and sawdust pellets are dry materials. On the other hand, tea bags, seaweed, food scraps, etc. come under moist matter.
4. The next step involves placing manure – green manure or any source of nitrogen. Green manure includes buckwheat, clover, grass clippings and wheatgrass. With this step the compost pile is activated and the process is speeded up.
5. Now, you will need to water occasionally or let rain do the needful.
6. You may want to cover the whole thing with anything available like carpet scraps, plastic sheeting or wood. This process retains heat and moisture, which are the 2 essential factors for composting. Overwatering by the rain is also avoided by covering the compost. As a result the compost is hygienically moist and not sodden with water.
7. Turning the compost every few weeks is a must. A pitchfork or a shovel can be used for this purpose. The pile gets aerated, i.e., it adds the essential oxygen for the process to stay healthy. Once you have the compost pile ready, new materials can be mixed into it. At this stage, layering is not required. Mixing aerates the Organic Compost and propels the composting process ahead to completion. You can also buy a rotating compost tumbler, which helps mixing easy.
One big disadvantage of open organic compost is that it attracts pests like flying insects and even raccoons. Fruit flies are attracted to the compost. Covering exposed vegetable or fruit matter will keep them at bay. Keep a small amount of grass clippings close at hand. When new kitchen waste need to be added, covering it with one or 2 inches of the grass clippings can shut the flies away. Lime or calcium can also be added to discourage them.
Discouraging raccoons is a harder job. Raccoon populations in the vicinity of your home can be naturally attracted to the compost, too. Trapping or poisoning them is only troublesome. Barring their entry to the compost would be the best solution. The compost can be made in a bin and a metal or wood lid can be hinged to it. Or compost bins available in market with pest-proof lids can be used for the purpose.
Toxins from chemical fertilizers have de-conditioned the soil for production of food. Their presence can be reduced by increasing organic compost or farm manure. Organic waste is an inevitable result of cooking and our other daily activities. They can cause big environmental catastrophes due to their improper disposal. If they can be put to a beneficial use by composting, isn’t that a wonderful thing?