Compost : From Garbage to Garden...

From last post, we have come to know that for solid waste management, there is no throwing ‘away’. The solid waste can be out of our sight, but not out of our environment. Everything we are doing to manage the waste is directly or indirectly affecting us and our ecosystem through pollution.

Composting is a great way of recycling unwanted food scraps & yard waste into a useful garden additive. There is a bit of work involved in composting, but the extra effort well is worth the resulting nutrient rich soil amendment. 

There are many different ways to make compost, with no one method being right or wrong. Many people will try to tell you the ‘proper’ way to compost. But the fact is good compost can be achieved with whatever materials you have available; provided it is biodegradable and free of chemicals, disease or other toxins.

As I previously said, there is no right or wrong way to compost. However, there are good & bad things to compost. Try your own mix of ingredients until you find a recipe that works for you.

The tree leaves that accumulate in and around your landscape represent a valuable natural resource that can be used to provide a good source of organic matter and nutrients for use in your landscape. I have seen many urban dwellers who want to get rid of these fallen leaves. Rather they consider these leaves as nuisance. Either they burn them or send these leaves to dumping yard. Being both of the ways wrong, You must remember that there is no word as ‘waste’ in Mother Nature’s dictionary. Everything that comes from Nature has to go back or it will harm us all. The leaves needs to composted and given back to our soil. It is an established fact that the trees in one acre of forest shed as much as two tons of leaves each year. You may complain that your neighborhood outdoes any forest, but be thankful. Save your leaves. And if your neighbors don’t want them, hang on to theirs. It makes no sense to send valuable treasure to the dump or to burn them!

In forests, sacred groves (देवराई) and pastures, tree leaves and other organic wastes form a natural carpet over the soil surface which conserves moisture, modifies temperatures and prevents soil erosion and crusting. In time, bacteria, fungi and other natural occurring organisms decompose or compost the leaves and other organic material, supplying the existing plants with a natural, slow release form of nutrients. You can, and must, take advantage of this same concept. 

It may be a long process, but I can’t think of any one reason not to make compost for use in your garden. It’s free, simple to do and made from a resource that is never in short supply.

There isn’t anything much easier than making leaf mold. If you have some space in your garden, this is a good way to start composting. While making leaf mold, one can add their kitchen scraps to the pile. This way, he/she can reduce the amount of waste (or a resource!) going to dumping yard.

You want to begin by making sure the leaves are thoroughly moistened. Dry leaves begin to lose nitrogen and this will slow the process of decomposition. There are a few ways to turn leafs into one of the most valuable additives you could put in your soil.

Be sure to mix more brown materials than green materials into your pile to prevent terrible odors. That means you should add more dried stuff such as dried leaves, stalks or straw than the green stuff like fresh yard trimmings, Kitchen vegetable scraps, Weeds, Dead houseplants, Garden debris and cow/horse manure. 

The materials like diseased plants, Meat, bones or fish, glossy paper etc should never be added to a compost pile.

An easy ambitious method is to make a 3 feet by 3 feet cage using stakes & wire. You just have to pile up the leaves in the cage. To ensure even decomposition it is advised to turn the pile occasionally. Always sprinkle water if pile starts to dry. Or you can also rake your leaves into a pile in your yard and leave them there for a year or so. Remember to cover green scraps by dried leaves.

If you have a proper condition for earthworm’s proliferation, then you can get your compost within a really short period of time. Vermi-composting is a way to make high quality compost using earthworms. Worms are food eating machines. Once you have an active worm bin, your kitchen scrapes will quickly become a nutrient rich organic fertilizer.

Some urbanites residing in apartments may excuse that they do not have space required for composting. They can use method which usually consisting of aerated Matkas or drums. There are many NGOs or shops selling these types of compact composting units which can easily fit in your balcony or terrace. One has to have the will, then only there will be a way!

Once the leaf mold is ready, you can use it in many ways. Leaf mold is one of the best soil conditioners, it helps to loosen the soil, making it less dense & easier for roots to penetrate and take up nutrients.

Soil Enrichment - Leaf mulch returns nutrients back to the soil. Your plants and garden will require less or no fertilizer and other additives.

Water Conservation - Leaf mulch helps retain moisture in soils. When soil is covered with leaf mulch, the mulch lowers the soil’s exposure to sun and wind which reduces evaporation.

Save Money - By managing your biodegradable waste on site, you eliminate the costs of pick up & transport and fuel to landfill, making you a more responsible earth inhabitant. 

Insulation - Mulch acts like an insulating barrier from the heat in the summer, from the cold in the winter and from the wind all year round. Mulch prevents compaction and erosion of soils from wind and rain.

Weed Control - Leaf mulch can help prevent the growth of weeds. Add a thick layer (2 to 3 inches) to gardens to reduce the need for herbicides.

With all these great uses why not turn your kitchen and yard waste into a free source of all natural nutrient rich soil additive/fertilizer..?! Composting is a growing solution to solid waste management. Today, knowledge and interest in the science of composting is increasing dramatically. Whether an ancient art or a modern science, composting is a useful and environmentally sound gardening practice for you.

Don't waste the Waste..!

Well… we all have heard, talked or read about the three R's - Reduce, Reuse and Recycling. There is nothing new about them, isn’t it?! But we hardly implement them in our day-to-day life. And that may be because we don’t know or understand the necessity to implement them and about their outcomes. What the R’s are for..?

Nashik is fast growing city. And like any other developing city, our municipal corporation is facing countless challenges due to increase in urban populations such as crowding, transportation, traffic, slums, water supply, power shortages, drainage, and above all, pollution. Pollution is the result of many variables. While air pollution and water quality get maximum share of attention, one pollution source that is largely ignored, though it often stares us in the face is Solid Waste.

Solid waste is defined as non-liquid material that no longer has any value to the person disposing it. Commonly known as garbage, rubbish or trash. Solid Waste Management (SWM) is usually the largest budget item for cities, especially in developing countries. Uncollected solid waste is often the leading contributor to local flooding, air & water pollution and can have an enormous impact on health, local environment as well as on the economy. As cities become larger, consumption of goods and services increases leading to more & more waste. Nashik generates about 450 tons/day of waste. That will be roughly around 165 Metric tons/year. Guess what will be the waste generation of whole world. We need to look at SWM quite seriously now onwards.

This is Garbage Dumping yard of Nashik located near 'Pandavleni'. Everyday, whatever Garbage Vans pick up, is dumped over here. Forget the sight, but it generates terrible smell which one can not stand even for few minutes. To add fuel to the fire, corporation started burning the garbage to create more space for more ‘garbage’, thus making it one of the most polluted area! Basically, Burning or Incineration of waste is not a solution at all! 'Worsening the waste' is what I call it! Burning releases very poisonous & harmful invisible gases Dioxins which are dangerous to human as well as birds & animals. In simple words, burning your waste will result in Landfills in the Sky. With all these, the residential area is not very far from the place. Almost all nearby societies complain about the smoke and smell from the site. The picture speaks for itself. There are people working in this horrible condition for management of this huge amount of garbage, which is increasing day by day. And most of all, the waste management is taking away huge amount of taxpayer's money.

Dumping or Land-filling is the most commonly used method for waste control in developing countries, with many of the dumps in the developing world being open dumps and unsanitary landfills, polluting nearby aquifers, water bodies and human settlements.

How much amount of garbage must be here? Guess... My camera couldn't cover every corner even in it's wide angle. Please see the following image full screen. And just try to compare the height of a human standing in blue outfit near the rising smoke with the height of the garbage mountain...


With no proper planning for waste disposal in place, there is no surprise that our precious but easy resources are over exploited and garbage mountains are being increasingly seen everywhere and the residents are slow-poisoned by the emissions of the burning.

Keeping our cities clean begins with each one of us. When we walk down the streets in our cities we see litter all around us - sometimes garbage bins have more litter around them than inside them. It is so easy to blame the litter and accuse paper, plastics, tin foil and food waste for making our environment dirty and unhealthy. But does paper, plastics, tin, foil and food waste appear magically on our streets and in our neighbourhoods? No, it’s thrown away and disposed of irresponsibly by each one of us!

Waste management in our cities continues to be a problem due to our littering habits and inadequate waste management systems. If we as responsible citizens use and dispose of waste correctly, we can contribute to protecting our environment, conserving natural resources and keeping our cities clean. 

REDUCE : The best way to manage waste is to not produce it. This can be done by shopping carefully and being aware of our choices.

REUSE : It makes economic and environmental sense to reuse products. Sometimes it takes creativity.

RECYCLE : It is a series of steps that takes a used material & processes, re-manufactures and sells it as a new product.

The three R's - all help not only to cut down on the amount of waste we throw away, but they also conserve natural resources, landfill space & energy.
Plus, the three R's save the soil or land and money used for landfills.

How?

We can sell unwanted newspapers, glass bottles, old electronic items to the raddiwallas and kabadiwallas (waste traders) - because there is a value in them. There is value too in the waste we dispose of everyday. We can unleash this value only if each household separates its waste into wet and dry. Then may be, we'll all come to know : Waste is actually a resource!

Wet Waste: Food, vegetable peels, egg shells and other organic materials. These are easily biodegradable and can break down and become compost or soil within a short period. Therefore, this waste should go into a compost pit. You can build your own vermi-compost pit in your colony/home and convert all wet waste into useful compost. This would reduce the pressure on our landfills also.

Dry Waste: Paper, plastics, tin, foil, glass, cloth and other materials that do not biodegrade. These materials can be recycled and made into useful products.

Better administration and public infrastructure are an immediate necessity in lower income countries. Most importantly, public attitude needs to be changed as soon as possible. And the change should start from oneself. Unless there is a shift towards a more responsible attitude, no enduring solution is possible. Public education that informs people of options to reduce waste, increase recycling and composting are a good starting point. There is also a need for the design of longer-lasting and reusable products. Municipalities can encourage people to form groups, segregate waste and process it at their end. Repairing, donating, selling and reusing products when possible, especially in the case of e-waste, is also essential. For example, only 5% of India’s electronic waste gets recycled due to absence of proper infrastructure and legislation. And last but not least, each & everyone of us should make an sincere effort to Reduce, Reuse And Recycle..!

Today is 5th Anniversary of Gifting Trees. Let us join hands to reduce the load on dumping yard. We all must have a goal of reducing the amount of waste going into landfills by 40 percent. Everyone can help meet this goal and save natural resources, energy and money by following the three R's. Reducing waste also means conserving our limited resources. 

Because Every Day is Environment Day for Him!

This Environment Day was no different for us. As for any Nature lover, everyday is Environment day! Dr Prashant Phalak's thoughts are no different. His love for trees is so captivating and appealing that people around him too start loving trees. That includes me too! :)

I remember..due to government service of my father, we have been shifted to numerous cities and villages during my childhood. Frankly, I hated this as I have to leave my school, friends & everything. I hated this from the bottom of my heart. Eventually, I used to forget all these things though. But I vividly remember one thing, that wherever we had been shifted, my father used to plant there number of saplings. Trees near residential quarters, near hospital and wherever possible. Obviously the plantation was followed by watering & nurturing till we move to another place. How many trees planted, nobody knows..even he don't know!

Today, when I count the saplings we plant; he advises not to count them. Mother Nature never does that. She give us countless things selflessly. Not demanding anything in return! But the statistics are necessary for follow up. And while being proud of my father; for others to get inspired, I continue to mention the numbers..! :)

One thing I would like to share with you all, in recent couple of years we got a chance to visit few of those places. The places where once we used to live. And my father made sure to show me all the saplings planted by him, which have grown up into big trees. Just like when one meets an old friend after a decade or two, he was admiring the trees with sparkling eyes. I felt WOW, just couldn't express that moment in words!


Even a small word of appreciation is enough to make one's day. This 5th June, Dr Prashant Phalak, the inspiration and motivation behind Gifting Trees...; is awarded with Paryavaran Puraskaar. It is an award which is given to the individuals who have done remarkable work for the benefit of our environment. On the great occasion of World Environment Day, he was awarded by Honorable Minster (Environment and Cultural Affairs) Mr Sanjay Deotale. The news is covered by couple of leading News Papers.

Cheers to his spirit! Cheers to his love for trees!! A big  thank you to all the tree lovers, friends and supporters!!!

‘Vasanta’ - The King of Ritus

Vasant is a Ritu...Indian season which represents Spring. Indian year which is based on Moon is made up of six Ritus…namely Vasant, Grishma, Varsha, Sharad, Hemant, and Shishir. Though each & every Ritu has her own beauty; I think Vasant is the most fabulous amongst all. In this season, Mother Nature shows off her tremendous beauty. 

The beginning of Vasant Ritu fills pleasure in each & every particle of Nature. Blooming trees, shrubs & climbers and the aroma pleases our mind. Hence the season have remained all time favorite Ritu for many ancient writer and poets. Kalidasa was undoubtedly one of the greatest poets in classical Sanskrit literature. Vasant Ritu when sets in, there is a sense of excitement in the air - the romance, the jolliness, Nature’s finest manifestation in all her beauty- Vasanta, as Kalidasa calls it, is certainly the 'Rituraaja' - the king of seasons.


Vasant and Beauty of Nature has an inseparable inter-connection. It is time for every bush and tree to spring to life with blooms & bursts of colour and fragrance, vibrant as sparklers in festivals.

Indian rich heritage and mythology have wonderfully described the importance of Vasant. Lord Krishna says in the Bhagwad Gita that in all seasons, He is the Vasant. The festival of Vasant is celebrated in India on the fifth day of the Shukla Paksha and so is called Vasant Panchami; but the concept behind it goes deeper than mere calculation of the days of the moon. To understand the true significance of the festival it would be instructive to understand the essence of Goddess Saraswati, the presiding deity of learning, aesthetics and creativity. 

One thing important to note is Vasant or spring do not begin at once across the length & breadth of our country. For instance, in Maharashtra, Vasant season is approximately from 16 February to 15 April; whereas In North states, the Ritu visits a bit later. After mid-April, here starts the Grishma Ritu. In Maharashtra, number of trees like Palash, Mango, Pongam, Indian RosewoodJava Plum, Mahua, Sorrowless tree, Semal, Indian Siris, Pride of  India, Gamhar, Sonpattta, Indian Coral tree etc bloom in Vasant Ritu only. According to me, it is the best season to visit forests or sanctuaries to view these flowering beauties. The flower is a beautiful symbol of life & regeneration as it leads to seed and then to another plant. Hence Vasant is also known as Kusumakara.  

In Vasant, the gardens are bustling with activity - the constant droning of the bees, the chirping of the birds, the call of the Asian Koel and the constant rustling of the leaves. The pleasant warm sunshine and the breeze set up a highly romantic atmosphere. Vasanta is also known as “Madhumaasa“, which brings lovers together...forever! With all the beauty and fragrance of Vasant Ritu in mind, here are we celebrating 'Gifting Trees...'s 4th anniversary. Is that a coincidence? I think not... :D

In last year, we have planted 7 native trees. Though we have saved couple of plants, sadly we lost few previously planted trees due construction works in the premises. So we replaced them with these new saplings. In summer one has to take extra care of the planted sapling. Last years we experienced few surprises too! Earlier we used water the plants and so we had some days devoted for watering. On some of the watering days, we found few of the saplings near a building were already watered...

"Wow!"

Not because it saved our efforts...but for few have understood the importance of native trees in urban areas! :)

Our Ecosystems : Trees!


Gifting Trees... turns three today. So fast time flies! When we look back at our journey with trees and with all you readers, it bring us immense joy that more & more tree-lovers are not only asking about native trees, but also trying to plant a few. We would like thank all of them for their love and support!

Few readers also asked us whether we do it for money or as a business. We are sorry for disappointing them as our prime motto is to spread awareness about Native trees & Green Living; and not to earn money! :)

I, personally, am really sorry for not writing any post in last few months. I was busy in my professional work. Also I just don't want to repeat the similar facts/things which are published in previous posts. Instead, I would like to have some reciprocation from you guys if you want to know anything more. May it be any native tree or anything else related to Mother Nature. Like, one of the readers asked me about 'How bad is Plastic?' There definitely will be a post in upcoming time, throwing some light on this very subject.

In last year, We have planted 15 native saplings and saved a Acacia & a Jujube tree from felling. How many trees have you..? Let there be few native trees dedicated to your loved ones..! Because these trees silently teach us many important lessons. Have a heart like trees and learn how to be grateful to the ones who have ever helped you.

Trees love us selflessly, they grow, fight against adversities and dedicate their whole life serving us. But instead of expressing our gratitude, we cut them down insensibly.

They are one of the greatest resources of the Mother Earth and the most gracious & faithful company. They offer shelter, delicious foods and beautiful life, give us fresh strength by purifying air and teach us wise lessons to live a happy and motivated life. They serve humanity in every possible way only to return our single help of seeding them. Today, we have distinct sympathy with nature...we no more feel their pain when we tear their leaves, no more hear the scream when we chop them down, no more hear the part of their joy when its raining; which leads us to accomplish the most shameful acts such as deforestation and our own destruction.

If you love trees, show it and act likewise! Just remember these line by an unknown author... “We say we love flowers, yet we pluck them. We say we love trees, yet we cut them down. And people still wonder why some are afraid when told they are loved..!”

The Black Palash

Sandan (Desmodium Oojeinensis/तिवस, तिनसा, काळा-पळस) is a medium sized deciduous tree. Though very beautiful, the tree is very much neglected in urban area. It bears numerous flowers which are pinkish-white in colour, borne in short racemes. The new leaves add more beauty to it. Leaves are trifoliate, with large, rigidly leathery leaflets.

Flowering of the tree is conspicuous and afford a beautiful sight, making Sandan a versatile ornamental tree. It attracts number of birds and bees. The flowers of the tree have significant similarities to that of Palash except for the size & colour. The leaves shape is also similar up to some extent. Only significant difference is the bark of Sandan is somewhat dark brown. Hence in Marathi, tree is known as Kala Palas which means 'black Palash'.

The tree does well in lowland alluvial soils as well as on dry exposed sites & eroded hills. It also occurs on red clay, black cotton and rocky soil. Young trees and seedlings need a moderate amount of shade, but once established they require full sunlight for best development. Although young trees are frost sensitive, mature trees are hardy and drought tolerant. Sandan coppices well and produces abundant root-suckers. This characteristic is particularly useful for controlling soil erosion along steep banks and eroded hillsides.

Sandan also has numerous uses. The wood is hard, tough, close-grained, elastic and durable. It is highly valued in India for making agricultural implements. It is also a specialty timber for marine plywood. A red, transparent, astringent gum is obtained from the trunk. Bark fibres are suitable for making rope. Sandan has a range of medicinal uses which include astringent, antipyretic, anti-dysenteric.

It is propagated by seeds & root cuttings. Seeds should be soaked in water for 24 hours before sowing. This facilitates germination.

The tree comes up readily in blanks in the forest, on hilly slopes, landslips and bare places. In addition, this species has a symbiotic relationship with certain soil bacteria; these bacteria form nodules on the roots and fix atmospheric nitrogen. Some of this nitrogen is utilized by the growing plant but some can also be used by other plants growing nearby. This could make it a valuable pioneer agroforestry species!

The White Fig

White Fig (Ficus Virens/लघुपिंपरी, पायर, पाईर) is a moderate to large sized deciduous fig with a spreading canopy. It is a beautiful shade tree wirh dense green foliage. New leafs emerge in March with colors of purple, red & bronze, giving the tree a wonderful look, very pleasing to the eye. The color transformation goes on till April. The aerial roots commonly wrap around the main stem instead of forming props.

The leaves have similar texture as that of Peepal tree and have a whitish midrib. The stipules are short, measuring less than 1 cm. The pea-sized figs appear in pairs and greenish-white to brown in colour with spots.

It is interesting to now that figs have a unique form of fertilization, each species relying on a single, highly specialized species of wasp that is itself totally dependant upon that fig species in order to breed. The tree produces three types of flower; male, a long-styled female and a short-styled female flower, often called the gall flower. All three types of flower are contained within the structure we usually think of as the fruit.

The female fig wasp enters a fig and lays its eggs on the short styled female flowers while pollinating the long styled female flowers. Wingless male fig wasps emerge first, inseminate the emerging females and then bore exit tunnels out of the fig for the winged females. Females emerge, collect pollen from the male flowers and fly off in search of figs whose female flowers are receptive. In order to support a population of its pollinator, individuals of a Ficus species must flower asynchronously. A population must exceed a critical minimum size to ensure that at any time of the year at least some plants have overlap of emission and reception of fig wasps. Without this temporal overlap the short-lived pollinator wasps will go locally extinct.

This tree is a fig belonging to the group of trees known as Strangler figs, which often begins life as an epiphyte. The seeds are dispersed by birds which tend to germinate on other trees. They grow to strangle and eventually kill the host tree, thus establishing itself as a winner.

According to Ayurveda, the tree has several medicinal properties to its name. It is known to be useful in treating cough, bronchitis, fever, headache and cold. In folk medicine it is used as a diuretic, for rheumatism of joints and muscles for gout, for bladder and kidney diseases. A decoction of the bark is used in the treatment of leucorrhoea. The herb is used for stomach complaints with hyperacidity, prophylaxis and therapy of stomach ulcers and for diarrhoea in children.

White fig is a potential agroforestry species; or rather in some parts of India, it is being used as one. The leaves are used as animal feed. The tannin and dye obtained from the bark has been used in respective industries. The tree is harvested for local use as a medicine, food and source of latex. It is sometimes cultivated as shade tree in coffee plantations. The tree is occasionally used as host tree for lac insects. The fig gives shelter to many birds, insects and arboreal mammals. The leaves are eaten boiled as a vegetable in Northern Thai curries.

White fig is also grown as an ornamental and shade tree along avenues. This tree has become popular as an avenue tree in and around the cities of New Delhi and Noida. It is suitable for plantation in parks and large gardens.