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! Watch this video of Vani Murthy, who composts in her own apartment.

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.