For getting bumper production, farmers are using more than recommended doses of agro-chemicals which is getting accumulated in the farm produce. These toxin upon consumption, are increasing health risk in both human and animals. Because of this , the demand for organic produce is increasing and the concept of kitchen garden is getting popularity.
Growing seasonal fruits and vegetables in the kitchen garden also needs nutrient from external source. Application of compost can supply the desired nutrient from organic source. The large volume of waste generated from the house hold can effectively be converted to compost, which can serve as external source of nutrients for kitchen garden.
Soil nutrient can be added either in terms of chemical fertilizer or organic matter into the soil. In a small scale, addition of organic matter for growing fruits and vegetables becomes the most feasible option for most of the people. Soil organic matter contains all the nutrient elements required for plant growth and for maintaining soil health.
Getting farm yard manure or vermicompost from the market involves difficulty in terms of money, labor and availability. But by making compost in the house itself, one can get rid of the huge mass of regular waste generated and instead can get valuable compost for use in in kitchen garden.
This article provides a simple method of compost preparation for kitchen garden addressing the combined issue of waste disposal of house and nutrient supplementation to crops.
Compost is decomposed organic matter such as crop residues and/or animal manure. The decomposition process is essentially facilitated by various microorganisms.
Cow dung, urine, litter or organic waste material cannot be used as such in plants for supplying plant available nutrient. The nutrient elements are not present in plant available form in those form of organic matter. So, plants cannot take up nutrient from those waste. So proper decomposition of those material is needed before applying as nutrient supplement for plant growth.
There are various methods for compost preparation. But according to the convenience, simple method of compost preparation is given in this article.
All non-toxic, organic materials can be used for making compost. Superfluous and/or waste material are often applied and in this way can be made use of again. Finally, make sure that the materials used for composting could not be better used for other purposes, such as cattle feed.
In general, any type of organic material of plants and animals can be used. It is essential to mix old and tough materials, which are difficult to decompose (crop residues, small twigs), with young and sappy materials, which are easily decomposable (fruit, vegetable skins, young leaves).
This is because different types of organic matter contain different proportions of carbon (C) and nitrogen (N). The micro-organisms who decompose the organic matter need both carbon and nitrogen to function well.
In general, young, living material that decomposes fast contains low levels of carbon but high levels of nitrogen. Tough, dead material decomposes slowly and contains large amounts of carbon but low amounts of nitrogen. Too little nitrogen-rich material means the composting process will be slow, too much of it will result in the heap becoming acid and smelly.
Nitrogen-rich materials are: Young leaves, all types of manures, fish meal, fish waste, urine, leguminous plants. Examples of
Carbon-rich materials are: Dry leaves, crop residues of maize, sugarcane, rice, etc., twigs, wood shavings, coffee pulp, carton, etc.
The following waste generated in the house can be used for compost preparation
- Fruits and vegetable peels
- Flowers, leaves, twigs, weeds
- Leftover food
- Egg shell: Will add calcium to the compost
- Cow dung and urine
- Waste paper, old news paper
- Fish meal
- Tea leaves
There are few wastes which cannot be used for composting are as follows
- Glass waste
- Plastic waste
- Polythene wrappers
Site selection for compost pit preparation:
The following points should be kept in mind while preparing composting pit
- In dry climates, pit should be protected from drying out. Shady place should be selected, avoiding wind. It can be done by making the pit behind building or tree rows.
- Under wet weather, pit should be made on elevated and slopy spot to avoid accumulation of excess rain water so that the nutrient would not leach down. Pits should be preferably made under shade to protect it from excessive rainfall. The pit may be covered with polythene sheet or plant material.
- The pit should be near the place from where the compost transportation and application would be easier.
- The pit should not be too close to the residential place or stable. Because the pit is likely to attract vermin such as rats, termites, flies etc. and this might act as vector for transfer of disease to human and animal.
Method of pit preparation:
Dig two pits side by side. Length and breadth of the pit depends on the availability of space and the amount of waste generated. But depth should not be more than 1 m. The walls of pit should be plastered with either with soil or cow dung slurry.
The first 15 cm layer of pit should be made using leaves, twigs, fly ash and dust. Above this, soil slurry is sprinkled to cover it. If cattle are there, then mixture of cow urine, dung and soil should be used to cover the lower most layer.
Above this, the house hold generated waste is filled uniformly for 15 cm. Again the layer should be covered with soil slurry or cow dung mixture. This process of layering should be repeated till the heap rises to 60-75 cm from ground level. Filling of pit should be done one after another, not simultaneously.
Maintenance of compost pit:
Watering: Optimum moisture is needed for decomposition process. So, the heap should be sprinkled with water in the morning and evening. Once the decomposition starts, the heap size reduces gradually and finally comes down to ground level. At this stage, there is no need to sprinkle water regularly, rather sprinkling once in a week is enough.
Turning: Aeration is needed to accelerate the decomposition process. The decomposing microorganisms get air during turning of the composting material. So the composting material should be turned upside down for better aeration.
For this, minimum 3 turning is needed. First, three weeks after the pit filling. Second, two weeks after the first turning and third turning should be done two months after the second turning. While turning, care should be taken for proper mixing of the composting material and water should be sprinkled during turning for proper moisture maintenance.
The simple method of compost preparation will not only address the issue of disposal of house hold waste but also will serve as the organic source of nutrients for fruits and vegetables of kitchen garden. Those organically produced fruits and vegetables will bring the content of consuming nutritious food without the fright of toxic agro-chemicals. This will ensure safe nutritious diet enriched with vitamins and minerals necessary for sound health.
Ankita Trivedi1, Reena Saharan1, Archana Sanyal1, Asik Datta2
1: Scientist, Central Arid Zone Research Institute, Jodhpur, Rajasthan- 342003
2: Scientist, Indian Institute of Pulse Research, Kanpur, Uttar Pradesh- 208024