Composting and its methods

Composting is a process of biological degradation/decomposition (rotning and decay) of:

  • Plant residues
  • Farmyard manure (FYM)
  • Kitchen scrap under controlled conditions

Once these materials are completely decayed, the end product is called Compost. It is decayed organic matter that is earthy, dark and crumbly.
Compost is an important component of organic farming. It plays a key role in soil nutrient management.

Methods of composting

  • Pile or heap composting
  • Pit composting

Pile or heap composting:

Prepare a semi-shaded 3x3ft area.

Material Required:

  • Green Material

Green materials are rich in nitrogen, freshly cut grass, twigs, branches and bark that are cut into small pieces, kitchen scrap and farm animal manure.

  • Brown Material

It is rich in carbon, dried leaves, straw, corn stalks and other dried plant residues and old newspaper.

  • Garden Soil

Invest time and money to your garden soil and it will bring the best to your garden.

Step to step procedure for pile composting:

  1. Spread a layer of several inches thick about 6” of brown material on the surface soil. This is the first layer.
  2. Add next layer, the green material about 8” thick.
  3. Top this with a thin layer of garden soil.
  4. Sprinkle enough water to make the leaves moist but not wet and soggy (anaerobic condition) because microbial activity stops.
  5. Repeat the steps 1-4 until your pile reaches the height of 3ft.
  6. Turn the pile after two weeks to heat it up. Use a garden fork or shovel to turn the pile to mix/move the decomposing material at the middle towards the outside and the outside material towards the center of the pile. Then you can mix it every 5-7 days. If your compost has strong odour, turn it more often as your pile is tightly packed and poorly aerated.
  7. Ensure that pile is heating up that you first turn the pile you may see steam rising from it. This signals decomposition. You can cover the pile to keep heat in.
  8. Add nothing to the pile once the decomposition process has begun.
  9. The composting is finished as the pile is no longer heating up and the original material turn earthy and black.

Pit Composting

Prepare a compost pit of 1-1.5m length x 1-1.5m width x 1-1.5m depth.

Material Required:

  • Green material
  • Brown material
  • Garden soil
  • Wood ash
  • Water
  • Long sharp pointed sticks
  • Farm implementations such as wheel barrow, water pan, hoe.

Step by step procedure for Pit composting:

  1. Dig the compost pit semi-shaded and non-water logged area.
  2. Place the dry plant material. This should be about 20-25cm thick.
  3. Sprinkle enough water to make composting material moist but not wet.
  4. The next layer should be of green material either fresh or wilted grasses, weeds, twigs, branches unless chopped into smaller pieces.
  5. This layer should also be 20-25cm thick.
  6. Top this with a mixture of animal manure, soil and ash. This layer should be 10-15 cm thick.
  7. Repeat steps 1-3 until the pile reaches a height of 1m. You make the pile thicker in the middle than the sides to make dome-shaped pile. This makes pile turning easy.
  8. Place the sticks vertically into the pile to allow the air to circulate into various layers.
  9. Cover the pit with broad leaves plants like banana leaves.
  10. Turn the pile after every 2 weeks. The compost is ready after 3-4 months.

Tips for better composting

  • Keep the pile moist
  • Keep the pile well aerated
  • Maintain a balance between brown and green material