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100th way to compost: Do nothing composting

The sci­en­tif­ic pro­cess­ing of sol­id waste is one of the key focus areas of the Swacch Bharat pro­gram of the Gov­ern­ment of India. The Min­istry of Urban Devel­op­ment has recent­ly launched a TV ad cam­paign fea­tur­ing actor Ambitabh Bac­chan that urges peo­ple to con­vert food waste into com­post. Com­post­ing is an excel­lent way of man­ag­ing sol­id biodegrad­able waste. In India we pro­duce 300 to 400 gms. of sol­id waste per per­son per day in town of nor­mal size. The fig­ure is 500 to 800 gms. per capi­ta per day in cities like Del­hi and Bom­bay of which about 23% is veg­etable waste. In rur­al areas, gen­er­al­ly, many farm­ers dump all their farm wastes and manure into a large pit in the farm called, ’ Eru Kuzhi’ and leave it there untreat­ed for a whole year. Even after a year, the decom­po­si­tion process may not be com­plete and may only be par­tial­ly decom­posed. Instead of dump­ing wastes in a pit and leav­ing it to nat­ur­al decom­po­si­tion, the wastes and manure could be made to under­go a process of active and faster decom­po­si­tion, through the sci­ence of com­post­ing, and turned into rich com­post. Com­post­ing is a tech­nol­o­gy in itself! The ful­ly decom­posed, fin­ished com­post is rich in Car­bon, Nitro­gen, Phos­pho­rus, Potas­si­um and most impor­tant­ly, microor­gan­isms. Com­post­ing with house­hold waste has the fol­low­ing ben­e­fits:

  1. Increas­es the mois­ture absorp­tion and reten­tion capac­i­ty of the soil

  2. Adds diverse nutri­ents to the soil

  3. Enhances soil health keep­ing it free from pests

For the unini­ti­at­ed, com­post­ing may seem like a daunt­ing task. As an ini­tial enthu­si­ast, one does not find the time to seg­re­gate the waste metic­u­lous­ly, emp­ty the organ­ic con­tents into the com­post box/pit, tire­less­ly gath­er all the grass clip­pings, shred them into fine pieces and get the right mix­ture of brown (car­bon) mate­ri­als and green (nitroge­nous) mate­ri­als. We often for­get that com­post­ing is a con­tin­u­ous process and it has to be main­tained well. For all the lazy folks out there who don’t want to invest too much time, but still pro­duce good qual­i­ty soil and find a more eco­log­i­cal­ly appeal­ing way to get rid of your organ­ic waste, this method is for you:

  1. Place an old wide bowl beside your kitchen sink.

  2. While wash­ing ves­sels, put it in the sink, so as to col­lect all the waste water.

  3. Add the food waste and left­overs to this bowl.

  4. Be sure to add the fruit peels, veg­etable peels, and all oth­er organ­ic waste into this bowl. (Keep in mind that the bowl has to have water)

  5. As the bowl of water and waste becomes full, emp­ty it into your com­post pit.

They key advan­tage of this method is that, since the food waste and peels are in water, it will nei­ther attract any flies nor will it pro­duce even the least bit of bad smell.

Mak­ing the com­post pit:

  1. Just out­side your house, find a place (2m*2m) or even (1m*1m) and be sure that it is as close to the kitchen as pos­si­ble. (For the days when you start philosophis­ing about the whole point of com­post­ing and hav­ing to pour the bowl of water into the pit every­day!)

  2. Demar­cate the place with bricks (that is what we have done), or any oth­er inge­nious ways are also wel­come.

  3. Fill the pit with all the weeds that you can find around your house. This will add to the green mate­ri­als and will increase the fibre con­tent and hence the water reten­tion capac­i­ty of the soil. Also add all the dried leaves that you can find. (We have added pre­dom­i­nant­ly Indi­an beech tree leaves (Pon­ga maram in tamil), and Neem leaves. You will be sur­prised as to how quick­ly the mat­ter will reduce in vol­ume.

  4. To this, pour the bowl as it gets filled.

  5. Turn over the con­tents once in a month or so. By the end of two months, you will have rich brown soil which you can use for your kitchen gar­den.



Note:

It is okay if the com­post pit is exposed to the sun, but make sure the pit is 60% moist, This is cru­cial, as if it gets too dry or wet, the essen­tial microbes and worms find it hard to sur­vive. Remem­ber, it is not you who is com­post­ing, but these lit­tle worms and insects. Do make sure you keep their home cozy, com­fort­able and moist! :’)

Also, when­ev­er pos­si­ble, dilute Pan­cha­gavyam or even cow dung in water (3% solu­tion) and pour it into the pit.

We have been fol­low­ing this method for over three years and not once has there been any bad smell. The pit does attract a whole lot of insects, some even 10cms long, so be sure to slight­ly dis­turb it a lit­tle before turn­ing over. This will give them enough time to find a safe cor­ner some­where near­by. You are very lucky if you are able to attract earth­worms into your pit. If you do hap­pen to find plen­ty of them, then there is no need to turn the mat­ter as it will hurt and kill these lit­tle worms. Earth­worms are very sen­si­tive and, it is not a good idea to dis­turb them too much. Also, the qual­i­ty of soil in a pit with earth­worms present are unpar­al­leled.

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