One of the most important processes for the growth of a plant is the process of decomposition. Most of the nutrients received by plants are due to this vital process.
All dead matter including animals and plants that have dried and fallen down with their leaves, stems, flowers, fruits as well as all waste material, starts to mix with the soil. The soil which is moist and full of microorganism like earthworms, bacteria, fungus, etc., helps decompose this organic matter.
In the process of decomposition, the dead plants and animals along with all their waste materials are acted upon by agents in the soil. All plant and animal matter is broken down and this matter subsequently starts releasing all the nutrients which were previously stored in their bodies. These released nutrients are made available to the roots of crops, plants, and trees growing around.
This means that the nutrients released back into the soil by plants were initially absorbed by the very same plants. And after death the decomposition process helps them release the same nutrients back into the soil, making them available for new plants. This is the magic of the nutrient cycle.
Composting is one of the most fundamental aspects of organic farming. It is the process of recycling nutrients and organic matter and thereby enriching the soil. It helps the soil self-sustain to a large extent.
Fortunately, it is an easy and inexpensive method. Most of the ingredients used are either human or natural waste materials. Basically, things that we deem to be “waste”, help sustain the soil.
Types of organic matter that can be used for the process of composting.
1) Kitchen waste
All kinds of kitchen waste can be collected and used in the form of compost. Collect all peels and scraps of vegetables from your kitchen and add them to the compost pile on a regular basis. I use everything from orange peels, banana skins, melon rinds, to even crushed egg shells. Nothing goes to waste. I keep a small bin next to me while working in the kitchen and keep tossing all this organic waste into that bin. At the end of the day, the contents of that bin are added to my compost pile.
2) Garden waste
Nature has its own rhythm and cycle. The plants, trees, and orchards keep shedding themselves regularly. All of this can be used as mulch. Leaves are packed with nutrients. After they are shed from trees, they should be worked into the soil to improve its quality, texture, and structure.
3) Hay, straw, dead plants, and crop leftovers
All of these are usually available on my own farm. I have had large pits made in certain areas and all dead plants and crop leftovers are put into these pits. The plants waste is layered with fresh Indian cow dung manure, which activates the process of decomposition.
4) Poultry manure
I do not have poultry on my farm, so poultry manure is collected from an organic, free-range poultry farm. This is then used on the garden lawns and also as a layer on the compost pile. Poultry manure is free of weeds and is packed with nutrients. It is a very high source of nitrogen. Adding fresh poultry manure to the compost helps in speeding up the decomposition process.
A word of caution here, poultry manure is hot in nature and can burn the plants if it is not composed properly. Always check the weather before using it.
5) Indian cow manure
This is the absolute hero of my blog!
I have tried many things out and after experimenting with lots of organic matter, I have finally learned that cow dung is the simplest and best manure one can use on the farm.
A lot of research backs why Indian origin cow dung is better than the manure made from the droppings of other cows. I have tried a few experiments on my farm, mainly because I did not have Indian cow dung available at times. My experiments did not fail. My plants responded well and got healthier with the use of other cattle dung as well.
However, even then I noticed that the Indian cow dung gave the best results. The earthworms were seen earlier and in larger quantities. The humus was richer and formed faster. The mulch would decompose quicker. All this meant that the microorganisms become active sooner and the decomposition process was more intensive.
I will be putting up more articles on the benefits of Indian origin cows versus Jersey cows, soon on my blog. But as of now, according to my experience and observation, Indian Origin cow dung is one of the best manures you can use.
However, when it is not possible to do the best thing, do the next best thing. Use any other type of manure. The droppings of cows, buffalo, sheep, goats, horses, anything available to you. All of this will give you positive results and it is always better, cheaper, safer and more effective than ready-made composts available in the markets.
If you are gardening at home, in a city where it is not possible to make your own compost, then feel free to buy ready-made compost mix available at any garden supply store. However, refrain from using any fertilizers, growth promoters or growth enzymes which are usually encouraged by garden stores. These interfere with the DNA of your plant and denature them. Try, as far as possible, to keep it simple and keep it Natural.
- Keep the pile moist.
- Keep the pile covered with dry mulch all the time.
- In summer, or in very dry and hot weather, keep sprinklers on the pile, spraying at intervals, to keep the pile moist.
- Avoid using any chemical fertilisers, enzymes or activators. Use only natural amendments.
- Be patient, nature has its own cycle.