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March 2008
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Converting waste into useful fertilizer

Fertilizer is the life-blood of a kitchen garden; give the right fertilizer and see the plants and shrubs perk up and show a nice growth. One easy way to get good fertilizer is by converting household organic waste into compost (organic waste that has been converted into useful fertilizer by bacteria present in the soil). So what is organic waste ? It is a number of things – eggshells, leaves, hedge trimmings, cut grass, vegetable and fruit trimmings, weeds. It includes stuff that you might not have though of such as sawdust, shredded branches, nutshells. etc. Organic material does not include paper, plastic, whole wood pieces, metal, rubber, bones, discarded meat, etc.
You can actually make compost in your own backyard, although it takes some time to get created. But why should you make compost ? Well, compost means that you are benefiting plants by adding air and naturally occuring organic compounts into the soil. This results in a gradual release of nutrients to plants, increases water retention and improves soil retention. And of course, you are getting rid of your organic waste in a good manner instead of sending to a landfill.
You can make compost yourself by 2 different methods, they depend on the way (called cold method or hot method), the the ease of doing it and the amount of time it takes.
The first method is called the cold method and could take upto an year, but this will be mostly an untended formation with minimal ongoing effort. What do you do ? You need some kind of bins or big containers to handle the stuff. In the first one, put all the dry stuff such as the cut grass, leaves, shredded branches, etc. This bin is more of an additive bin, and is not the bin in which compost gets made. That is made in the other 2 bins. Now, in the second bin, on a regular basis, put all the eggshells, kitchen waste including fruit and vegetable waste, coffee and tea grounds, and then cover with leaves from the first bin. Next time you have kitchen waste, put it in the second bin over the previous one, and again cover with leaves and all from the first bin. Do this every time you have the kitchen waste, and you will eventually end up with a bin containing layers of kitchen waste covered with leaves. This will take around 10-12 months, by which time you will have the bin filled up. Once the second bin is filled up with these layers, repeat in the third bin. The second bin in the meantime will eventually form compost, and then after 10-12 months, the third bin. You can repeat this process a number of times.
The second method is called the hot method and takes much less time, and is good to use when you need to make compost much earlier. You need the organic material and manure. Add the organic material and manure in a layered pattern, watering each layer slightly. After a couple of days, you will find that this layered composition starts to give off steam. After between 2-3 weeks, invert the pile layer by layer so that air gets into this decomposing mass properly. Do it again after 2-3 weeks, and then after another month of so, the pile would have formed into a dark mass that is very crumbly.

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