Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Lawin Project Series: Urban Home Composting

Lawin Project Series: Urban Home Composting Composting is a nature-friendly activity, a key to successful gardening and farming. It is both hobby and business. It is art and science. It supports sanitation and beautification programs. It is a small, but noble contribution, to help our environment maintain its balance. Dr Abe V Rotor
Living with Nature - School on Blog
Paaralang Bayan sa Himpapawid with Ms Melly C Tenorio
738 DZRB AM, 8 to 9 evening class, Monday to Friday

Compost is the best soil conditioner. Mix compost with soil medium in equal amounts for potted ornamental and herbal plants.

But it's complicated, what with little scientific background - can one produce compost? Many people ask.  Will it not invite pests and vermin to breed?   No, in fact you get rid of garbage that may just accumulate, and not picked up regularly. Have compost and garbage bins separately: The part that is not compostible is picked up by the garbage collector.

Keep those that are raw materials for composting. Everyday you collect the following: dead leaves you sweep on the backyard and sidewalk, wastes and droppings of pets, peelings of fruits, overiped fruits and spent vegetables, ash from the stove, and top  or surface soil. 

What do these materials contribute? 

  • Leaves and stems make up the bulk, they provide the main materials and "bed"
  • Animal and poultry wastes and droppings, food leftovers, provide high nutriernts in the compost..
  • Fruit peelings, overiped fruits, vegetable wastes, provide enzymes that hasten composting. Papain in papaya is the best enzymatic digester.
  • Top soil contains microorganisms such as Trichoderma, Acetobacter, Bacillus, . that serve as innoculants, in lieu of commercial innoculants.
  • Ash contains Potassium, serves as filler for easier tilth.
  • For the bin, a 50- to 100-gal unserviceable plastic bin with holes and cracks for aeration and drainage. 
  • Avoid putting plastics, cellupanes, broken glass, cloth and the like.
Please follow this procedure we adopt at home in Quezon City. The photos hereunder were taken from our home project.
  • Place plastic bin in a shady corner, check drainage to keep the place clean. Cover properly but must not be airtight.
  • Make it a routine to put into the bin the materials mentioned, by layer with this sequence: 1) leaves (compress to 2 or 3 inches), 2) kitchen wastes and droppings, 3) soil (scatter liberally, about one liter). Water regularly and moderately (sprinkle, 1 liter)
  • Repeat layering. Notice content subsides naturally. Don't disturb. Don't overwater. Probe to test slight rise of temperature. This is good sign. Composting is going on.
  • Sometimes you forget feeding the bin regularly. That's all right. Nature is not in a hurry. You can have your compost after six months. But you'll be surprised to find the compost at bottom of the bin ready for harvesting earlier.
  • You can either invert the whole bin and harvest from the bottom while the top is yet to mature. Or, cut a convenient hole on the side near the bottom and harvest, allowing the content to subside.
  • There is such term as tempering (or seasoning), or in the case of wine, aging. Composting follows this natural process. Look for indicators:

1. Earthworms start building their nest, occasional presence of centipede, sowbug, millipede, beetles.

2. There is no odor of decomposition, absolutely - just the musky smell of earth.

3. There is no increase in temperature. It means heat generation by decomposition has completely stopped.

4. Original materials, specially leaves, have totally lost their structure, which means cells including their cellulose walls have been broken down.

5. Spongy consistency. Have a handful sample, pressed in your palm, then open. The sample simply crumble softly.

7. Use compose soonest possible, Mix with ordinary soil as medium for potted plants. When using solely, don't apply directly at the base of plant. Apply in furrow and cover with soil to prevent direct exposure to sun and air. Water properly. 

8. Don't expect plants to respond immediately. Unlike commercial Urea which releases nutrients immediately and one-time, compost releases nutrients slowly with the rhythm of the plant's development. In fact compost delivers trace elements (eg, Bo, Zn, Fe, Cu, Mn) which are very usefulness for the plants, and health of consumers -  environmental balance as well.

9. Compost builds a sub-ecosystem within the root zone where beneficial organisms from earthworm to Rhizobium form a self-sustaining community.  Such community is enhance by good aeration, tilth, moisture absorption and retention, capillarity (rise of water between soil particles), adsorption as well as polarity of ions, etc. No commercial fertilizer can provide these benefirs...

10. Compost moderates sudden temperature change, acidity and alkalinity levels, ion exchange (eg, Free Nitrogen and Nitrate (NO3),

Spread compost on lawn. Put more on balding and yellowing areas. Don't expose compost under the sun without watering the lawn. The earthworm is the most reliable bio-indicator of a mature compost (or a part of it). Compost may lose its nutrients specially Nitrogen if it is not harvested and used in time.

Composting is a natural, biological process in which microorganisms use organic materials as food and leave a residue of digested organic matter that is nearly completely decomposed. Composting is the same as the decomposition that happens to all living things when they die, except that you control composting in order to provide optimum conditions for the microbes, and the process takes place in a specific location so that you can collect the product.
                                            - Eric Sideman, Ph.D. Composting in the Back Yard or on a Small Farm

Compost bins for the backyard and small farm. The most practical compost bin for the home is an unserviceable plastic baldi. Below, raw materials (leaves, pet and kitchen waste, soil), and finished product after 3 to 6 months.

What's the key to making compost? It's nature's process, we call it microbial decomposition. The agents of decomposition are countless from insects to bacteria, fungi, and porotozoans. The act on the organic materials as their food, releasing digestive enzymes that break the organic compounds (protein, carbohydrates, cellulose, fats, etc.) into inorganic compounds and elements. These are reassembled to become nutrients for the next generation of living things - which include the vegetables, herbal and ornamental plants we grow in our gardens and fields. ~

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