Thursday, June 19, 2014

Composting I do

A new batch of Free first-aid course in homeopathy had started.  Its venue was our house, year was about 2002 or 2003 and the weekly evening lectures were attended by a number of persons, every Saturday.

One such evening, I was sipping tea under our fiddlewood tree sitting on the stone bench as was my wont.  It was well before the start of the lecture.   Attendees had started to arrive.  One person who had been attending saw me sitting there as he arrived.  He recognized me and I recognized him as Ramesh [Kikkeri], my high school classmate.  We were face to face after nearly 30 years.  A very happy reunion happened.

Ramesh was a renown mischievous lad in those days and of the adventurous type.  Everyone used to envy him just because his house faced the school gate, but milder ones were somewhat afraid of him just because he was of the always-up-to-something sort.

It did not take much time for us to know the many things we had in common as we began to meet often outside the lecture days.

Old picture, house and my garden in 'that portion'. 

One evening before the lecture, he came and sat beside me as I was sipping tea again.  The fiddlewood tree had dropped hundreds of tiny flowers.  I had swept them aside into a pile.  This caught his attention. “What a fine manure you have there!” he exclaimed.  Till that time, I was simply spreading them to the base of plants without actually knowing its value to soil.  "Just put there, it will become manure" was what all I knew.  Ramesh opened my eyes on 'composting'.  The subject was also latent in me.  But I came to know several other related things that I did not know before.  This was to change the way I garden.  I had just then become part of Dave's Garden and there was some scope for me to know more on the web.   

Another Fiddlewood tree in my portion on the right, Almond tree on the left.  See fallen flowers. Most recent picture.

Just about that time, another old friend and schoolmate Ramaswamy, whose house is in a vast plot full of greenery, became 'more friend'!  Because he, Ramesh and I all seemed to be having the same interests but they were already veterans in subjects like rain water harvesting, energy conservation, environment protection, plants, trees and more.  They had gained practical experience which I never imagined and I never had, because of their engineering background.

I began to observe in Ramaswamy's garden how he did not waste the branches, leaves and other things.  I learnt more from him about how they break down and contribute to the earth.  Why not I too do such things I thought, because I had some space then.  I had stopped thinking of using inorganic manure which I earlier used sparingly.  There was a huge load of dry leaves and other organic material from the trees at my disposal in our plot.

Pictured before the almond tree was reduced to half its height.  This is just about half the volume! 

That is ONE LEAF!

I dug up a large pit and started to dump all the huge leaves from the almond tree that shed twice a year.  I had to compress them with my weight into the pit. They were just dry leaves, the 'brown matter' as I learnt long later.  Listening to the farmers’ programme on radio gave me more insight that 'green matter' also contributes to composting.  The matter in that pit was ready in 6 months.  I used to remove and stock it for my potted plants. The stuff was just like soil!  I was amazed the first time I dug up the mature contents!  Wow, I can create soil!! I also stopped burning up the dry leaves to dispose them, once I realized the value of this ‘green gold’, as one attendee of a later course expressed and asked me if he could have some for his garden.  I happily gave him many bags of them as I had so much extra!

Just to show the other half portion of the plot, picture 2013. Click to enlarge.

The plot underwent a division issue and my garden became half.  Things became easier to manage our yard, but still the almond leaves became a problem due to lack of space to compost them.  So I got the top half of the big almond tree cut down – to reduce the amount of leaves.  The place I used to do became no longer mine.  See above picture.

I had seen how Ramaswamy composted his kitchen waste and other 'brown matter'.  I too did similar things to good effect. Ramesh is an organic farmer and an amazing fellow knowing many skills, always up to something as is his wont even now!  He was to build a fuel-efficient boiler/hearth in our house for which fabricator Ramaswamy made the steel drum. And more recently we jointly did the plumbing work for our house - on the outside!  Such is the versatility of Ramesh, but these are just a couple.

Ramesh, with his 125th hearth/boiler he built/designed, 2009.

I am now composting kitchen scrap and most organic matter including spent coffee and tea powder, in my small way that suffices my garden requirement.  I have made two small pits, each about 16x16x12 inches deep.  One will be active and one waits to break down.  I rotate the contents once in a while, but mostly I leave them as they are until the pit is full.  When the lovely black powdery compost is created, I transfer it into bags or directly on to flower beds - it takes about 2-3 months.   Results are nice.  Moreover, my soil gets added with organic matter. Earthworms love this and I need not tell about the value of earthworms to the quality of soil.  Composting has become a part of my gardening activity and worth every joule of effort!  There are a few methods of composting, but this is my method. Also through Ramaswamy and Ramesh, I came to know about Mysore's Pinjrapole Society which sells 'vermicompost'.  I have started to buy this also at times as a supplement to my own compost.

Bottom rectangle is where the two pits are.  Smaller squares above it are the places I had planned to move them when I reshaped the area.

This was just before I dug up the new pits just a couple of feet away. 

Flies and mosquitoes are attracted to compost.  Let them, but not to open shit!! 

Happy composting, happily composting!!

1 comment:

  1. I read this post days and days ago, and didn't have time to comment! In fact, I thought I DID comment. But I guess not, heh?!
    I love the idea of small pits for composting, Dinu. I would never thought to do that. And if the pits are in the flower beds, all the better - handy for putting where you want the resulting compost.
    By the way: I love the pic with your head juxtaposed with the giant leaf!


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