One of the best substitutes for organic manures may be the plant food organic waste provided by a compost heap. This is made by composting all garden and kitchen waste so that it is acted upon by soil bacteria and fungi and so converted into humus.
Before considering the material to use on the heap, some thought should be given to selecting a site, for the more favorable the position, the easier and quicker will be the process of decomposition.
Refrain from fully exposing the heap to outside elements such as rain, sunshine and wind. Another thing to avoid is extremely low lying position or one where there is dripping from overhanging trees.
Even if low ground is the only position you can get, avoid digging a hole. It isn’t wise to do so because you will end up accumulating water, thus keeping the process of decomposition from occurring.
Refer the illustrations below:
Illustration 1: Twigs laid beneath the first layer of compost ensured aeration. A sturdy framework keeps the heap neat and maintains its temperature.
Illustration 2: Build up material for compost in layers 15cm/16in deep, watering each one and adding 15g ( oz) sulphate of ammonia to alternate layers.
Illustration 3: After 3 weeks turn the heap over, outside to center, before covering with soil and leaving it to rot down completely.
On level ground, the base of the heap can be done by simply making an excavation that’s shallow. For areas that are dry and seldom receive rainfall, you might want to take out pits around 45-75cm or 18-30in deep.
The heap’s foundation should be forked over, and laying in position beforehand, things such as bricks, brushwood, cabbage stalks, coarse and hedge trimmings will result in aeration and drainage that can be extremely beneficial.
On top of the base, you want to put down a single layer of peat along with manure that’s already well-rotted. Ripe compost derived from the previous rotting down can be used instead of the latter. Once this has been done, the assortment of materials is dumped on top of the base.
To ensure fast and even decaying process, the materials should be mixed thoroughly. Therefore coarse and fine, wet and dry, fresh and old material should be used together, and will lead to proper breaking down.
How do you ensure top quality compose and how do you speed up the rate of decomposition? Well, these two things are influenced by the size as well as the shape of the heap. For best results, the heap should be formed in rectangular shape.
The pyramid shape is also recommended, but stay away from shapeless mass that’s flat, which is often seen. For the average garden, a heap 1 m (3 ft) long, m (1 ft) wide and 1 m (3 ft) high is the easiest size to manage.
Wooden compost boxes may be employed to keep the material in place. Alternatively, use proprietary compost bins which retain heat, yet ensure adequate aeration of the decomposing waste. To build up the heap, spread a layer of soil or manure. You can even sprinkle dried blood or fish material.
A good friend of mine prefers to use some other organic manure waste matter. He would apply the manure on every layer, plus he would also throw in some ground chalk and also a bit of soil for good measure.
Sandwich the layers until the heap is complete. Set it for 20 days or so before turning it, positioning the outside to the middle. The next step is to have the heap fully covered with a just a single layer of soil. This is done in order to maximize fermentation. If you’re using bins, the top can be covered with plastic or even wood to keep the heat in.
A compost heap can take anything from ninety days to a whole year to become ready for use, and that is dependent on the materials that you use. It is therefore a good plan to make a new heap every autumn, so the material is ripe for use by adding to the soil when winter digging. Two heaps are needed, one being built up as the other becomes ready to use.
Anything organic that rots down easily can be put on the heap, including plant remains, leaves, grass mowings, kitchen peelings, and tea leaves. Woody, bulky material such as cabbage plants can also be added to the heap but before doing so; it is wise to crush these with a hammer so that they rot down more easily.
Although the heat from a decently constructed compost heap is more than enough to wipe out numerous weed seeds, it is best to burn perennial weeds such as couch grass, docks and bindweed.