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Step by step process of making rich organic fertiliser with promising results

SMART HARVEST
By Silvanus Wanjala | April 18th 2015

The pile method is the easiest and most commonly used by farmers.

• Select an area in your farm that is protected from strong wind and sun, for instance, under the shade of a tree.

• Mark the area you intend to locate the compost (the minimum area is 1.25m x 1.25m).

• Dig a shallow trench, same size as the compost heap 20cm deep. Smear the sides of the trench with water or a mixture of water and cow dung to prevent moisture and nutrients from leaking from the compost heap. The shallow trench will become the foundation of the compost heap. The trench also helps to hold moisture especially during the dry season.

Foundation layer

Put the dry plants material such as small tree branches, maize stalks or sorghum stalks. Cut the plant material into small pieces. Spread the dry material evenly over the bottom of the trench to make a layer of 15-25cm. Sprinkle with water using a watering can or basin to ensure all material is moist but not wet.

Layer 1: In this layer, put dry plant material such as grass, dry leaves mixed with top soil, manure and ashes. The layer should be about 20-25cm thick (as thick as the palm of your hand). Mix the material with soil, manure and ashes and sprinkle water to make it moist.

Layer 2: Make another layer of moist (green) material which is fresh or wilted such as weeds or grass cuttings, stems and vegetable leaves, tree branch leaves, damaged fruits, or vegetables or even kitchen waste. Do not sprinkle water in this layer. But you can spread it to remain even or flat.

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Layer 3: This layer should be composed of animal manure collected from fresh or dried cow dung, chicken waste, donkey manure and sheep or goat droppings. The animal manure can be mixed with soil, old compost and some ashes to make a layer that is 5 -10 cm thick. If the manure is not adequate, make a watery mixture and spread it over as a thin layer about 1-2cm thick.

Covering layer

The finished heap has to be protected from the sun or animals or anything that might interrupt with the mix. The farmer can prepare wet mud mixed with grass or straw, or with wide pumpkin leaves, banana leaves or plastic polyethylene sheets. The cover should be sealed with only the ventilation stick (also called thermometer stick).

Turning the compost

After three weeks, you can open up the compost heap mixing all the layers while sprinkling water to make it moist but not wet. A little EM1 can be mixed with water to hasten the decomposing process.

Check the decomposition progress

Using the ventilation or temperature stick, you can keep on checking the decomposition process of your compost every week by pulling out the stick. If it has a white substance on it and has a bad smell, it means the decomposition is not going on well. You can turn the compost further and sprinkle some more water to make it moist.

Check if compost is ready

A mature compost heap is about the half the size of the original heap. Check to ensure the compost has a dark brown colour or black soil, which has a nice smell. All the original material should not be seen if the decomposition process went on well.

The writer is an Agricultural extension Officer Ministry of Agriculture —Compiled by Faith Ronoh

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