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GENERAL COMPOSTING
GENERAL COMPOSTING A compost heap can also be made layer by layer. In the bottom layer, place twigs, stalks, hay, wood chips or other coarse material, which allows air to flow at the bottom. Follow with a layer of high nitrogen material like manure or grass clippings (avoid grass if chemical pesticides have been used), leaves, manure, wood shavings, chopped weeds (picked before going to seed), vegetable and fruit scrapes, nut and eggshells. Sprinkle the material with water as you build the pile and repeat the sequence. The pile should be at least three feet high to trigger and sustain the required biological reactions. Don't let the pile get over five feet high, in which case the mass may pack down, squeeze out air and slow down decomposition. You can use a black polythene sheet to cover or alternatively use a jute sack as cover over the heap to retain the moisture. This is the set up for the Biodung method of composting. This can also be used as a pre-digestion exercise. Once cool (say after about thirty days), the earthworms can be introduced into the heap to proceed with vermicomposting. 

WHEN IS THE COMPOST READY?

GENERAL COMPOSTING The compost is ready when the material is moderately loose and crumbly and the colour of the compost is dark brown. It will be black, granular, lightweight and humus-rich. To facilitate separating the worms from the compost, stop watering two to three days before emptying the beds. This will force about 80 per cent of the worms to the bottom of the bed. The rest of the worms can be removed by hand, and are ready to be transferred into the next round of compost making. The vermicompost is then ready for application.

The smell is earth-like. Any bad odour is a sign that fermentation has not reached its final goal and that the bacterial processes are still going on. 

GENERAL COMPOSTING A musty smell indicates the presence of mould or overheating which leads to loss of nitrogen. If this happens, aerate the heap better or start again, adding more fibrous material and keeping the heap drier. 

The compost heap can become ripe in three weeks but it can take up to three months also. 

You can use the compost in your garden, around shrubs bushes and trees and in potted plants. Compost can be spread on the top of the soil and hoed in lightly to encourage the surface soil life. Roots from tender plants are then able to reach the compost and draw out its nutrients.

Vermicomposting is easy to practise, is ecologically safe and economically sound.

As things stand now, the vermiculture technology is all set to emerge as a big business of the next century. This versatile technique yields organic fertilizers, recovers energy rich resources, and makes for safe disposal of organic wastes and helps combat the spreading problem of environmental pollution. Today, many corporate units and business agencies are making a fortune by marketing vermicompost-an excellent soil conditioner-to the farmers and gardeners. India is still a long way behind in fully exploiting the promises of vermiculture technology for waste disposal and manure generation. With the amount of waste produced in India, the country could easily produce millions of tonnes of plant nutrients and considerably reduce the outflow of foreign exchange towards the import of fertilisers. Today, many industrial units covering paper, pulp and tanning make use of vermiculture technology for waste treatment. 

ALTERNATES:

If animal dung is available in sufficient quantities then it is advisable to set up biogas (gobar gas) units. The gas may be directed to the kitchen or for heating water. The slurry can be used for composting purposes when amended with plant litter or green biomass.
GENERAL COMPOSTING
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