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Compost making

Turn organic waste into compost for improved soil fertility and sustained crop production.

What is composting?

Composting is a big-chemical process in which micro-organisms decompose organic waste matter-crop residue, kitchen wastes, cowdung, urine-into a soil-improving product called compost.

The final product is a uniform, black mass of rotten, nutrient rich manure.

Advantages of adding compost to soil


- supplies nutrients.

- improves microbial activity, which helps release soil nutrients for use by plants.

- checks pollution from manure heaps and leaching of urine into the soil.

- reduces the need for chemical fertilizers which are costly and potentially damaging to the environment.

- increases the amount of organic carbon and nitrogen, improving physical properties of soil and allowing higher response to chemical fertilizers and higher crop yields.

- improves soil structure, improving drainage and making tillage easier.

- increases the water-holding capacity of soil.

- helps check wind erosion by improving soil structure.

Selection of site for composting

Your compost pit should be:

- easy to inspect.

- built on higher ground to avoid waterlogging.

- near the cattle shed and a source of water.

- located away from the road to avoid contamination by lead and other toxic metals which, in turn, could contaminate food crops affecting the health of humans and livestock.


Compost and farmyard manure are major sources of weed seeds. Weed seeds withstand partial decomposition, therefore, put only fully decomposed compost and farmyard manure on your fields.

Three methods for making compost

Indore method

Raw materials for composting

Plant residues-Mix plant residues, weeds, sugarcane tops, leaves, grass, wood ash, bran, etc. Chop and crush hard woody material

Dung-Collect dung and bedding of farm animals, including the urine-soaked mud from animal sheds.

Wood ash-Wood ash reduces compost acidity and adds potassium.

Water and air-Both are necessary for bacterial and fungal activity.

Size of the compost pit

Width 2 to 2.75 m
Depth 0.75 to 1 m (not more than 1 m)
Length 3 m or more as required.

Method of filling the pit

1 Spread raw material evenly in the pit in layers 7 cm thick.

2 Add a layer of wood ash (if available) along with urine and mud.

3 Next spread a 5-cm layer of bedding with cattle dung and soil. Sprinkle with water until moist.

4 Continue adding layers until the material is 30 cm above ground level. Apply water. The heap will shrink as it decomposes.

5 Turn over the heap three times. Moisten with water each time.

To aerate, dig out the compost...

And then put it back in the pit.


Decomposition needs proper mixing as well as circulation of water and air. You can ensure this by turning over the material three times:

First turning 10-15 days after filling the pit.
Second turning 15 days later.
Third fuming after 2 months.

At the third turning, you can take it out of the pit and put it back in. This helps the bacteria to take nitrogen out of the air. In regions of heavy rainfall, compost pits should be covered by a shed. Compost-making should be discontinued between June and September.

Bangalore method

Raw material Same as for the Indore method.

Size of the pit
Width 2 m
Depth 1 m
Length 6 m

Method of filling the pit

1 Spread a 1 5-cm layer of farm refuse on the bottom of the pit and moisten this with water.
2 Follow this with a 5-cm layer of cattle dung and urine soaked mud.
3 Next apply a 2. 5- to 5-cm layer of soil.
4 Repeat the process until the heap is about 0.5 m above ground level.

The material decomposes within 8 to 9 months and the finished product is ready for use.

Nadep method (above ground)

Raw materials Waste organic material-about 1,500 kg. Cattle dung-90 to 100 kg (8-10 baskets) Dry-sieved soil-1,750 kg (120 baskets). Urine-soaked soil is most effective. Remove glass, stones, plastic, and other nondecomposable substances. Water-Enough to keep the pit moist.

Nadep method (above ground)

Tank construction

Build a rectangular tank (3 m long, 2 m wide and 1 m high) made of brick walls and floor with mud mortar. Leave holes in the tank walls for aeration (about four holes along each side wall and two holes in each end wall). Plaster the inner walls and the bottom of the tank with a mud and cow-dung mixture.

Method of filling

First layer-15-cm compact layer of plant waste material.

Second layer-Cow-dung slurry: about 4 kg of cow dung mixed with 10 buckets of water (drench thoroughly).

Third layer-Add a 2-cm layer of fine, sieved soil (60 to 65 kg).

Keep adding layers in this way until the material is heaped 15 cm above the lip of the tank. Add another 7-cm layer of fine soil on top of the heap. Seal the tank with cow-dung plaster.

For best results

- Build a temporary shed of thatch and bamboo to shield your compost tank from direct sunlight and rain.

- After three to four months, digestion (composting) is complete. Do not disturb the pit during this crucial period.

- Compost is dark and has a pleasant smell. Sieve this compost through a thick mesh and it is ready to use.

Contributor/Source: Dr. V. N. Shnoff and Dr. Jagdish Singh