Several of you have expressed interest in some of the organic farming methods that we used in Uganda this past season. (I’m sorry for the retroactive nature of this post, but…better late than never?) Most of our methods revolved around two main aspects – natural insecticides and organic fertilizers.
One principle we taught was “you will reap what you sow”. This applied not only to seed input, but also a farmer’s willingness to add nutrients to the soil. We used cow manure for most of our crops because of its easy availability. But once a community learns the value of manure, it will soon be scarce. That’s where composting comes in! Compost performs equally well to pure manure, yet it extends the benefit of manure over a greater area. The Farming God’s Way composting method works like this:
- Composed of 45% green material (grasses, weeds, etc.), 45% woody/dry material (corn stalks & cobs, small branches, wood shavings, etc.), and 10% nitrogen (cow manure or other nitrogen source).
Here the team makes piles of green, woody and nitrogen components
- The pile is built 2x2x2 meters, with layers of each ingredient type. This size allows for adequate heat buildup for decomposition, while still being manageable for turning. You can also reduce the height to 1.5m if necessary, which we did.
My team made the pile all by themselves because I was away during that time, but I returned to find one of the neatest piles I’ve ever seen! This photo was taken a few weeks after the original building. You can see that the pile is no longer 4.5 ft. tall.
- The compost requires vigilant “turning”, i.e. flipping it upside down and right-side out into the space next to it. This happens approximately every three days for the first 3 turns and every 10 days for the next 4 or 5 turns. This aerates the pile, mixes the components, and gives you opportunity to check moisture content.
Beginning one of the turns. The turning technique is to start hacking into the pile with a hoe, and drag the contents “next door”. You can see the steam rising; it gets hot in there!
Mid-way through a turn with the pile all spread out.
The piling nearing the end of decomposition. You can see how small it has become.
When the decomposition process is completed, the pile needs to cure (i.e. sit there) for another four months. Then it is ready to use or be kept for seasons to come. At this stage the compost will have a rich, sweet smell. Mmmmmm…!!
We used maize stalks and cobs in our pile. The kernels had not been removed from this one. Look! You can see exactly how each kernel produces a new plant.