Image of graphics showing zero waste. Shows how composting contributes to zero waste and is a natural recycling process thus contributes to organic permaculture

What is Composting?

It’s the process of turning organic waste into nutrient-rich soil conditioner through decomposition. This transformation is driven by tiny organisms like bacteria, fungi, and worms breaking down materials from food scraps to farm waste, and manure into humus a dark, crumbly substance full of goodies for plants. This “compost” acts like a natural fertiliser, improving soil health and fertility for your plants. 

Composting and its contribution the Organic Permaculture Programme

Composting is a cornerstone of organic permaculture. It aligns perfectly with the principles of creating closed-loop systems and working with nature. Our farm waste has become a valuable resource. It’s now used to nurture healthy soil and promote plant growth. This reduces reliance on external inputs and fosters a sustainable ecosystem. 

Why Composting Matters to Ambokili Farm- An Organic Farm:

It nourishes the soil naturally. Unlike synthetic fertilisers used in conventional farming, compost enriches the soil with organic matter, nutrients, and beneficial microbes, promoting long-term soil health and fertility without harming the environment. 

Promotes Healthy Plants. Nutrient-rich compost feeds beneficial soil microbes, leading to stronger, more disease-resistant plants.  

Improves soil health. Compost increases organic matter content, leading to better soil structure, drainage, and water retention. 

Reduces waste. Farm waste and kitchen waste that would normally go to landfills, here they decompose anaerobically and release harmful methane gas, they get a new life as valuable compost. This reduces methane emissions and lessens our carbon footprint. 

Increases Soil Organic Matter. When organic materials decompose, they release nutrients essential for plant growth. These nutrients become part of the soil, increasing its organic matter content. This organic matter acts like a sponge, holding moisture and nutrients, improving soil structure, and fostering a healthy ecosystem for plants and beneficial organisms. 

Increases Biodiversity. Compost provides habitat and food for beneficial soil organisms, such as earthworms and microbes, contributing to a thriving ecosystem. 

Improves Water Retention. The organic matter in compost improves soil structure, increasing water retention and reducing the need for irrigation thus, also helping us manage our water resources better.  

Mitigates Climate Change through Carbon Sequestration. Compost helps store carbon in the soil, mitigating climate change by reducing atmospheric carbon dioxide levels.

Why we choose Compost Tea and Manure Tea? And Types of Compost Systems at Ambokili Farm

Compost is an excellent source of organic matter, providing essential nutrients to the soil and plants, improving soil structure, improving soil fertility and water retention as well.  

However, Ambokili Farm recognised the potential for further enhancing soil health and crop yields. So, we incorporated compost tea into our farming regimen.  

Compost tea provides a concentrated liquid form of compost that is be applied directly to plant roots or foliage, delivering nutrients more efficiently and effectively than compost. This targeted application ensures that plants receive a readily available supply of essential nutrients, leading to improved growth and vitality.  

Additionally, compost tea serves as a potent inoculant of beneficial microorganisms, helping to promote a healthy soil microbiome and suppress harmful pathogens.  

By harnessing the power of compost tea, we further optimised soil fertility and crop production while minimising environmental impact through waste management and maintenance of organic integrity.  

The adoption of compost tea is a strategic action in Ambokili Farm’s approach to sustainable agriculture, reaffirming our commitment to environmental sustainability. 

There are several composting methods, each with its own advantages.

Types of Compost Systems at Ambokili Farm

At Ambokili Farm, we practice vermicomposting and making of both manure tea and compost tea.

1. Vermicomposting (Worm Composting)

This is the process of using worms to break down organic matter. The vermicompost is a specialised bin with proper bedding and ventilation comprised of 2 layers. The top layer where the warms are and where they’re fed organic matter, and the bottom layer is where their secretion is collected. The red worms (e.g., Eisenia fetida) break down organic matter into nutrient-rich worm castings. We then soak the castings for 2 weeks in water, allowing the beneficial microorganisms, nutrients, and organic matter to leach into the water. This creates a nutrient-rich liquid that can be applied directly to plants’ roots or foliage as a natural fertiliser. 

Vermicomposting is a fast and efficient method. It’s ideal for indoor or small-space composting or small amounts of kitchen scraps. 

2. Compost Tea

Compost tea is a liquid fertiliser and soil amendment made by steeping compost in water. Compost mixtures are saturated with water, and we collect the leachate. During brewing, beneficial microorganisms and nutrients are extracted from the compost, creating a nutrient-rich solution that can be applied to plants and soil to promote growth and health. 

At Ambokili Farm, compost tea is brewed using a combination of African Marigold and Mexican Marigold- known for their pest-repelling properties. These plants not only serve as excellent additions to compost but also act as natural pest deterrents. This natural pest control method is more sustainable and environmentally friendly than chemical pesticides.  

To prepare the compost tea, the leaves of the African Marigold and Mexican Marigold are plucked, then chopped. The chopped leaves are then added to a green manure mixture. They are then put in a sack and dipped in water. After two weeks, the leachate is harvested and used on plants and fresh mixtures are added.  

The compost tea contains a diverse array of beneficial microorganisms, including bacteria, fungi, and protozoa, which enhance soil health and plant growth. 

Moreover, the leachate contains nutrients that is readily available to plants. This increases nutrient uptake and reduces the risk of nutrient leaching. 

Also, compost tea improves soil structure by increasing organic matter content and enhancing soil aggregation. This leads to better water infiltration, root penetration, and overall soil health.  

By incorporating compost tea into their farming practices, Ambokili Farm not only improves soil fertility and plant health but also adopts sustainable and environmentally friendly methods that align with organic permaculture principles. 

3. Manure Tea

Manure tea is a liquid fertiliser made by steeping fresh manure in water. During the brewing process, nutrients and beneficial microorganisms are extracted from the manure, creating a nutrient-rich solution that can be used to nourish plants and improve soil fertility. 

At Ambokili, we collect animal droppings, put them into a sack then dip the sack in a drum of water for 2 weeks to allow the nutrients and microorganisms to fully leach into the water. Regular stirring or agitation of the drum may be done to facilitate the brewing process and ensure uniform nutrient distribution.  

Like compost tea, manure tea releases nutrients from the manure into a form that is readily available to plants, promoting healthy growth and development.  

The brewing process of manure tea also encourages the growth of beneficial microorganisms, such as bacteria and fungi, which contribute to soil health and fertility. These microorganisms help break down organic matter and improve soil structure. 

It can then be applied directly to the soil around plants or sprayed onto foliage as a foliar feed. Manure tea is easily applied to plants and soil using a watering can or sprayer which provides a convenient method for delivering nutrients directly to the root zone, promoting efficient nutrient uptake by plants. 

Moreover, manure tea is an organic and sustainable alternative to chemical fertilisers. It harnesses the natural nutrients present in animal waste, reducing the need for synthetic inputs and minimising environmental impact through waste management and carbon sequestration. 

By incorporating manure tea into our farming practices, Ambokili Farm enhances soil fertility, creates healthy plant growth, and adopts sustainable agricultural methods that align with their commitment to organic integrity. 

Pro Tips from Ambokili Farm

Which other Types of Composting Can You Easily Adopt for Your Crops?

1. Traditional Composting

An age-old practice of decomposing organic materials into nutrient-rich soil amendment through natural processes. Layer food scraps, farm waste, and brown materials (like dried leaves) on the ground, ensuring proper aeration and moisture. 

These materials undergo aerobic (oxygen-dependent) decomposition facilitated by microorganisms such as bacteria, fungi, and other decomposers. This activity generates heat, which helps to accelerate decomposition. Monitoring the internal temperature of the compost pile provides insights into the progress of decomposition. Ideally, compost piles should reach temperatures between 110°F to 160°F (43°C to 71°C), which helps to kill weed seeds and pathogens. Once the composting process is complete, the compost pile will mature into dark, crumbly compost that resembles soil. This mature compost can then be used to amend soil, improve soil fertility, and promote plant growth. 

Traditional composting is a sustainable and eco-friendly method of managing organic waste while simultaneously producing a valuable soil amendment. It can be done on various scales, from small backyard compost piles to large-scale farm composting facilities.

2. Bokashi Composting

Bokashi composting is a method of composting that originated in Japan. The term “Bokashi” itself means “fermented organic matter” in Japanese. It uses a special fermenting process to break down organic waste e.g. food scraps quickly in an airtight container. 

It involves fermenting organic waste using a mix of beneficial microorganisms, typically including lactic acid bacteria, yeast, and phototrophic bacteria.   

In Bokashi composting, organic waste, mostly kitchen scraps such as fruit and vegetable peelings, cooked food waste, coffee grounds, and small amounts of meat or dairy products are collected in a container and then layered with the Bokashi bran, which contains the beneficial microorganisms. The mixture is then compacted and sealed tightly to create an anaerobic (oxygen-free) environment. 

Over the course of several weeks, the microorganisms ferment the organic waste, breaking it down into a pre-compost material. This material is not fully decomposed like traditional compost but is rather pickled and acidic. After the fermentation process is complete, the Bokashi pre-compost can be buried in soil, added to a traditional compost pile, or used as a soil amendment. It continues to break down further, completing the composting process and enriching the soil with nutrients and beneficial microorganisms. 

Bokashi composting is particularly useful for urban dwellers or those with limited space, as it can be done indoors and doesn’t produce foul odours associated with traditional composting. It also allows for the composting of a wider range of materials, including meat, dairy, and cooked foods, which are typically avoided in traditional composting methods due to concerns about attracting pests or producing unpleasant odours. 

3. Sheet Composting/ Lasagna Gardening/ Sheet Mulching

A method of composting that involves layering organic materials directly onto the soil surface to create a nutrient-rich growing environment. Instead of building a compost pile, organic materials like cardboard, straw, and kitchen scraps are spread out in layers on the soil surface, like assembling a lasagna dish, hence the alternative name. They’re then allowed to decompose over time 

This method builds soil fertility and structure, suppresses weeds by smothering them under layers of organic material, recycles organic waste and reduces landfill waste, conserves soil moisture and prevents erosion and creates a good environment beneficial soil organism, such as earthworms and beneficial microbes to thrive. 

4. Hot Composting (Active Composting)

Generates high temperatures, speeding up decomposition. Best for large volumes of organic waste and when quick results are desired. Requires frequent turning and monitoring. 

Hot Composting (Active Composting): Rapid composting method that generates high temperatures, speeding up decomposition. In hot composting, organic materials are broken down quickly through the activity of thermophilic (heat-loving) microorganisms, resulting in high temperatures within the compost pile. Requires frequent turning and careful monitoring of moisture and temperature levels. Best for large volumes of organic waste and when quick results are desired. 

Let’s embrace composting as an essential practice in farming and permaculture. By composting, we nurture the soil, protect the environment, and promote sustainability for future generations. Together, let’s cultivate healthier ecosystems for the benefit of our planet and people