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                              TECHNICAL BULLETIN
                            HOW TO MAKE FERTILIZER
                           by HARLAN H. D. ATTFIELD
                       illustrated by MARINA F. MASPERO
           This bulletin contains easy-to-follow, well-illustrated
           directions for making fertilizer with materials likely to be
           found in a village situation. Included are instructions for
           making the fertilizer in a simple frame or container, a list
           of possible raw materials, and a list of general guidelines,
           including directions for mixing chemical and natural fertilizers.
           This bulletin is a basic introduction to composting. It can be
           used by extension agents, community workers, and others
           seeking to introduce organic farming methods in areas where
           such methods are not used. It would be a useful addition to an
           extension training program.
           Harlan H.D. Attfield, the author, has been associated with
           VITA as an expert Volunteer for several years. He is the
           author of a number of books and articles, including Raising
           Rabbits, published by VITA.
           Please send testing results, comments, suggestions, and
           requests for further information to VITA.
                                                 Revised 7/81
                                                 ISBN 0-86619-088-0
                       1600 WILSON BOULEVARD, SUITE 500,
                        ARLINGTON, VIRGINIA 22209, USA
                            HOW TO MAKE FERTILIZER
The material shown here has been adapted from a booklet prepared by
VITA Volunteer Harlan H. D. Attfield as part of The Sylhet Package
Program for community development in Bangladesh.
Rotted organic materials, such as leaves, straw, grass, weeds, rice
hulls, vines, and animal manure make a good fertilizer called
COMPOST.  Compost is easy to make and does not cost anything except
some labor.
Chemical fertilizers are sometimes used instead of animal manure for
home gardens.  But remember that chemical fertilizers are a
SUPPLEMENT to organic fertilizers (compost).   The more organic
materials are mixed with chemical fertilizers, the better it is for
plants and soil fertility.
Chemical fertilizers cost money.   When placed in the fields, the
fertilizer may be washed away by rain or evaporated into the air.
But if it is mixed with compost, it will not be easily washed away
or evaporated.
Experience shows that one sack of chemical fertilizer mixed into
compost and applied to the fields is better than three sacks of
chemical fertilizer applied alone to the fields.   Costly commercial
fertilizers can be conserved by mixing it with the compost first.
Some of us have forgotten the lessons our ancestors learned many,
many years ago.  We will be wise if we apply compost to our fields.
We should return the waste from plant and animal materials back to
the soil instead of burning or throwing them away.
Your soil is alive! It must be fed with plenty of natural fertilizer
if you want it to be healthy, fertile, and productive. <see image>

htmx1.gif (486x486)

You can easily make
fertilizer yourself.
There are probably
lots of materials
around your home
that can be made
into fertilizer,
costing you nothing
except some labor. <see image>

htmx3.gif (486x486)

Some of the materials that can be used to make natural fertilizer
* Water hyacinth                               * Silk mill waste
* Ashes (from wood and straw)                  * Leaves
* Sugar cane residue (bagasse)                 * Egg shells
* Banana skins and stalks                      * Grass
* Feathers                                     * Rice Hulls
* Fish cleanings                               * Rice straw
* Old flowers                                  * Peanut hulls
* Kitchen scraps (not meat or fat)             * Sour milk
* Hair trimmings                              * Peanut hulls
* Animal manure                                * Old paper
* Mustard plants (after harvest)               * Vines
* Sawdust (turned grey by weathering)          * Wood shavings
* Potato wastes (leaves, stalks, skins)        * Hedge clippings
* Ground shells (mussel, oyster, crabs)        * Seaweed
You can make fertilizer in an open pile, but some kind of simple
container keeps things better organized.   The bamboo container
described in this Bulletin is for people who do not have large
amounts of garbage or enough land for lots of plant waste, and who
like to keep their land neat and attractive.
The container shown measures 1.2m X 2.4m X 1.2m high (4 feet X 8

htmx4a.gif (486x486)

feet X 4 feet high).  It is separated in the middle by a removable
Begin by collecting
whatever material you
have: partially rotted
water hyacinth or
grass and leaves.  Put
a  6-inch layer of
this material in one
of the bins. <see image>

htmx4b.gif (486x486)

Add a layer of some
animal manure and a
thin layer of soil on
top of this.  Also
sprinkle some lime or
wood ashes and a little
superphosphate if you
have them.  These will
improve the quality of
the finished fertilizer,
but are not absolutely
necessary. <see image>

htmx5a.gif (486x486)

If the pile is made with lots of straw, dry leaves, grass, or other
dry plant materials, you should sprinkle water after each layer of
earth.  If the pile contains a lot of water hyacinth, no additional
water is needed. <see image>

htmx5b.gif (486x486)

A good pile should
always be moist,
but never too wet.
Now add a thin layer of
rice hulls or rice straw.
Then start the whole
process again by adding
another 6-inch layer of
plant materials.  This is
followed by more manure
and earth until the pile
is finally 1.2m (4 feet)
high. <see image>

htmx6a.gif (486x486)

The top of the pile
is then covered
with a 1-inch layer
of earth.  Woven
mats, a thick layer
of straw, or even a
straw roof can be
used to protect the
pile during the
rainy season. <see image>

htmx6b.gif (486x486)

After two weeks, remove
the middle partition and
place the rotting materials
into the other bin.
Begin making more fertilizer
in the emptied bin.
Piles made with tender
green plants, rice hulls,
manure, and dirt, are
often ready for use after
just another two or three
weeks of rotting.  Sometimes
two or three months
are needed for piles made
with straw, leaves, and
other dry materials. <see image>

htmx7a.gif (486x486)

If the pile is turned
frequently and kept
moist, it will always
smell sweet.  If the
pile smells bad, it is
because it was not
turned soon enough.
Test the pile by pushing
a bamboo stick
into the center.  Pull
the stick out after a
few minutes.  If the
stick feels dry
smells bad, the pile
should be turned. <see image>

htmx7b.gif (486x486)

If a lot of materials for making fertilizer are available, you might
like to remove the center partition and make one large pile.  Or,
just build a pile--the same size with a few bamboo stakes to hold
the sides in place. <see image>

htmx8.gif (486x486)

                      SOME TIPS ABOUT FERTILIZERS
An old formula for compost making is: a 6-inch layer of plant
material, a second layer of different plant material, a layer of
some sort of animal material (usually manure), a thin layer of soil,
a sprinkling of ashes, then water, and repeat the process.
It takes a long time for some materials to rot completely.  Do not
worry if some of the materials are not completely rotted.  Final
rotting will take place in the soil itself.   In the meantime, your
plants will be getting lots of nourishment.   Partly rotted compost is
good fertilizer because it releases its nutriments to the plants
The size of a pile can be as long as you want to make it, but a pile
4-5 feet wide and 4-6 feet high is good.
Turning and mixing the materials on a regular basis is very
important.  This allows more air into the pile so materials will rot
Some people add chemical fertilizers containing nitrogen to the
compost pile.  These help the materials rot quickly if manure and
garbage are not available.
              VITA Technical Bulletins offer do-it-yourself
              technology information on a
              wide variety of subjects.
              The   Bulletins     are    idea    generators
              intended not so much to provide a definitive
              answer as to guide the user's
              thinking and planning. Premises are
              sound and testing results are provided,
              if available.
              Evaluations and comments based on each
              user's experience are requested. Results
              are incorporated into subsequent editions,
              thus providing additional guidelines
              for adaptation and use in a
              greater variety of conditions.

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