HOW TO MAKE FERTILIZER
by HARLAN H. D. ATTFIELD
illustrated by MARINA F. MASPERO
bulletin contains easy-to-follow, well-illustrated
for making fertilizer with materials likely to be
found in a
village situation. Included are instructions for
fertilizer in a simple frame or container, a list
possible raw materials, and a list of general guidelines,
directions for mixing chemical and natural fertilizers.
bulletin is a basic introduction to composting. It can be
extension agents, community workers, and others
introduce organic farming methods in areas where
methods are not used. It would be a useful addition to an
H.D. Attfield, the author, has been associated with
VITA as an
expert Volunteer for several years. He is the
a number of books and articles, including Raising
published by VITA.
send testing results, comments, suggestions, and
for further information to VITA.
VOLUNTEERS IN TECHNICAL ASSISTANCE
1600 WILSON BOULEVARD, SUITE 500,
ARLINGTON, VIRGINIA 22209, USA
HOW TO MAKE FERTILIZER
The material shown here has been adapted from a booklet
VITA Volunteer Harlan H. D. Attfield as part of The Sylhet
Program for community development in Bangladesh.
Rotted organic materials, such as leaves, straw, grass,
hulls, vines, and animal manure make a good fertilizer
COMPOST. Compost is
easy to make and does not cost anything except
Chemical fertilizers are sometimes used instead of animal
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
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
But if it is mixed with compost, it will not be easily
Experience shows that one sack of chemical fertilizer mixed
compost and applied to the fields is better than three sacks
chemical fertilizer applied alone to the fields.
fertilizers can be conserved by mixing it with the compost
Some of us have forgotten the lessons our ancestors learned
many years ago. We
will be wise if we apply compost to our fields.
We should return the waste from plant and animal materials
the soil instead of burning or throwing them away.
Your soil is alive! It must be fed with plenty of natural
if you want it to be healthy, fertile, and productive.
You can easily make
There are probably
lots of materials
around your home
that can be made
costing you nothing
except some labor. <see image>
Some of the materials that can be used to make natural
* Water hyacinth
* Silk mill waste
* Ashes (from wood and straw)
* Sugar cane residue (bagasse)
* Egg shells
* Banana skins and stalks
* 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)
* Sawdust (turned grey by weathering)
* Wood shavings
* Potato wastes (leaves, stalks, skins)
* Hedge clippings
* Ground shells (mussel, oyster, crabs)
You can make fertilizer in an open pile, but some kind of
container keeps things better organized.
The bamboo container
described in this Bulletin is for people who do not have
amounts of garbage or enough land for lots of plant waste,
like to keep their land neat and attractive.
The container shown measures 1.2m X 2.4m X 1.2m high (4 feet
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.
a 6-inch layer of
this material in one
of the bins. <see image>
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
improve the quality of
the finished fertilizer,
but are not absolutely
necessary. <see image>
If the pile is made with lots of straw, dry leaves, grass,
dry plant materials, you should sprinkle water after each
earth. If the pile
contains a lot of water hyacinth, no additional
water is needed. <see image>
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
followed by more manure
and earth until the pile
is finally 1.2m (4 feet)
high. <see image>
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>
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.
two or three months
are needed for piles made
with straw, leaves, and
other dry materials. <see image>
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.
the stick out after a
few minutes. If the
stick feels dry
smells bad, the pile
should be turned. <see image>
If a lot of materials for making fertilizer are available,
like to remove the center partition and make one large
just build a pile--the same size with a few bamboo stakes to
the sides in place. <see image>
SOME TIPS ABOUT FERTILIZERS
An old formula for compost making is: a 6-inch layer of
material, a second layer of different plant material, a
some sort of animal material (usually manure), a thin layer
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
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
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
allows more air into the pile so materials will rot
Some people add chemical fertilizers containing nitrogen to
compost pile. These
help the materials rot quickly if manure and
garbage are not available.
Technical Bulletins offer do-it-yourself
technology information on a
variety of subjects.
intended not so much to provide a definitive
as to guide the user's
thinking and planning. Premises are
and testing results are provided,
Evaluations and comments based on each
experience are requested. Results
incorporated into subsequent editions,
providing additional guidelines
adaptation and use in a
variety of conditions.