All That You Need to Know About Composting


Composting may seem like a simple process where nature turns organic waste to a natural fertilizer but this time consuming process can get messy and give little results if you do not know the basics.

Some growers pile up all their organic waste and let it decompose in open air to gradually turn to compost; others use more carefully mixture of organic waste and let it rot in a controlled environment to get more from their compost. Although, both methods seems to be beneficial in their own way but urban growers need to make most of their little space and practice methods that are give results fast.  Here is a perfect recipe for compost that will not only take less time to prepare but also stay invisible on your balcony.

Ingredients for perfect compost

Carbon, nitrogen, oxygen and water are all equally important ingredients for composting organisms.

 In other words, all dry and brown organic waste is high in carbon such as dry leaves, twigs, branches, brown paper, white paper, wood shavings etc. This is also called brown waste.

 On the other hand, all fresh, moist and colorful organic waste is called green waste and includes leaves, vegetable and fruit peelings, grass clippings etc. Green waste is high in nitrogen that helps in oxidizing the dry waste.


Not Allowed

Brown and white paper, newspaper with black ink only Glossy, colorful printed paper
Wood shavings Painted wood
Twigs, branches, dry  and fresh leaves, grass clippings Weeds, seeds, diseased plants
Vegetable, fruit peelings Cooked food, meat, dairy, oil etc
Egg shells Pet waste


D.I.Y: Composting at Home

 Key to success is creating a balance of ingredients. The best compost that is more likely to do magic in your garden has 2:1 ratio of green to brown waste.  You can also make 1:1 ratio compost and this will be more suitable for a compost bin that you keep adding to. If you have all ingredients available all at once, it is better to go for 2:1 ratio. Avoid composting only moist green waste because it will turn into mushy black compost that smells bad. 

Step 1: To begin composting at home, invest in a compost bin which can simply be a bucket with a lid. Lid is very important because you do not want the smell and flies to disturb you or your neighbors and also because it will help the decomposition fast.

Step 2: Keeping the ratios in mind, add one part brown waste at the bottom, top it up with 2 parts green waste. Keep building up your pile until the bucket fills. Sprinkle a little water to assist the decomposition. Close the lid.

Step 3: Twice a month open the lid and observe its progress. If you see worms, do not panic. Let them do their job. They will vanish on their own once their job is done.

Step 4: Tilt your compost mixture once in a month.  If it seems too dry sprinkle some water but too not over water. Warning: It may smell bad at this stage but once the compost is ready the bad odor will disappear.

Step 5: After few months, when the compost has turned black and the smell disappears, you will notice that the insects have also lost interest and their might be some water left.  At this stage you will have to open the lid and cover the bucket with a piece of cloth to let the water evaporate.

fresh-2386786_640Compost can be ready as early as 35 days and can also take as long as 8 months or even more. It depends on the type of waste you are adding to your compost bin. Chopping your waste, shredding paper and breaking the branches into small pieces are your best bet. Trust me; it is worth waiting for you waste to turn into an excellent natural fertilizer which your soil and plants will enjoy for a long time!


Treat your plants with Compost –Tea

Compost tea is a great alternative to synthetic fertilizers. This wonderful liquid feed is also an excellent treat for your vegetables. Brewing your plant’s favorite tea is super easy.

  1. Select compost that smells sweet and earthy. If it smells bad than you should probably not use it on your plants.
  2. Mix 4 kg of mature compost in 18 liter water in a bucket. Simply mix it with a stick every day for at least 5 days. The tea is ready when there are no bubbles forming.
  3. Strain or let the solids sit at the bottom and collect the liquid feed. You can add the solids to your compost pile or in the ground.
  4. Use the liquid feed right away.

Caution:  Test your liquid feed on few plants first. Sometimes products that are sold as compost also have manure and added nutrients which makes them very strong and must be diluted to reduce the effect.


Written by Zahra Ali for SubheNau Magazine for their August 2017 issue.

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Zahra Ali Husain is a sustainability educator, freelance writer and an environmentalist. She is also a co-founder of Organic City Pakistan and runs the Green Schools & the Horticulture Therapy programs along with Yasir Husain. Zahra also manages an organic farm.