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A Step-by-Step Guide to Container Microbial Composting

For those who are interested in step-by-step guide to getting started, this is for you! There is no fancy equipment so it's affordable for everyone, especially if you don't have access to land.

The Step-By-Step Guide for Balcony Composting (Container, Aerobic).

  1. Obtain a bucket and a fitting lid. I used new plastic paint buckets from a hardware store in Dubai. As long as they are clean, they don’t need to be new.

  2. Do not perforate the bucket. You can drill/punch a few holes in the lid if you would like. I prefer to have the option to seal it off completely to limit insect access.

  3. Persuade your spouse/family to cooperate.

  4. Locate a source of browns and start to stockpile them. Attempt to hide this from your spouse if necessary. Paper egg cartons or cardboard boxes work well.

  5. Start collecting your greens (vegetarian kitchen scraps) in a bowl. Console your resigned spouse.

  6. When you have enough greens to cover the bottom of the bucket by about 3 cm (1 inch), mix them with a roughly equal amount of browns and dump them in the bucket.

  7. Place a lid lightly on the bucket during the day to contain any odours for the sake of the neighbourhood. Keeping the peace is crucial to long-term success and an absence of complaints.

  8. Every evening, stir the compost in the bucket with your stir stick (it will need to be sturdy as the volume of compost grows) and leave the lid at least cracked open, if not completely off.

  9. Every morning, stir the compost and place the lid on loosely to keep away pests and keep any odours discrete.

  10. Add greens to the compost pile as they come. Keeping an eye on the compost every morning and every evening will give you a good idea for when it needs more browns. Keep adding greens and browns until your bucket is full.

  11. Once your bucket is full, you will notice that heat and time have transformed this mass of decaying vegetable matter into a black soil-like substance. This is a good sign but the compost is not ready yet. Reduce stirring to once a day and let it percolate. Time will vary but expect a couple of weeks at least. Your nose will tell you when you have fully mature, sweet, earthy, granular, pungent compost ready for your garden!

Dos and Don’ts


  • Stir the compost at least twice a day

  • Get as much air in it as possible

  • Keep it fluffed up

  • Compost any fruit or vegetable matter and crushed egg shells that comes through your kitchen

  • Chop it up into small pieces (1cm/ half an inch) to get it to decompose faster

  • I've found there's rarely a reason to add water. Usually the moisture in kitchen waste is more than sufficient to keep the container hydrated.


  • Neglect it. (That being said, even going away on holiday hasn’t rendered my piles unsalvageable- it just took a fair bit of work)

  • Add any animal products- no milk or milk products, no actual eggs (again, shells okay), no meat, no fat, no bones, no faeces, no sauces, no pet food. These will putrefy in the heat and attract pests. Again, we need to keep it discrete to be successful.

  • Compost sticks or big seeds if you can help it. These don’t break down. Even coniferous needles take a really long time to decompose here.

  • Let it dry out, if possible. But again, not a serious problem.

  • Use plastified or treated browns.

Stuff We Have Successfully Composted


  • The usual (banana skins, parsley stalks, onions, garlic, ginger, orange peels, avocado skins, tomato off-cuts, etc.)

  • Jackfruit skin

  • Durian peel

  • Dragon fruit peel

  • Prickly pear skins

  • Mango peels

  • Coffee grounds

  • Soursop and custard apple skin

  • Pomegranate skins

  • (Biodegradable) tea bags

  • Tortoise poop


  • Shredded, untreated cardboard

  • Newsprint

  • Amazon packing paper

  • Old office memos (very satisfying)

  • Recycled printer paper (no coloured dyes in ink or paper)

  • Dried frangipane tree leaves

  • Fallen dried leaves collected during dog walks

  • Egg cartons (undyed are best)

  • Dried grass clippings

Shelly is very proud of her contributions.

Good luck!

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