Home Gardens

Patrick & Christine Loo’s garden in Seremban

We have known Patrick for almost 50 years when we lived in Malaysia. We have kept up our friendship through the years. He has gone with us twice to cambodia on mission trips to give advice to schools and farms regarding agriculture. He has expertise and experience in different fields, having been trained as an industrial arts teacher, then after obtaining a master’s degree in agricultural science in New Zealand he worked for Rio Tinto as an agronomist and fertilizer expert. Now retired he is busier than ever presenting research papers internationally and helping various organizations improve their farming methods. He will be writing a regular feature for our website on different aspects of plants. He welcomes questions from readers. For this first issue he shares…….

Why I do composting

By Patrick Loo

Resources depleting

The world is depleting its resources at an alarming rate and polluting its environment exponentially. Urgent steps must be taken to mitigate these trends. It is mandatory to “ Reduce, Reuse and Recycle” our resources to sustain this world for the future generations. In so doing, we will reduce pollution as an added bonus.

For home gardeners, composting kitchen wastes and unwanted organic matter from the garden is one of the most important habits that needs to be practised.


a) Compost takes a huge amount of material, up to 75 % out of the solid waste management steam

b) Compost reduces methane gas production, a green house gas 21 times more potent than carbon dioxide in global warming.

c) Compost improves the soil physical properties

i) In heavy clay soils, compost improves drainage and porosity of soil so that the roots have air to “breathe”.
ii) Makes sticky heavy clay soil friable and workable
iii) Makes soil to resist compaction so that roots can penetrate soil easier
iv) In light sandy soil, it helps water retention
v) It binds soil particles together resulting in crumbling soil
vi) Helps to prevent soil erosion

d) Compost improves soil chemical properties

i) Acts as a soil buffer to stabilize soil pH ( a measure of acidity / alkalinity
ii) Supplies some macro and micro nutrients
iii) Help nutrients retention prevent leaching
iv) Improve effectiveness of inorganic and organic fertilizers

e) Compost enhances the soil biology

i) Provides habitat and food for soil organisms from bacteria to earth worms.
ii) Nitrogen fixing bacteria in symbiosis with legume root nodules fixes atmospheric nitrogen to nitrogen fertilizer

f) Compost cleans up contaminants such as herbicides etc. The soil particles can lock up permanently some toxic chemicals.

g) Compost can make ex-mining sandy soil to be cultivated or reforested. END

Please see Patrick Loo Chong Poh’s Facebook for further reading

Tyre Composter

Compost when ready to use

Goldie & Jenalyn picked up two old tyres for their composter in Melaka

Egg shells, fruit, leaves, soil.

Trash can composter: drill holes in the side. Roll to mix contents



  1. March 2017 Feedback from readers for: Issue 27 Articles about: Home Gardens again/

    Hi Patrick

    How nice to know of your interest in herbs, vegies and a preventative lifestyle through organic nutrition.

    Malaysia has a great collection of herbs and the rainforest is a pharmacological treasury.

    Dato Seri Lim Chong Keat in Penang has a large range of native ginger and ventures into the remote jungles in search of more undiscovered ginger species.

    I have some friends in Kuala Lumpur who are into aquaponics.

    Food integrity is a concern. This morning a friend sent me a video of nasi lemak where the rice is fake, made of some non-organic material. There are fake sauces and fake eggs etc.

    A limited solution is to be self sufficient in vegies at least and be sure of the source of food. Everyone can grow fruit and vegies in small areas and in containers or use hydroponics where there is adequate hours of sunlight. Steve Oh, Perth

    Steve Oh ~ Perth

  2. March 2017 Feedback from readers for: Issue 27 Articles about: Home Gardens again/

    Dear Patrick,

    I am very interested in turning my organic wastes into useful fertilizer. Please tell me how you do it. Besides putting organic wastes into the container, what else do you add inside? Bacteria, worms etc. I used to simply bury them in the soil. I guess that is not the right way to do it.

    Dixie Chua ~ Singapore

    • From Patrick Loo
      Subject: Your March 2017 Feedback for: Issue 27 Articles about: Home Gardens again

      Dear Dixie,

      Thank you for interested in composting even though you are living in Singapore

      Are you living in a condominium or a landed property? The fact that you are using a composting bin suggests that you are living in a condominium.

      The things that can be added besides the kitchen wastes are:

      1) Used kitchen towels or tissues

      2) Egg shells or soup bones

      3) Left over food or any expired organic food like oats

      4) if you have a baby, break the cover of their used nappies to get the water retaining polymers. Wash them and dry them. Then either you put them in the compost or mix with the compost before you add to the soil for your plant. I have not tried it but l believe it will work.

      5) lf you can get some earthworms , you can expedite the breakdown of the organic matter

      6) Biochar are charcoal which are burnt with very little oxygen and then ground to big particle 7) EM or Effective Micro-organisme seems to be good for the soil. I have limited knowledge on this. I believe that there are some EM already present in our Malaysian soils

      Patrick Loo

  3. March 2017 Feedback from readers for: Issue 27 Articles about: Home Gardens again/

    Hi Patrick & Christine,

    It has been about 2 1/2 years since we went to Cambodia.

    Nowadays, Peter has been planting fruit trees and herbs in our back garden.

    One-thing, I would like to ask you, why our avocado tree does not fruit after 7 or more years.

    It has flowers but they dropped and left no fruit.

    Our fig tree is fruitful the last 3 years.

    We have 4 blueberries that produce tiny little blueberries.

    Maybe, this winter we are going to transfer them into big pots and my daughter said : it will be easier to manage.

    Herlina Chee

  4. March 2017 Feedback from readers for: Issue 27 Articles about: Home Gardens again/

    Congratulations on your initiative in providing helpful articles on gardening beginning with Patrick Loo’s reasons for composting. I have been composting for years and still look forward to acquring new knowledge.

    I live in Perth but successfully helped a resort in Malaysia do composting and rescued their trees and plants from undernourishment. Their reliance on chemical fertilisers was akin to humans relying on vitamins to stay alive. But compost was what the soil needed.

    I salvaged wood from factories and there is no shortage of ingredients to have them cooked by hardworking 24/7 bacteria. It cost them nothing and they saved thousands of ringgits in cost of fertilisers savings.

    In Perth my backyard is an entire compost factory as I make copious quantities of compost for my hungry trees on Perth’s notorious nutrient-deficient silicate water-repelling soil, or rather sand, within a 5-acre block for my new house.

    Grass clippings often with dry leaves regularly supplied by a lawn mowing contractor provide the base for my compost. In Summer, in full sun, my compost is ready in a month or so, as long as I keep the ingredients moist and oxygenated.

    The recipe includes

    1. Green materials ( fresh lawn clippings or dry ( still considered green)
    2. Brown materials – dry leaves, cardboard boxes (shredded)
    3. Oxygen – container must have airflow or ingredients must be be stirred periodically. Too wet it becomes smelly, too dry the bacteria cannot thrive.
    4. Water.

    The use of tyres is not so effective as it lacks aeration and you can only produce a limited amount but its great for harvesting. Just remove the tyres. Depending on demand and space constraints, your compost bins can be big or small but black is the preferred colour to retain heat, while not essential, will speed up the cooking process. The heat makes bacteria thrive in the humid space. When you poke your thumb in the pile it should be hot in the beginning stage and get cooler as the composting process nears completion.

    Your end product is black and a pleasant smelling product ready for your hungry soil. The quality of your compost depends on the ingredients. Some things you don’t want to use is oil and meat. Meat leftovers attract rodents. But a green compost pile one with edible fruit leftovers will attract them too.

    I’m a compulsive compost producing gardener and will be happy to help anyone in Perth establish a compost-making activity. Feel free to contact me via the editors who will give you my contact details.

    My compost once gave me a 25 kilogram water melon. Gardening is about having great soil and composting does the trick and its free. It is nature’s way of gardening. You become good through trial and error and anyone can cook great compost once they know the simple steps and essential recipe.

    Steve Oh

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