Make your own compost

Photo shows rotator compost bin with the lid off and the compost visible inside.

Compost is a natural way to fertilise your garden, but it can also save you money and help save the environment.

Composting helps to reduce the amount of waste that ends up in our landfill, and as a result, helps us reduce the amount of methane (a powerful greenhouse gas) that gets released into the atmosphere.

A recipe for compost

Compost is like nature's way of recycling. By reusing organic materials from around your home, you can make a nutrient-rich soil that your plants will love.

All you need are three basic ingredients:

  1. Browns: these are materials you might find around the back yard, like dried leaves, twigs and straw, and even newspaper and cardboard – egg cartons are great!
  2. Greens: these include your kitchen waste like vegetable and fruit scraps, as well as things like grass clippings.
  3. Water: to help the organic matter break down more easily.

Before you get started, it's important to understand more about what to feed your compost to get the right balance of ingredients.

Microorganisms live in your compost to help these materials decompose. The brown materials produce carbon or energy for these organisms, while the green materials provide nitrogen, which acts as protein or food.

It's a good idea to break any materials into smaller pieces before adding them to your compost.

Make sure to turn your compost regularly. Turning the compost will let air in and help with decomposition. Only water occasionally, otherwise you might end up with a swamp instead of a soil.

Photo shows closeup of fruit and vegetable scraps and peels.  

Some typical compost ingredients.

Are all compost systems created equal?

There are many ways you can go about creating your compost. A compost bin will help stop animals from getting to your precious soil, as well as helping to keep the smell to a minimum.

A bin can also help your compost health by keeping in the essential warmth and moisture and providing good air flow.

A tumbler bin is ideal for most families with an average amount of organic waste – they're also the easiest to maintain. These bins can fit in small spaces, including on pavers or patios. Simply load your bin with an even amount of brown and green waste, turning and watering it every few days.

Your materials will mix, speeding up the decomposition, leaving you with a perfect earthy soil in about three months. Don't forget to keep topping it up as you go.

Photo shows rotator compost bin and flax bushes in a Palmy back yard.  

Setting up a tumbler bin:

  1. Set up your bin in your chosen area.
  2. Add your organic material – you'll want an equal amount of brown and green materials. You can also add some lime or compost maker to give your compost an extra boost.
  3. Add some water.
  4. Spin the tumbler a few times.
Photo shows interior of home compost bin, full of healthy compost with lots of worms. Most of the compost is broken down but you can also see some wool, straw, egg shell, fruit peel and vege scraps.  

It won't be too much longer before this compost is ready to use.

The dos and don'ts of composting

Creating a good compost is a bit like a balancing act. Too much of one type of material or the wrong material might end up hurting your plants or ruining your compost.

The guide below will help you tell nutrient from nasty.

DO put these things in your compost bin

  • Cardboard: Adding cardboard from time to time will help your compost but we recommend recycling the rest.
  • Coffee grounds: Your compost will love them – especially if you've got worms.
  • Dryer lint: Great for keeping in the moisture.
  • Dirty/ wastewater: You want to make sure your compost stays nice and moist but don't over water it.
  • Egg shells: Throw them in – but crush them up so they break down more quickly.
  • Fruit/ fruit peel (not citrus): It's all good – some peels may take longer to decompose than others but don't worry.
  • Leaves: But be careful to watch out for any diseased plant material – best to put that in your green waste bin if you have one.
  • Manure: Helps to speed up the composting process. Only use farm manure such as pig, chicken, sheep, goat, horse or cow. Avoid dog and cat manure.
  • Newspaper: Only use in small amounts and make sure you break it into smaller pieces first.
  • Pinecones and needles: Use sparingly as they can be too acidic.

DON'T put these things in your compost bin

  • Ash: Ash or coal products can throw off your compost's PH balance and sometimes can contain nasty chemicals.
  • Dairy: Foods like milk and cheese have no real nutritional value for your compost and can attract pests.
  • Lemons, limes and grapefruit: Citrus fruits can be very acidic so avoid them where you can.
  • Meat and bones: Your compost is vegetarian.
  • Sawdust: Wood products are high in carbon so too much will throw out your compost's natural balance, but it's OK in small doses.
  • Seafood: Nobody likes a fishy smell... except pests.
  • Vegetables: Add as many as you like but try to avoid onions and garlic. These are very acidic.
  • Weeds: Weeds are very resilient. Unlike at our Council green waste facility, the temperature of your home compost may not get hot enough to kill the weed seeds – why not bring them to us?