CHOICE's quick guide to composting
Creating your own garden compost is a great way to recycle your organic waste and help the environment. And it’s a lot easier than you think.
By turning organic food scraps into compost you can:
- Improve the soil quality of your garden by recycling nutrients from food scraps.
- Reduce greenhouse gas emissions by keeping your food scraps from rotting in landfill.
- Accelerate the breakdown of organic waste.
- Save money on expensive fertilisers and bin liners.
A compost can be started in old garbage bins, wooden boxes, tyres or just a simple heap. Set it up in a shady area as too much sun will dry it out. For your compost to work, it needs:
Carbon (for heat) – You can add this through the addition of brown matter such as dried leaves, branches, woody clippings, paper and straw. Don’t overdo it though – add too much and it may take years to fully break down.
Nitrogen – This can be added through the addition of green matter, such as weeds you’ve pulled up, kitchen scraps and lawn clippings. As with the brown material you can have too much. A compost made of mostly green matter can quickly turn into a stinky, rotting mess.
Oxygen – This is needed to oxidise the carbon and accelerate decomposition. This is as easy as turning your compost with a rake or pitchfork to let air into the mix. If you don’t turn your compost it will start to produce greenhouse gases.
Water – your compost should be moist but not soggy for optimal decomposition. Keep your compost covered to stop it drying out. If it becomes too wet add some more dry ingredients (brown matter).
Soil – Adding some soil to your compost introduces microorganisms to break down your compost.
For best results from your compost make sure any matter you add is cut into small pieces so it breaks down more efficiently.
Creating your compost
- Start with a thick layer (about 15cm) of coarse material such as twigs or mulch.
- Next add your green ingredients such as green clippings or kitchen scraps. Adding a sprinkle of soil to your green layer will help make a richer compost and reduce odours.
- Next add your brown ingredients such as dried leaves, straw, twigs and paper.
- Use water to moisten each layer as you go.
- Repeat this layering system until you reach the desired size.
What to compost
- Fruit and vegetable scraps
- Untreated paper
- Dead flowers and soft stems
- Tea leaves, tea bags and coffee grounds
- Vacuum cleaner dust
- Egg shells
- Newspaper (wet)
- Cooking oil
- Grass cuttings and fallen leaves (in layers)
- Sawdust from untreated timber
- Pet hair
- Old potting mix
What not to compost
- Magazines (glossy or treated paper)
- Animal fat
- Manure or pet droppings
- Meat and dairy products
- Sawdust from treated timber
- Plastics, metals and other non-biodegradable material
- Large branches or diseased plant clippings
- Breads or cakes (attract rodents)