How to Make Compost


You can make compost simply by adding compostable items to a compost heap when you feel like it. It will all compost eventually but may take a long time and if the mix is not balanced. To make good compost you need a mix of green and brown, or wet and dry, materials. It may help if you place a few woody plant stems or small twigs on the bottom first as this will improve the air circulation and drainage.

Add material to your bin as and when you have it. If most of what you compost is kitchen waste, mix it with egg boxes, toilet roll middles and similar household paper and cardboard products to create a better balance.

Mixing your compost material occasionally with a fork helps to ensure there is good air supply in your bin and maintains the temperature inside.

When the container is full - which it may never be as the contents will sink as it composts - or when you decide to, stop adding any more . Then either just leave it to finish composting (which could take up to a year) and use another bin or remove the bin from the compost (or the compost from the bin - whichever you find easiest).

If the lower layers have composted, use this on the garden. Mix everything else together well. Add water if it is dry, or add dry material if it is soggy. Replace in the bin and add new materials to the top as before.

Green moist materials include:

  • Green leaves
  • Weeds (before they go to seed)
  • Raw vegetable / fruit peelings
  • Grass cuttings
  • Coffee grounds
  • Tea bags
  • Crushed egg shells
  • Flowers
  • Soft green prunings
  • Animal manure from herbivores

Brown dry materials include:

  • Dry leaves
  • Bark chips
  • Straw
  • Woody prunings & cuttings
  • Straw & bedding from vegetarian pets such as rabbits & guinea pigs.
  • Hair
  • Paper
  • Cardboard
  • Sawdust & wood shavings

Do not compost the following:

  • Cooked or processed foods
  • Dairy products
  • Meat
  • Fish
  • Cat litter
  • Dog faeces
  • Disposable nappies
  • Coal & coke ash
  • Weeds with mature seeds

Your compost bin needs an even mix of green & brown materials to break down quickly. Once you have a good mix your bin also needs:

  • Air - The creatures (microbes) that decompose the organic material are "aerobes" which means that they need air to survive. Turning the pile regularly will ensure lots of air gets in.
  • Water - The pile needs moisture to keep the microbes alive. Keep the moisture 'damp'. If it gets too wet, add dry materials like leaves, straw or shredded paper; if the pile gets too dry, add some water.

When is the compost ready?

When the ingredients you have put in your container have turned into a dark brown, earthy smelling material, the composting process is complete. Don't worry if your compost is not fine and crumbly. Even if it is lumpy, sticky or stringy, with bits of twig and eggshell still obvious, it is quite usable. It can be sieved before using if you prefer. Any large bits can be added back into your new compost heap.