How to Compost in the Backyard in 8 Steps


How to Compost in the Backyard in 8 Steps

Making compost at home reduces the amount of domestic waste sent to landfill and doubles as liquid gold for your garden.

All you need to get started is a compost bin, food scraps and a shady spot in the garden!

It can be uniquely satisfying to make something valuable from your family’s food waste.

What can you compost?

The answer is any organic matter. But if you’re just starting out try composting the below:

  • Fruit and vegetable scraps
  • Eggshells
  • Bread crusts
  • Coffee grinds

What can’t you compost?

For the backyard it is suggested you avoid composting the below to avoid pests and keep your garden in great shape, especially if you’re going to use it on the veggie patch:

  • Meat
  • Fats
  • Bones
  • Dairy
  • Pet manures as they are likely to attract rodents and cause foul odours. They’re also not safe to spread on any part of your garden where food is grown.
  • Dead weeds – this may reintroduce their seeds back into your garden.


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What is compost?

Basically, it’s organic matter that has broken down. When you put organic waste into landfill it undergoes anaerobic decomposition (in the absence of oxygen) and releases methane, which is a harmful greenhouse gas when let loose in the atmosphere.


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But in the compost bin, organic matter decomposes aerobically (with oxygen). This process does not produce methane. What it does produce is an excellent soil conditioner that you can use in your own garden.

How to make healthy compost in 8 easy steps

Making compost is to a gardener what making dough is to a baker. The principles are similar: it’s about getting the correct ratio between carbon and nitrogen by providing the right amounts of dry and wet material.
The dry material we put into the compost is called ‘brown waste’. It includes materials such as cardboard, paper and straw. They are good sources of carbon.


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The wet materials are called ‘green waste’ and include grass clippings, leaves and food waste. They provide nitrogen.

The simple rule of thumb when making compost is to use two-thirds green waste and one-third brown waste. This should keep the compost in a healthy balance.

1. Build your compost bin

You can make a compost bin from many different containers and materials. But the easiest approach is to invest in a classic bottomless bin from your local nursery.

2. Pick your spot in the garden

Select a position for your bin in the garden. Choose a spot that is level, well-drained, shady and convenient to access in all types of weather. The bin should be placed on bare soil, allowing worms to get in and do their work.


Picture: Erinna Giblin

3. Build a healthy base

To start, lay down a 5 to 10cm layer of bedding material, such as straw, in the base of the bin. Then begin to add your food waste on top of this.

4. Keep it balanced with both brown and green waste

From time to time, add brown waste to keep the compost balanced. Some people keep a bag of pea straw near my bins to add occasionally. You can also add small pieces of cardboard, paper and brown leaves.


Picture: Erinna Giblin

5. Neutralise foul odours

If your compost pile is a little stinky, it is probably too wet. Add some brown waste, aerate, and apply lime and gypsum.

6. Add a handful of lime

Throw in a handful of lime once per month to adjust the pH levels. This can help limit the number of compost flies, too.

7. Let the worms do the work

Add composting worms to the pile as they’ll end up doing a lot of the work for you.


Picture: Erinna Giblin

8. Two is better than one

Your compost will take from two weeks to 12 months to break down, so it’s worth having a second bin you can rotate for use on your garden.

Source: Fabian Capomolla,
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