How to make compost at home: composting tips

Making compost is a great next step for any aspiring eco-friendly household. Read on to find out how to achieve it.

Updated August 2, 2019

Foood waste being thrown into a compost bin

Key steps

To make your own compost follow these key steps:

  1. Compost items like fruit and vegetable scraps, grass, dry leaves and straw.
  2. Combine your brown and green ingredients.
  3. Keep the compost damp.
  4. Turn it when it reaches 50-65 degrees Celsius.
  5. Your compost is ready to use when it no longer gives off heat and is dry, brown, and crumbly.

Compost is a garden must-have that plays a key role in the soil’s health. Did you know you can make your own compost using cardboard, paper towels, fruit or veg peelings and many other materials? Here we’ll show you how to make compost at home – including a list of what materials to use (and avoid) when making compost and a guide to why this is beneficial for all households.

Patience is key to making compost, especially at the start! You’ll need to feed, turn, and maintain your pile for at least 1 year before you see results.

Composting at home: what you need to know

Composting is the process by which organic materials – such as fruit, peels, and more – decompose to produce a soil-boosting end product known as compost. It’s a great way to prevent food waste and give back to your local environment. There are two main types of composting: cold and hot.

  • Cold composting is the process of collecting garden waste and organic materials from your kitchen – such as fruit, vegetable peels, coffee grounds and filters, or eggshells. You place them into a bin, and within a year or two, the material decomposes to produce compost.
  • Hot composting is a much quicker process – so it’s great if you want to know how to make compost fast. However, this is more complicated and requires nitrogen and carbon, so only do it if you’re an experienced gardener or with someone who’s tried it before.
close up of flowers and food waste in compost bin

How to make compost: a step-by-step to composting

Now you know what composting is, here is our step-by-step guide on how to make your own compost at home. We'll be focusing on the cold composting method.

1. Know what to compost. There are a number of items that you can add to your compost, including:

  • Fruit scraps – such as banana and orange peel.
  • Vegetable scraps – such as carrot peel.
  • Coffee grounds and biodegradable coffee filters.
  • Eggshells.
  • Grass and plant clippings.
  • Dry leaves.
  • Finely chopped wood and bark chips.
  • Shredded newspaper.
  • Straw.

2. What not to compost. Here are a few things you should avoid adding to your compost:

  • Meats and oils used to cook meat – as these will attract rodents and other pests.
  • Diseased plant materials – as this will affect your final compost, making it unusable to help grow plants in the future.
  • Pressure-treated wood.
  • Dog and/or cat faeces.
  • Weeds that go to seed – such as dandelions.
  • Dairy products.

3. Combine your green and brown ingredients. Brown materials – such as fallen leaves and straw – add carbon to your compost while green materials – such as kitchen scraps, horse manure, and grass trimmings – add nitrogen.

large compost bin in garden

4. Keep the compost damp. But not waterlogged as this will kill essential microorganisms that help with the decomposition process.

5. Turn your compost. Check the temperature of your compost. When it reaches between 50-65 degrees Celsius, it is time to turn the pile.

6. When is your compost ready? The compost will be ready to use to feed your garden when it no longer gives off heat. It will become dry, drown, crumbly, and look more like soil than scraps.

Composting tips

To create the best home compost, apply these final composting tips:

  • Try to balance green and brown materials 50/50.
  • Cut up scraps before putting them in the compost – they’ll turn into compost quicker.
  • Add a layer of alfalfa meal to your compost to aid bacterial growth.
  • Always keep a lid on your compost – otherwise, it can start to smell or attract pests.

Now you know the steps to making compost at home, all that's left to do s scoop it out through the bottom of your composter when it’s ready to use. Try home composting as a way to reduce your food waste and to flex your green fingers when growing vegetables, fruit, or plants at home.

Originally published July 22, 2019