The following information has been provided by our partners from the Green Living Centre at Inner West Council. 

What is Compost?
Compost is created through the aerobic (with air) decomposition of organic matter (any plant or animal tissue). This process uses insects, worms and microorganisms to transform your food waste and garden scraps into a nutrient rich product.
Compost is ready to use when it has an earthy smell and is a rich brown colour. When the materials you have added have completely decomposed you can remove the compost from the compost bin and add it to your garden or pot plants.
Step by step to compost success

  1. Position the bin on well drained permeable ground in sun or shade. Afternoon shade is preferable in summer.

  2. Put a layer about 200-300mm deep of carbon material such as finely chopped woody mulch, leafy twiggy materials or dry leaves, in the base of the bin.

  3. Water this layer well. A full 9L watering can would be sufficient.

  4. Add 2 or 3 shovels of rich mature compost or black soil from your garden if available. This ‘seeds’ your compost with aliveness.

  5. Start layering equal amounts of nitrogen rich material, such as food scraps, tea leaves and coffee grounds, with carbon rich material such as shredded paper, dry leaves or mulch. This reduces the chance of insects laying eggs or vermin being attracted to the compost bin. Remember to include lots of different materials, such as manures, vacuum dust, hair, herbs, grass and soil to add diversity.

  6. Cover the surface of the compost with a ‘blanket’. A hessian sack, wet newspaper, wet cardboard or an old tea towel (natural fibre) will help keep the compost moist.

  7. When the bin is full, allow it to mature for 6-8 weeks. Keep the bin moist and aerate it weekly.

Avoid placing meat and dairy products and large amounts of carbohydrates (bread, rice, pasta) or cooked food in your compost as these may attract vermin and cockroaches. Also avoid any diseased plants, metals, plastic and glass, fats, shiny magazines, large branches, weeds that have seeds or underground stems, sawdust from treated timber and synthetic fabric. Dog and cat poo or litter should not be placed into the compost.

Your compost is ready to use when it is dark and has a rich earthy smell. Place compost around the base of plants or in the drip line of trees. Keep it away from the stems or trunks of plants and trees. It is best to cover compost with mulch once you apply it to keep it moist and active. Use compost as a potting mix (combine with some course sand), compost tea (mix a couple of handfuls of compost with water, let it sit for 24 hours then use it to water your plants) or as a booster for seedlings (add a little each time you plant out a new seedling).

Trouble shooting

The following table lists some common problems and solutions you may encounter when composting.




Materials are not breaking down

Too dry

Adjust the moisture level by adding water. Add high nitrogen materials to speed up the process by mixing in grass clippings and other composting activator materials, such as manures, herbs or coffee grounds.

Materials are sludgy and smelly

Lack of air. Too wet and too acidic.

Give it a good stir with a compost aerator to mix it up. Add garden lime, dolomite or wood ash to balance the pH. Add more carbon-rich materials.

Excessive flies

Too acidic. These flies are often mistaken for fruit flies but are usually vinegar flies.

Stir your compost well with the compost aerator. Add garden lime, dolomite or wood to balance the pH. Add more carbon rich materials.

Excessive cockroaches

Too dry.

Stir your compost well with the compost aerator. Focus on stirring the edge of the bin that may not be stirred as well as the middle. Add moisture.