Composting is a free and simple process that you can do with or without a backyard. Garden waste and fruit and vegetable scraps can be composted at home to improve your garden's health. 

Compost ingredients

Compost is the soil-like material that is created when plant and vegetable matter break down. It can be used as a potting mix, soil enhancer or as mulch.

Compost is created by balancing four main ingredients:

  • nitrogen-rich materials or 'greens'
  • carbon-rich materials or 'browns'
  • oxygen
  • water.

For every 1 part of 'greens', you will need to add 2 parts of 'browns' material to create the right balance.

This table includes material that can be composted.

Nitrogen products ('greens')
  • Coffee grounds and paper tea bags
  • Fruit and vegetable scraps
  • Garden clippings (fresh), including flowers
  • Grass clippings (fresh)
  • Manure (e.g. from chickens, cows, ducks)
Carbon products ('browns')
  • Dried leaves
  • Dry grass clippings
  • Shredded paper and cardboard
  • Wood chips or sawdust from untreated wood

Do not add the following ingredients to compost:

  • dairy products
  • manure from carnivores (e.g. cats and dogs)
  • meat scraps
  • plants that are diseased or have been sprayed with pesticides
  • plastic
  • treated timber
  • vegetable fats and oils.

Composting methods

There are a few different composting methods you can use. The best one for you depends on:

  • the size of your garden
  • the amount of kitchen and garden waste your household produces, and
  • how much time and money you want to spend.
Table showing compost methods, costs, ingredients, maintenance time required and time for material to compost.
Compost methodIngredientsNotes

Compost heap


Garden waste only

Pile lawn clippings and prunings in a heap, alternating carbon-rich and nitrogen-rich materials. Turn regularly and keep moist. This is suitable for large backyard areas.

Compost bin


Garden waste and food scraps

Alternate carbon-rich and nitrogen-rich materials, turn regularly and keep moist. Works well for people with a backyard or courtyard space.

Compost tumbler


Garden waste and food scraps

Alternate carbon-rich and nitrogen-rich materials, turn regularly and keep moist. Works well for people with a backyard, courtyard or large balcony.

Worm farms


Small amounts of garden waste and fruit and vegetable scraps

Add fruit and vegetable scraps and cover with carbon-rich materials. Do not overfeed. Suitable for small spaces (e.g. balcony or garage). Must be kept in the shade.

Bokashi or fermentation systems

Food scraps (including meat, dairy, and starchy foods)

Add food scraps to bucket along with 'Bokashi mix' - available where Bokashi buckets are sold. Compact the ingredients in the bucket down and replace the lid tightly to minimise air getting in.

Once full, add ingredients to a compost bin or bury in the soil where it will break down. Suitable for residents in apartments or houses.

How to make compost in a compost bin

For the initial set up, collect enough compost ingredients to half-fill the compost bin. Include a mix of carbon and nitrogen materials (see compost ingredients table above for guidance).

  1. Place a 5 to 10 centimetre layer of course materials such as wood chips at the bottom of the compost bin for aeration and drainage.
  2. Add a layer of soil or finished compost to add microorganisms to kick-start the decomposition process. Other activating materials include comfrey leaves, manure, coffee grounds and/or worm juice.
  3. Add carbon (browns) and nitrogen (greens) material in alternating 5 to 10 centimetre layers.
  4. Sprinkle layers with water to ensure all materials are damp.
  5. Continue to add kitchen and garden scraps daily or on a regular basis. Ensure there is a mix of carbon (browns) and nitrogen (greens) material.
  6. Turn regularly with a fork or compost screw. Ensure materials remain damp and add water if necessary.

Your compost is ready when the finished product resembles a rich, dark, soil-like material.

How to solve compost problems

Table describing how to solve compost problems.
Compost smellsNot enough carbon-rich material
  • Add carbon materials and mix through well.
 Not enough air
  • Turn the pile more regularly to improve drainage and aeration.
  • Add coarse material (e.g. twigs) to create air pockets.
Slow to break downNot enough nitrogen-rich ingredients
  • Add food scraps or fresh grass clippings and mix through well.
 Not enough air
  • Turn more regularly.
 Compost too dry
  • Add more water until the compost is damp all the way through.
Maggots or cockroaches
(Both maggots and cockroaches are beneficial to the breakdown process, so if you can tolerate them, they will help your materials to break down faster.)
Ingredients such as meat or fats added to bin
  • Avoid adding meat, fats, bread, rice, pasta, and dairy products to compost.
  • Cover each layer of food waste with carbon materials.
  • Turn more regularly to prevent food waste rotting before it breaks down.
Mice and ratsBread or grains in compost
  • Put fine wire mesh under the compost bin.
  • Turn heap more regularly
  • Cover each layer of food waste with carbon materials
 Compost is too dry
  • Add more water until the heap is damp all the way through.

Step-by-step guide to composting video

This video tutorial is 3 minutes and 21 seconds long. It will take you through the process of selecting a compost bin, choosing a location, getting started, maintaining your compost and using your finished product.

Compost rebate program

Council is making purchasing your food waste recycling system easier with our compost rebate program.

Related links

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