Compost

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 breaks down. It can be used as a potting mix, soil enhancer or as mulch.

This table includes matter that may be composted.

Table describing what type of materials can be composted.
Type Ingredients
Nitrogen products (greens)
  • Coffee grounds and paper tea bags
  • Fruit and vegetable scraps
  • Garden clippings (fresh), including flowers
  • Grass clippings (fresh)
  • Manure (e.g. chickens, cows, ducks)
Carbon products (browns)
  • Dried leaves
  • Dry grass clippings
  • Paper towel and cardboard
  • Shredded paper

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 method Ingredients Notes

Compost heap

 

Garden waste only

Pile lawn clippings and prunings in a heap, alternating carbon and nitrogen-rich materials (see table above). To speed up breakdown of compost, turn regularly.

Compost bin

 

Garden waste and food scraps
  • Aerobic (oxygen required) composting system that requires regular turning of the compost bin.
  • Works well for people with a backyard.
Compost tumbler

 

Garden waste and food scraps Aerobic (oxygen required) composting system that requires regular turning of the compost bin.
Worm farms

 

Garden waste and food scraps Suitable for small spaces (e.g. balcony or garage).

Bokashi or fermentation systems

Food scraps (including meat, dairy, and starchy foods)
  • Anaerobic (no oxygen required) fermentation system. Try to keep air out of the Bokashi bin as much as possible.
  • Combined with backyard composting or a community composting hub, this is a good solution to recycle all waste from the kitchen and garden.

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 five to 10 centimetre layer of small twigs 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) materials in alternating five 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) materials.
  6. Turn regularly with a fork or compost screw. Ensure materials remain damp and add water if necessary.

You 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.
Problem Cause Solution
Compost smells Not 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 down Not 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 rats Bread 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. The program provides eligible Brisbane residents a rebate of up to $70 off the purchase of eligible composting equipment. The program involves an education component to ensure you become a successful composter or worm farmer.

Related links

Last updated: 28 October 2021