Compost | Brisbane City Council


""Composting is a free and simple process that you can do with or without a backyard. Garden waste and your fruit and vegetable scraps can all 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 simply as mulch.

This table includes matter that may be composted.

Type Ingredients
Nitrogen products ('greens')

Fresh grass clippings

Carbon products ('browns') Dried leaves
Grass clippings
Paper towel and cardboard
Shredded paper
Twigs and sticks (no thicker than your thumb)
Vacuum cleaner bag contents
Vegetable plants

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
  • weeds

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/garden waste your household produces, and how much time and money you want to spend.

Compost method Ingredients Notes


Garden waste only

Pile lawn clippings and prunings in a heap. To speed up breakdown of garden waste, turn regularly.

Compost bin

Garden waste and food scraps Works well for people with a backyard.
Compost barrel or tumbler


Garden waste and food scraps Require regular rotation.
Worm farms

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

How to make compost in a compost bin

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

  1. Place a 5-10 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 5-10 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, ensuring there is a mix of carbon ('browns') and nitrogen ('greens') materials.
  6. To speed up break down of materials, turn regularly with a fork or compost screw and ensure materials remain damp. Add water if necessary.

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

How to solve compost problems

Problem Cause Solution
Compost smells Compost is too wet Add carbon materials to dry compost mix out.
  Not enough air

Turn the pile more regularly to improve drainage and aeration.
Add coarse material (e.g. twigs) to create air pockets.
Sprinkle with garden lime and turn.

Slow to break down Not enough 'active' ingredients Add more 'active' ingredients to compost mix (i.e. comfrey leaves, food waste, manure, soil, compost).
  Not enough air Turn more regularly.
  Compost too dry Add more water until 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 meats or fats to bin.
Cover maggots with garden lime.
Cover each layer of food waste with carbon materials.
Turn more regularly to prevent food waste rotting before it breaks down.
Mice and rats Excess bread or grains  Put fine wire mesh under the bin/heap.
Turn heap more regularly.
Cover each layer of food waste with carbon materials.
  Compost is too dry Add more water until heap is damp all the way through.

More information

If you'd like to learn more, attend one of our free compost and worm farm workshops.

04 October 2017