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How to start a compost bin

Having your own compost bin is a cost effective way to make your own nutrient rich compost to use in the garden, while also reducing the amount of waste you send to landfill sites, and in turn, your own carbon footprint!

Maintaining your bin isn’t quite as simple as chucking it all in and leaving it for six months, but it’s still an easy job that the whole family can get involved with. Our step by step guide will tell you where to start, what to add to your compost bin, and give you some tips on how to keep the compost ‘healthy’.

Choosing a compost bin 

There are some wonderful compost bins available to buy in garden centres and home stores, many with those simplifying features such as removal hatches, and windproof, hinged lids.

Of course, you could just make your own bin! Compost bins can be put together from scrap wood or wire mesh, or you could just use an old plastic or metal dustbin. I’ve always preferred a plastic bin, with 20 or so small holes punched around the side to help with aeration and drainage.

Where to put your compost bin

The compost bin should be located somewhere accessible, but not where it detracts from the pleasantness of the garden. Leave enough space around it so that you can get in there with a pitchfork or shovel to turn the compost.

Heat is required for efficient composting, but not too much, so a position where the bin will receive some sunlight every day is ideal. Try not to place the bin in a completely shaded area.

How to fill your compost bin

The secret to good compost is layers! Go for a green/brown/green/brown pattern, with brown being dead materials such as leaves, branches, wood chip and twigs, and green being kitchen scrap, grass cuttings, and plants. Ideally, begin with a layer of straw or twigs to help with drainage. Add a little water to each layer as you go.

Remember that things break down faster when shredded or in small chunks. Bad smells are often caused by an imbalance of materials, and if your compost is too wet or smelly, try adding some more brown, or dry matter.

What can you put in your compost bin?

Here is a list of things that you can safely throw in to your compost bin. Remember to break things down as much as possible first.

Fruit and veg scraps

Coffee grounds and tea leaves

Plant prunings and cuttings

Wood ash

Shredded paper and newspaper

Wood chips or pellets


Grass cuttings

Seaweed and kelp





What can’t you put in your compost bin?

The following is a list of things that shouldnt go in the compost bin:




Glossy Paper


Pet/Human Faeces


Diseased or infested plants

Banana and orange peels

Dairy products


Coal/Charcoal ash

Fats and grease

Bread and pasta


How to maintain your compost bin

Compost only requires a little attention. Remember to mix and turn the compost every week or two to allow oxygen to circulate, and to prevent similar items bulking together. Use a pitchfork or shovel.

If the compost is too dry, add a little moisture with a hosepipe or watering can. The compost should be damp, but never sludgy. Bad smells are often caused by an imbalance of materials, and if your compost is too wet or smelly, try adding some more brown, or dry matter.

How long does composting take?

Composting can take anywhere from a month to two years. In normal conditions, with a good blend of materials, it will take 3-6 months. The best stuff will usually appear at the bottom first, which is where the specially built compost bins with hatches at the bottom will come in handy!

Where to use your compost?

You can now use your organic and nutrient rich compost all around the garden! Use it for planting seeds and seedlings, nourishing house plants, digging in to your garden, raised beds, and in plant pots. There are some plants that you can plant straight in to your compost.

Before using your compost, you can sift out any large, remaining bits, and put the straight back in to the compost bin!