> Skip to content

Article  •  24 June 2024


What to put in a compost bin

Wondering what to put in a compost bin? Check out this advice from The Self-Sufficiency Garden for nutrient-rich compost.

Whether you’re an avid gardener or just trying to cut back on food waste, making your own compost is an easy process that can help your garden thrive.

According to The Self-Sufficiency Garden by Sam Cooper and Huw Richards, ‘Turning waste material into compost produces a beautiful, rich growing resource that is essential for the crops in your garden to survive. Making your own, and not buying it in, is one of the best things you can do to create a more resilient garden.’

While the book focuses on growing your own produce, anyone can start making compost when armed with the right knowledge. Aside from being a great gardening resource, it’s also a great way to recycle waste. Whether you’re starting with a benchtop bin or a backyard compost pile, read on for an excerpt from the book that will outline which items are compostable.

What to put in a compost bin, according to The Self-Sufficiency Garden

Filling the bin: greens and browns

Two types of ingredients are used for composting – green (high in nitrogen) and brown (high in carbon). For every bucket of green material you add to a compost bin, always add a bucket of brown material.

Too much green will result in slimy (anaerobic) compost; too much brown will seriously slow down decomposition. A volume ratio of 50:50 is ideal.


Covering the base of your bin with a 5 – 7cm (2 – 2¾in) layer of twigs and branches can help provide good airflow and improve decomposition rates.

Green materials

- Used coffee grounds and plastic-free tea bags
- Weeds (no seedheads)
- Grass clippings (unsprayed)
- Fruit and vegetable scraps
- Horse, cow, rabbit, and chicken manure
- Freshly cut plant material
- Seaweed (leave out in the rain before adding to wash off excess salt)
- Spent brewery grain (from a local brewery)
- Hair clippings (from barbers/hairdressers)
- Wool (from packaging)

Brown materials

- Cardboard and newspaper
- Dust from vacuuming
- Chippings and sawdust (from untreated wood)
- Autumn leaves (ideally shredded by lawnmower)
- Hay and straw
- Autumn and winter woody prunings
- Fallen pine needles
- Wood ash
- Tissues and paper towels
- Spent compost (from this season’s pots)

When the bin is full

Once you have finished filling your bin, empty 4 – 5 cans of water over the contents then place a layer of cardboard on top and weigh it down with stones or bricks to keep off excess rain. Too much water can delay decomposition.

To speed up the composting process, turn the pile every six to eight weeks to incorporate air and move less-decomposed outer material inwards into the core. Compost piles shrink as organic materials decompose, so don’t be surprised if yours ends up half its original size.

Finished compost

Compost is ready when the majority of the material is dark in colour and virtually unrecognizable. It is often full of earthworms and other beneficial organisms and the texture should be crumbly with a lovely earthy-fresh smell. Large pieces that haven’t fully broken down can easily be removed and added to the next compost bin.

Three rules for making good compost

- The wider the variety of ingredients you add, the greater the range of nutrients in the finished compost.
- The smaller you chop up the greens and brown material, the faster it will break down.
- Keep at it. There’s no such thing as too much homemade compost.

Feature Title

The Self-Sufficiency Garden
Year-round growing plan to yield six portions of veg per person per day plus batching and preserving recipes
Read more

More features

See all
Choosing a garden colour scheme

One of Australia's most high-profile landscape designers offers advice on creating a successful colour scheme for plantings.

The appeal of crab apples

At Paul Bangay’s beloved Stonefields, spring is a time of floral aroma.

The best budget cookbooks to help you save on dinner

Discover the best budget cookbooks to teach you how to cook delicious meals without spending a fortune.

These gorgeous new editions of Shakespeare classics are perfect for YA readers

Everything you need to know about the Shakespeare STAGED collection.

Books to read if you loved Lessons in Chemistry

What to read after Lessons in Chemistry.

Sherri Crichton shares the backstory of Eruption's collaboration

Sherri Crichton, wife of the late Michael Crichton, explains in this letter how the unfinished manuscript of Eruption came to be completed by James Patterson.

Bedtime reading challenge

Enter to win a book pack, inspired by the 10 Minutes to Bed books!

Look inside The Sea in Me

Look inside the breathtaking picture book by multitalented athlete, musician and writer Cody Simpson.

QUIZ: What kind of crime novel should you read this winter?

Cosy crime, rural crime, detective fiction . . . what will your next crime read be?

Your Guide to the Penguin Authors at ABC RN's Big Weekend of Books

ABC RN’s Big Weekend of Books 2024 is almost here! Learn about the Penguin authors you can hear from.

Penguin Random House children’s authors at Sydney Writers’ Festival 2024

Learn more about the children’s authors who were part of the 2024 Sydney Writers' Festival and check out their books.

What readers are saying about $10 Meals with Chelsea

Chelsea Goodwin, the creator behind the $10 Meals Australia Facebook group, has released a cookbook full of incredible budget eats. See what readers are saying!

Looking for more articles?

See all articles