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How to compost at home

Person adding food waste to compost bin

Friday 1 May 2020

Composting at home is quick to set up and easier than you may think. The process is simple, but it's important to get the basics right from the start to ensure you get the best from your home compost bin.

Steps to get your compost bin set up

  1. Place your compost bin on bare soil in a sunny spot where possible
  2. Add a 50:50 mix of green (grass, fruit peelings and coffee grounds) and brown (eggshells, newspaper, cardboard, dry leaves and twigs) materials to your compost bin.
  3. Mix the compost with a garden fork approximately once a week
  4. After 9 to 12 months your compost will be crumbly and dark. This means your soil improver is now ready to use on your garden.

Spread the soil improver on borders and vegetable patches, to add nutrient-rich content and structure to the soil. This should lead to healthier plants.

  • For a potting soil suitable for growing most vegetables, mix two-parts soil improver to one-part sieved garden soil.
  • For potting soil suitable for containers, combine two-parts soil improver, one-part compost and one-part sand.

Avoid putting these items in your compost bin

Products such as meat, bones, dairy and cooked vegetables should not be placed in your home compost bin. These foods need to be composted at a higher temperature and may encourage unwanted pests and odours in your home compost bin. These items can instead be placed in your kerbside food waste caddy for recycling.

Other items to avoid placing in your home compost bin include

  • perennial weeds and diseased plants as these can survive the composting process and be spread over your garden
  • cat litter and other animal faeces as the composting process cannot destroy the parasites and bacteria, which can be very harmful to people
  • nappies and any type of plastic

What to do if your compost bin smells

Your compost bin shouldn’t smell unpleasant. If you find that it does it may mean that it contains too much wet material and lacks air. Mix the compost regularly and add more dry materials. This should solve the problem.

Do compost bins attract rats?

It’s very unlikely that your compost bin will attract rats. Try to disturb your compost bin as often as possible. This could simply be by regularly visiting your compost bin to add material or mix the contents with a garden fork. Avoid adding any meat, fish or dairy products to your bin. If you’re still worried about rats getting in your bin, then you could consider using a compost bin base.

Free online composting training

If you’re new to composting, or want to discover more successful techniques, you might like our free online course. Provided by Garden Organic you can find out all about the benefits of composting at home and how to get started.

The course has five modules that you can select, from basics to in depth knowledge, including videos and quizzes. Each section lasts 10 to 20 minutes. You can just stick with the basics or go through everything if you wish - all at your own pace.
You can come back to the course at any time, so it doesn’t have to be completed at once.

Login to the free compost course

Please use the Guest Access with the password: LoveEssexCompost

Try composting at home

To help Essex residents get started with home composting, we offer subsidised compost bins.

To purchase a subsidised compost bin:

  • You must live in statutory Essex (which doesn't include Southend and Thurrock).
  • Have the compost bin delivered to your Essex address
  • Choose between either a 220l or 330l sized compost bin
  • You can purchase two of the same size compost bins and get a further 50% of the price of the second bin.

The compost bins are made from recycled plastic and require no set-up. All you need to do is enter your Essex postcode and your discount will be automatically applied.

Purchase your compost bin today

However, if a compost bin is not for you, you can always build your own compost heap from materials that you have lying around.

Find out more about home composting

Watch our series of home composting videos on YouTube

Get started with home composting in Essex

How to make your own compost heap

How to compost this spring