Composting for beginners: How to get success in 4 steps

by | May 31, 2017 | Family Outdoors, In the Garden

Composting is an awesome way to give back to the earth.  It improves soil and can be used as mulch whilst minimising landfill and saving time and resources.  All of which can be better used somewhere else. Learn how with our 4 easy steps composting for beginners’ guide.

Composting for beginners isn’t as hard as you might think, and your plants are going to love you for it, especially your veggie patch!  There are a few basic rules, and the table below will help explain why ‘balance’ is the key factor in developing rich compost.

The best composter

Now we can’t take credit for making rich soil, its Mother Nature who does all the hard work, we just lend her a helping hand.  The ultimate type of recycling is done through composting.  For centuries, humans have tried to match the effortless process involved in the breakdown of decaying matter. It’s such a simple process in returning it back into our earth so it can be reused again by other living microorganisms.  It’s so admirable how Mother Nature can do it with her eyes shut.

Composting for beginners

Among the many benefits composting does for our garden, it replenishes nutrients back into the soil. It also helps improves water retention and helps mulch around plants to protect roots.

Composting for beginners

Here’s our guide to creating amazing compost for all levels of experience, especially beginners.

1. Housing your compost

Your objectives are going to be different depending on where you live and what type of space you have allocated for your compost area.  You can choose one of many different types of compost houses.  It’s important to set up your compost directly on earth.  This will assist in the decomposition process through interaction with the worms & organisms that live in the soil.  If you feel your soil or environment could benefit from some worms, you can easily purchase worms to add to your compost.

An enclosed set up is more of a preferred option for suburban areas.  The advantage is that a lid will keep out the rain and the scavengers as well.  If you have a lot more space, you can create a large-scale compost.  Make sure you allow for both an active compost, one that you can add to now, and a mature compost.  Mature compost is where the microorganisms are hard at work doing their thing.

Housing Your Compost

2. Compost mixture

It’s important to remember your compost pile will need a mixture of both carbon & nitrogen items.  See the detailed list below from  Basically, you need both carbon & nitrogen ingredients to promote a ‘hot’ environment towards the centre of your compost and keep the pile aerated.  This will accelerate the composting process.  Don’t get too bogged down with your composition, the idea is that your compost should be a balanced mix that is easy to turn and not to wet and not to dry.


table scraps
add with dry carbon items
fruit & vegetable scraps
add with dry carbon items
best when crushed
leaves break down faster when shredded
grass clippings
add in thin layers so they don’t mat into clumps
garden plants
use disease-free plants only
lawn & garden weeds
only use weeds which have not gone to seed
shrub prunings
woody prunings are slow to break down
straw or hay
straw is best; hay (with seeds) is less ideal
green comfrey leaves
excellent compost ‘activator’
pine needles
acidic; use in moderate amounts
flowers, cuttings
chop up any long woody stems
seaweed and kelp
apply in thin layers; good source for trace minerals
wood ash
only use ash from clean materials; sprinkle lightly
chicken manure
excellent compost ‘activator’
coffee grounds
filters may also be included
tea leaves
loose or in bags
avoid using glossy paper and colored inks
shredded paper
avoid using glossy paper and colored inks
shred material to avoid matting
corn cobs, stalks
slow to decompose; best if chopped up
dryer lint
best if from natural fibers
sawdust pellets
high carbon levels; add in layers to avoid clumping
wood chips / pellets
high carbon levels; use sparingly

Sourced from

What can’t be composted

  • Meat, bones, or fish scraps (they will attract pests), perennial weeds (they can be spread with the compost), or diseased plants.
  • Do not include pet manures in compost that will be used on food crops.
  • Banana peels, peach peels, and orange rinds may contain pesticide residue and should be kept out of the compost.
  • Sawdust may be added to the compost but should be mixed or scattered thinly to avoid clumping.  Be sure any sawdust is clean, with no machine oil or chain oil residues from cutting equipment. (quoted from

Your compost should smell sweet, so if it smells like garbage, then you probably have garbage in it. It needs to be removed, or your compost is not aerated enough.  The smaller you make each of your ingredients before they are added, the faster the breakdown process will be.  Adding your ingredients in layers and giving light water as you go is also a great idea.

3. The decomposition process

It’s important to balance your compost mix.  Making you compost light and aerated, will make a huge difference to the speed of the process and the quality of the final product.  Keep your compost moving by turning it with a pick fork.  This provides oxygen which is really important because it can produce greenhouse gasses if it gets starved of oxygen.  Your compost will need water.  The trick is to not soak your mix, you just need it to be moist.  You can also add some soil to your mix which will also help encourage the breakdown process.

4.  The results

The final product can be ready from 6 weeks up to 6 months, depending on all the steps mentioned above.  Tend to your compost regularly and you will be more likely to have a faster outcome.  When you compost has decomposed and turned into dark, rich matter.  This indicates it’s time to return it to the earth and mix it through your soil or add to your pots.

Composting result.


Extra tips

If your composting process is slow, it might mean that your compost isn’t hot enough, or your composition isn’t aerated enough.  Try one of the following:

  • Increase the number of times you are turning your pile
  • Increase nitrogen-rich material, such as veggie scraps or green garden vegetation.  See the table above
  • To keep it warm, try covering the compost with some insulation


  1. Venetta Latham

    Great info , thanks I love composting.


      glad you have enjoyed the content 🙂