Dig deep: The beginner's guide to composting

beginner composting tips

Composting isn’t exactly a new phenomenon, but why aren’t more of us doing it?

We’ve all made excuses – dealing with dirt, attracting creepy crawlies, not understanding what you can and can’t chuck onto the pile. However, the truth is that composting is one of the simplest ways to significantly reduce your household waste and save you buying fertilisers.

So where do you begin?

There are many ways you can compost – with a bin, a wooden box or on a spare patch of earth in your garden. Just be sure to choose a spot that’s drained and in the shade so that soil isn’t singed by the sun.

When creating your compost pile, think of it like layering lasagne using all sorts of rich and wholesome ingredients.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Fruit and veggie peelings

  • Dry leaves, twigs and any other foliage

  • Soil

  • Plenty of water

Then comes the layering.

Start with rougher, dry materials such as twigs that will act as a drain for any moisture passing through the soil. Add water and keep doing so after each layer until. Next up pepper the pile with grass clippings and food scraps, then cover with a sheet of dry leaves and water until the heap is damp, not wet. Keep layering using the lasagne method and when you’re done, finish by holding it all together with soil or “finished compost”.

At this stage, you’ll be well on your way to conquering compost. Maintaining your pile is as simple as making sure there’s enough air flow for the materials to breathe, as well as making sure the soil is overturned with a garden fork once a week to prevent bad odours from rotting scraps.

Now comes the question that leaves many aspiring composters scratching their heads: what exactly are you allowed to compost?

Clean Up Australia has put together a detailed list of the many surprising items you can chuck in – such as teabags – and those you will need to steer clear of:


  • Vegetable and food scraps

  • Fallen leaves (in layers)

  • Tea leaves and tea bags

  • Coffee grounds

  • Vacuum cleaner dust

  • Soft stems

  • Dead flowers

  • Old potting mix

  • Used vegetable cooking oil

  • Egg shells

  • Old newspapers (wet)

  • Grass cuttings in layers

  • Weeds

  • Sawdust (not from treated timber)

  • Wood ash

  • Human and animal hair


  • Meat and dairy products

  • Diseased plants

  • Metals, plastic, glass

  • Animal manures (especially the droppings of cats and dogs)

  • Fat

  • Magazines

  • Large branches

  • Weeds that have seeds or underground stems

  • Bread or cake (may attract mice)

  • Bones

  • Sawdust from treated timber

Now that you’re schooled in composting 101, there is no excuse not to get on board and start monitoring your household waste.

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