The Home Composter
What to put in your Compost Bin

How to Compost

Compost safely

Compost ingredients

Empty your compost bin

To turn or not to turn?

How long to compost?

Worms & Wormeries

Topical Composting

Compost kitchen waste

Prickly prunings

Weeds and weeds

Too much grass

Leaves for Leafmould

Seasonal Tips


Unwelcome Guests


Composting demonstrated

To make good compost you need to put the correct materials into your compost bin:

You MUST put into your bin : A good mix of green, sappy material and brown fibrousy stuff These need to include:
Annual weeds with some soil attached to the roots – this contains the micro-organisms that will do the composting for you.
Some fruit and vegetable peelings
Some stalky stuff from the flower border

chop up bin ingredientsThe smaller the bits you put in the finer the compost you will get out, so shred or chop up large stalks and twigs.

In dry weather add extra wet material like grass mowings and kitchen waste. You may even need to add a bucket of water; certainly leave the lid open when the rain first returns.
In very wet weather add extra stalky stuff or crumpled newspaper to soak up some of the moisture.
These are some of the things that are good to put into your home compost bin
Annual weeds   Dead flowers   Fruit peelings   Rhubarb leaves   Tea bags
Dead leaves    Vacuum dust   Soft hedge clippings    Stalks of plants
Kitchen towel   Egg shells   Crumpled newspaper   Pet fur   Feathers
Raw vegetable waste including potato peelings
Grass mowings (but not those treated with herbicides)
Mix of kitchen & garden wasteSoft cardboard like egg boxes, the centres of toilet rolls
The leaves of perennial weeds (not the roots)
Straw or hay, especially if it has been used as vegetarian pet bedding
A small amount of wood ash
Fresh shredded prunings from green  wood
Potato shaws (haulms); put them in a covered bin

Layer different types of material, green and brown, to make a balanced mixture

As you keep adding these materials into your compost bin the contents will sink as they rot down.   After about a year you will have finished compost at the bottom of your bin.

Will compostable packaging break down in a home compost bin?
Plastic packaging is sometimes described as biodegradable or compostable. Biodegradable or Degradable just means that it will break down eventually - but it might take 500 years.
Compostable should mean that it has passed a standard EU composting test that entails composting at 58C for 12 weeks, resulting in the breakdown of the material. Few home compost bins consistently reach that temperature but lower temperatures over a longer time can fully breakdown the packaging.
Some packaging is marked as OK Compost Home and this will break down at 20-30C within 26 weeks. When you empty your bin after a year there should be nothing left.
Not all packaging has these instructions printed on it and for magazine wrappers you sometimes have to search the magazine for information.
Packaging that is said to be made from vegetable starches should break down. These often look opaque and feel more 'silky' than oil based plastic.
If in doubt you will, sadly, have to put the packaging in your landfill bin. DO NOT PUT IT IN THE RECYCLING.
However, some materials take a very long time to rot down so put them in a separate bin where they can stay for 2 or 3 years until they have rotted down.
Sawdust and wood shavings need to be mixed with other materials and will then take at least 3 years to compost
Woody branches and thorny stems are best shredded and even then will take 2 years to fully compost. Left whole they will take even longer.
Conifer prunings also take years to rot down fully
Large quantities of moss (for example raked from a lawn) may also take 2 or 3 years to fully decompose.
The roots of perennial weeds will rot down if kept in a special covered bin for at least 2 years. See our fact sheet Perennial Weeds for other tips.
Large root balls of dead plants will take years to rot down
Spent commercial compost will take a long time to be incorporated into your compost – best to use it as a soil conditioner
Bulbs, corms and tubers will continue to grow unless chopped up or left in a covered bin for at least 2 years

Some things should not be put in any home composting unit
Grass mowings treated with “feed and weed” - the herbicide may persist and damage plants subsequently grown in the compost
Cooked food will smell and may attract rats and foxes
Ash from a coal fire may damage subsequent plant growth
Paper with a plastic or shiny coating – this coating will be left when the paper backing rots down

             Follow these simple rules and recycle most of your garden waste into good free compost

Composting problem?
 Contact us if you would like us to answer your query. We'll try to give a helpful answer!

This page is sponsored by Scottish Borders Councilsbc logo

More information about recycling can be found on :
 Scottish Borders Council Reduce Reuse Recyclewaste aware logo


Useful links:
Scottish Borders Council: Reduce Reuse Recycle

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