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
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)
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
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
Packaging that is said to be made from vegetable starches should
break down. These often look opaque and feel more 'silky' than oil
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
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
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