Composting is a great way to become sustainable.  Not only are you not putting food waste into landfill, you are creating yourself your own source of compost – you will never have to buy a bag of compost again!

This is the beginners guide to composting and is a great way to start if you are new to composting

Step 1 – Purchasing a compost bin for composting

The first challenge is to purchase a compost bin.  There are a large variety out there, but the most common one has the nickname of ‘The Dalek’.  These can sometimes be available at discounted rates from your local council – so don’t forget to check.

I am not talking about one of these:

Dr Who Dalek

I am talking about this:

Dalek compost bin

This type of composting is called cold composting.

Step 2 – Finding a location for your bin

The next step is choosing a place to put your bin.

  • It needs to be over bare ground  so all the good creatures can enter to break down the waste (this means you cannot put it on a patio).
  • It works more quickly when it is put in a sunny position  (you can still put it in the shade, but it might take longer for it to make compost).
  • Don’t forget to put it somewhere convenient so you make it easy to compost and not a chore (there is no point putting it at the end of the garden behind a whole load of stuff as you will never want to go out and put your waste in the bin in the middle of winter).

Step 3 – How to compost

Composting is fairly simple – it is all about green and brown layers

Green layers include:

  • Old veg festering at the back of your fridge
  • Uncooked veg and veg peelings
  • Old fruit , fruit cores and fruit skins
  • Grass cuttings and garden prunings

Brown layers include:

  • Newspaper
  • Cardboard
  • Egg shells
  • Ground coffee
  • Autumn leaves
  • Wood chippings
  • Waste bedding from vegetarian pets eg rabbit guinea pigs hamsters

The idea is that you alternate a layer of green with a layer of brown to build up your compost bin.  You should aim for an equal amount of green vs brown.  A few times a year the compost will benefit from being mixed up with a fork to get it composting more evenly.  Your compost should start to be ready after a year or two depending on the location of the bin.

If you put too much brown in then the compost will be too dry, too much green in then you will have a smelly sludge.  If you get the mixture right, you will get some decent compost.  Don’t worry if it is not a perfect consistency you can still use it – even the smelly sludge!

What not to put in a compost bin

There are some items that you should definitely not put into your compost bin.

Do not put in

  • Cooked food
  • Meat
  • Waste from meat eating animals eg dogs and cats
  • non-biodegradeable packaging.

When is the compost ready?

To check when the compost is ready – you need to open the hatch at the bottom and see if it is dark brown.  If it is then it is ready to use.


  • Compost too dry – Put in some more green
  • Compost all sludgy – Put in more brown
  • What about rats??  Rats are unlikely to inhabit your compost – compost bins do not have very favourable conditions for rats.  However, if you are worried at all about them then give the compost bin a good kick every time you put something in it – Rats will definitely like that.

You may be interested in:

Useful Links


Alan · 29th September 2021 at 11:22 am

I liked your info provided on composting.
I also find it’s good to mix in composted down/soil material, when filling up. A bit like adding the yeast to sourdough or bread, The insects, microrganisms and bacteria break it down quicker and hopefully more of the nitrogen rich, waste emmiting CO2 gasses are recycled back in to the soil.

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