Setting up your own compost system

There are several different methods to setting up your compost bin; most New Zealanders will be familiar with hot and cold compost, or worm farms. I'm going to talk about hot composting here as it's quicker to set up, and I grew up using a hot compost system on our family farm! For more information on different types of composting click here.

Hot Composting

You will need: 

  • A space on bare earth to start your pile, or a compost bin (buy here

  • A cover: wood, corrugated iron, compost lid, or anything you have to cover the compost heap

  • Carbon material such as twigs, hay, cardboard, dry leaves and tree prunings. 

  • Moist materials such as uncooked food scraps, grass clippings, teabags, green leaves, seedless weeds, and seaweed.

  • Optional (to speed up the process): manure, blood and bone, yoghurt, old milk, or leftover wine or beer.  


Lay some of the carbon material on your patch of bare earth or at the bottom of your compost bin. This helps with drainage and allows oxygen into the compost heap. Add some moist materials, and then manure, blood and bone etc if you have some. Continue to layer all your materials - carbon + moist + manure - until everything is layered. Make sure your compost heap is damp (but not wet); water it if need be. Cover with your compost bin lid or makeshift lid. After a day or two, when plenty of heat should have built up in the center of your compost heap, turn and mix it so the material on the outside is moved inwards. Every few weeks for 4-6 weeks, turn and mix in order to incorporate oxygen (you can skip this step if you added plenty of carbon materials for aeration). 

Your compost is ready to use when it has turned into a black and crumbly substance that looks and feels like rich, moist soil. If you want to use it, dig your compost into soil or spread it as mulch around the drip line of plants. Don’t plant new seedlings directly into compost – it’s a potent material and can burn the roots. 

Be sure to keep some matured compost in your heap or compost bin so you can continue to compost your grass clippings, food scraps, and Unrefined Cakery pouches!