Compost, how to set up a composter for garden and kitchen waste

Compost in a wheelbarrow

Making your own compost is a practice that helps the environment through recycling waste.

Compost is also an excellent way to create the organic matter that is crucial for proper plant growth.

Thanks to your compost, you’ll be able to feed and fertilize your plant beds without spending a dime… With today’s trend of going local, making your own compost is even more relevant!

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What is compost good for?

Compost is an excellent way to recycle plant waste we produce, and use it in the garden as soil conditioner, fertilizer and green manure.

  • Compost is an excellent soil conditioner.
  • It enhances growth of plants, roses, trees and shrubs.
  • Its contents help increase soil quality and add nutrients that plants need to develop.

When to use compost

Compost is best used when plants need it most: their vegetation phase.

In the vegetable patch, it can also be used to prepare the soil at the end of winter, before the first seeds are sown and plants transferred.

Compost must look uniform and even, have a dark color and a nice, peat-like or earthy smell.

It should break up easily into fine bits.

  • It is used when plants need it most, which is during the growth phase after winter.
  • In spring for the most part, but also all year long for indoor plants.

Compost activator, speeding the process up

If you stimulate the activity of the bacteria and microscopic life forms that live in the compost, you’ll be speeding up the composting process.

Activator agents are 100% organic and can be used in organic agriculture. They enhance waste breakdown.
It guarantees top-quality compost that can be used earlier.

How to compost plant waste

There are 2 ways of preparing your own compost: in heaps and in bins.

Compost bins

Tumbler composter made from a barrel.Today, a wide range of compost bins are available on the market, made from wood or plastic, perfectly adapted to transforming plant waste into compost.

  • Compost bins are great in that the space they need is reduced. They match the needs of most urban gardeners.

Compost heaps

Heaps have other advantages: they can extend as needed.

Nonetheless, it is often exposed to rainy weather and birds and other animals that might come forage for food in your waste.

Waste to add to the compost

All plant waste from your home and garden can be added to your composter or compost heap.

Authorized organic waste is

  • Fruit and vegetable peels.
    Better to have washed them before peeling to remove any trace of chemical products.
  • Coffee grounds with paper filter.
  • Eggshells, crushed to speed their breakdown.
  • Wilted flowers.
  • Bread and pasta-based waste.
  • Green garden waste: leaves, lawn trimmings, weeds, flowers, etc…
    Be careful! Check that none of this waste has been subjected to chemical treatment.
  • Certain house waste such as paper tissue and ashes.
  • Tea bags, also those used for infusions and herbal tea.
  • Ashes can be composted or also kept for fertilizer and slug control.

Banned waste to not throw into the compost

Some weeds should not be thrown in the compost, especially those that carry seeds, since this would spread them far and wide.

Don’t also add any waste that has been treated chemically with sprays such as weed-killers, pesticides, fungicides and other products that are bad for the environment and for our planet.
Finally, do not add to your composting unit:

  • Diseased plants
  • Meat, and bones especially
  • Fish and fishbones
  • Oysters and mussels and clam shells
  • Dairy products
  • Oranges, lemon or grapefruit peels

Choosing your composter


  • There are many different composters available, and their price depends on the quality of materials used (wood, plastic, etc), their size and the volume of compost they can absorb. Most of all, the right composter is the one that fits your budget.


Composters made from plastic or wood will produce the same quality of compost.

  • A composter made from wood is more eco-friendly.
  • Choose a design that has FSC-labelling to ensure that the wood comes from forests grown responsibly, and not from haphazard deforestation.
  • Ideally, you’d choose a type of wood that is naturally resistant to rot: false-acacia and chestnut wood are excellent.

How to make your own composter

There is a very easy and affordable way to make one. This one is for outdoors, but here’s one for apartment composting.

Plank composting unit on grassJust attach 4 transportation pallets at the corners with wire and place them upright on the ground.

  • Choose a spot that is protected from wind, not too sunny and easy to reach.
  • Spread a layer of straw, twigs or leaves about 6 to 8 inches (15 to 20 cm) thick along the bottom.
  • Turn the pile over regularly to avoid materials rotting together, ensure air circulation, and help matter decompose evenly.
  • If the pile dries up too much, water to give the compost the moisture it needs.

Air circulation is provided by the spaces between boards, and it helps your green matter to break down very well.

It makes sense to set up a hinged opening at the bottom of one pallet, to collect the compost from the pile.

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Smart tip about composting

If you want your compost bin to last over years, choose a category 4 wood that resists rot and weather.

Compost on social media

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Picture related to Compost overlaid with the Pinterest logo. Picture related to Compost overlaid with the Facebook logo.

Image credits (edits Gaspard Lorthiois):
CC BY 2.0: Sustainable Sanitation, Karen and Brad Emerson
CC BY-SA 2.0: Ofer El-Hashahar
Pixabay: Ben Kerckx