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Composting for beginners

In Nelson, kitchen scraps and garden waste make up a third of household waste which is taken to the landfill.

In a landfill, organic waste releases methane, a major greenhouse gas. However, composting uses air, moisture, and heat to convert the organic waste into carbon-rich soil. This means composting is not only a great way to do your part in reducing waste sent to landfills but also a fantastic way to feed your garden and save you money!

Producing your own compost saves you money

Just think, if your waste is reduced by 1/3 of its regular capacity, you don’t have to pay for so many bags or bin loads and it’s as simple as separating your kitchen scraps and garden waste from general waste.

The bonus is there is no need to purchase additional compost for your garden and you can reduce the number of fertilisers used. This will mean not need as much watering and will deliver a bountiful crop of vegetables or flowers.

Common Misconceptions

Some common misconceptions of compost include it being smelly, attracting rodents and pests, seeming too daunting, or too expensive. But we are here to set that all straight and provide you with some simple tips to avoid common composting problems and make composting easy!

Below are some tips to get started, for more information including a chance to discuss your questions join one of our regular composting 101 workshops held in-store.

Workshops are limited to 15 people so a great chance to learn from others while ensuring your unique questions are answered.

Upcoming workshops:

Top Tips thanks to Rethink Waste

  • Layer your greens (nitrogen) and brown waste (carbon), examples of each are listed below. Each layer should be 5-10cm deep.

  • Roughly cut waste items small to speed up the process.

  • A compost high in nitrogen with no air will become acidic and smelly. Keep plenty of carbon (e.g dry leaves, twigs, and cardboard) close by and add to your compost and turn the compost to add air (a garden fork is best) to balance your compost.

  • Compost heaps need moisture – water each layer as you go and keep the bin or heap covered. Once your bin is full or heap is about 1 m tall, leave it covered to mature but check occasionally that it is not too dry.

  • Speed up the composting process by ensuring your bin is aerated.

  • Compost is ready when you can no longer tell with the waste items are and it looks dark and crumbly. This could take 6-12months.

Let’s get started

First, you will need a good structure or container to get started and hold your compost. Composting bins can be purchased in a wide variety of shapes and forms or can be built from scratch at home. Whatever you use we recommend using a sturdy bin that provides plenty of air to aid in the composting process but also is contained to avoid interest from any unwanted garden guests – see our 400L Compost Bins as an example.

Location is important! Consider how often you put kitchen/green waste into your compost bin, you don’t want it to become a chore to lug a bucket to the bottom of the garden each time. Choose a location which does not have full sun and ensure it is easily accessible for adding ingredients and regular mixing.

Prepare your compost in layers that are a blend of carbon and nitrogen. This means adding a mix of organic garden and kitchen waste materials each time you add to the compost bin. This will prevent issues and leave the hard work of turning the material to the experts…the worms.

Green - nitrogen-rich, wet

Brown - carbon rich, dry

Food scraps

Torn newspaper/ cardboard


Egg cartons

Fresh grass clippings (free of invasive weeds)

Tree/hedge clippings

Vegetable scraps

Dry leaves


Bark, untreated sawdust

Tea leaves and tea bags

Wood ash

Coffee grinds

Twigs and sticks

Avoid adding:

  • Grains such as pasta/bread can be bird feed instead of attracting rodents into your compost bin.

  • Avoid meat, fish, oil, bones, dairy products, and domesticated animal feces.

  • Don’t add any invasive weeds or diseased plant material.

  • Eggshells can be crushed and scattered around your garden instead.

How to use compost in your garden

Compost is ready when it becomes a sweet, smelling, dark, crumbly material and you cannot distinguish the original materials in it. If well maintained and turned often this process should take as little as 3 months but will ‘mature’ around 9 months.

Dig your finished compost into your garden or use it as a mulch around fruit trees and other plants. We suggest watering it in and turning it gently for best results. Compost feeds plants and builds the soil, helps with water retention, and encourages helpful worms in your garden.

Compost Subsidy Coupons - Take $20 off

Nelson and Tasman residents, thanks to your local council, you are eligible to redeem a Rethink Waste $20 subsidy coupon (once per year) to purchase certain composting systems.

Visit us in-store to receive your $20 discount off your new compost bin, worm farm, or bokashi set to help you get one step closer to composting at home.

For more information on Rethink Waste and their other initiatives visit

Compost Drop-off Service

If you’re keen to do your part in helping reduce your contributions to landfill waste but have limited space, and time or you’re not quite ready to get started using the compost at home, then the Para Kai Club could be the solution for you.

Para Kai Club offers a pay-as-you-go community compost service, allowing you to drop off your home, office, or business food waste to our store (26 Gloucester Street) to get collected and processed into living compost. Simply pay $10 at the counter when you drop off your compost.

Simply visit us and collect a Community Compost branded bucket (you can take as many as you need), fill the bucket, and return this again when it suits you. No contracts or sign-up fees, just simple, convenient, responsible composting! You can also purchase the living compost from Tim’s Garden.

For more information visit us in-store or visit Community Compost

Shop our composting systems available online below.

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