Your compost is ready to harvest if it looks like dark, rich soil and smells earthy. This normally takes three-six months. Spread the compost around plants or mix it with soil to create your own potting mix. Always cover soil and compost with a layer of mulch to keep it alive and thriving.
The newer food scraps on the top may not have broken down, so harvest your compost from the bottom of the bin. Any scraps that haven’t broken down can be thrown back in.
If your bin has a trap door - open it and scrape the compost out with a shovel. No door? Tilt the bin to one side and scrape it out with a shovel.
Lift the whole bin off the pile and use the harvested compost on your garden. Any scraps that have not broken down can be thrown back in to kick start your new compost.
Compost is always good for vegetables and exotics plants, but is often too rich for native plants.
A common harvesting problem is finding small patches of ‘ready’ compost mixed with recently-added food scraps. This can be avoided by only stirring the top half of your compost, allowing the ‘ready’ compost to accumulate at the bottom.
Don't worry about eggshells or avocado seeds not breaking down. If the rest of the compost is black, fluffy and smells earthy then it's okay. The eggshells won't be visible in your garden once you add a layer of mulch over the top.
If it's not quite ready to harvest but you want to start another compost - lift the bin off the compost pile, cover it with a tarp or rug, and leave it for a few weeks until it's ready.
Did you know?
Your backyard compost is unlikely to get hot enough to kill seeds. If plants like tomatoes and pumpkins sprout where you don't want them, just pull them out and throw them back into the compost or replant them in a vegie garden.