Making compost is a lot like the art of gardening--many people have special techniques but the general process is the same, regardless of the method. Choose a compost making method that fits your lifestyle and provides four ingredients (carbon-rich organic waste, nitrogen-rich organic waste, water and air), and making "black gold" for your garden and house plants will be well under way.
Heap composting is simple and requires little maintenance. Exposing topsoil at the composting location allows the decomposing microorganisms to have direct access to the compost pile. A compost heap must be at least 3 cubic feet but no more than 5 cubic feet to maintain adequate composting temperatures and moisture levels, according to the University of Illinois Cooperative Extension. Alternate layers of carbon and nitrogen organic waste to minimize composting time. Compost piles typically take six months to two years to produce finished compost, depending upon whether you opt to aerate the compost.
Compost bins are essentially enclosed compost heaps. They have the same composting requirements of a compost heap but provide a tidier way to compost organic waste. Bins range from simple, homemade wire and wooden structures to elaborate, multi-bin systems. To construct a compost bin from wood, opt for a wood species that is naturally decay-resistant, such as cedar or pine; according to the University of Illinois Cooperative Extension. Toxic chemicals used to treat lumber may leach into compost. Due to a lack of aeration, compost bins typically require at least six months to produce finished product.
Turning units allow for easier compost turning, which provides the decomposing microorganisms with plenty of extra air. Depending upon budget, construct a compost tumbler from an old plastic garbage can or invest in a commercial rotating composter. Shred the organic waste into small pieces before adding it to the turning composter to facilitate faster decomposition. Plan on tumbling the compost at least once every two weeks. According to the University of Illinois Cooperative Extension, compost can be made in less than two months with a turning unit.
Often overlooked in the world of composting, red worms provide ideal an composting method for apartment dwellers and households that produce little yard waste. Keep worms in a plastic or wooden bin filled with moist, shredded newspaper or dead leaves for bedding. As a general rule, a red worm can consume up to half its weight in food waste each day. Stick to vegetable and fruit waste when feeding worms, and bury it in the bedding to reduce possible odor issues. According to Canada's Office of Urban Agriculture, worms can produce finished compost in approximately 10 weeks.