Making a compost pile is a win-win situation, as it is a way to recycle disposable materials while making rich soil for your garden. Before starting, check with your local municipality to see if there are any restrictions or ordinances regarding compost piles. Select a well-draining, flat, convenient location out of the way of pets and children. Avoid areas with extreme direct sun or exposure to wind, which will cause over drying of the pile. A location with about half a day of sunshine is preferred. Do not place the pile next to a building or under trees.
Gather organic materials to add to your compost pile. Use nitrogen-rich materials, such as lawn clippings and green garden debris, as well as carbon-rich materials such as straw, hay, and twigs. Adding both nitrogen-rich and carbon-rich ingredients will speed the decomposition process.
Spread a 6- to 8-inch even layer of organic material on the bare ground. Make the perimeter of the compost pile approximately 5 feet by 5 feet.
Add a 1- to 2-inch layer of cow or horse manure to the pile. If manure from a grain-eating animal is not available, evenly spread 1 cup of 10-10-10 or 12-12-12 commercial fertilizer over the first layer.
Spread a 1- to 2-inch layer of garden soil over the first two layers.
Sprinkle the pile with water as needed to keep it moist but not soaking wet or muddy. The material in the pile should feel as damp as a wrung-out sponge.
Turn the pile about once a month, or if its internal temperature drops below 110 degrees F. Initially, it will take about two weeks for a compost pile to reach the desired temperature.
Add additional organic material to the composted pile by burying the material in the center of the pile. Turn the pile more frequently as you add more material.