A properly managed compost pile provides a gardener with a supply of rich soil to use as topsoil, soil amendment or fertilizer. It begins by combining layers of organic matter, like leaves, vegetable trimmings, garden debris, grass clippings, coffee grounds and eggshells with manure from grazing animals, and soil. In just a few months, if properly turned, with temperature and moistness monitored, the matter breaks down into a crumbly soil-like matter.
Inspect the composted matter, prior to adding it to the garden to ensure it has been completely decomposed. The original materials, such as leaves or eggshells, should not be identifiable. Look for compost consistent in appearance and texture, like crumbly soil.
Screen compost to remove large items, which did not completely decompose, such as large twigs. This would only be necessary if most of the matter seems to be completely decomposed, large twigs or similar items take longer to decompose, according to University of Missouri Extension, and should be removed from the pile.
Spread 3 to 4 inches of compost over the top of the garden soil.
Till the compost into the soil, so that it is mixed into the top 6 inches of soil, advises the University of Illinois Extension.