Composting is the method of breaking down organic materials into a humus, a nutrient rich soil amendment. Humus can be used in soil to increase water retention and improve aeration, as well as contributing to the nutrient level of the soil. The addition of fertilizer to a compost pile provides the extra nutrients necessary for the organisms that break down the organic material in the pile. Adding fertilizer in the right quantity and level of the composting pile will speed up the composting process.
Place your composting container in a location that is dry, but shaded from direct sunlight to prevent smells. Do not place the pile near a tree as roots from the tree may invade the pile, says the University of Missouri Extension. The composting bin or pile should be no smaller than 3 feet by 3 feet by 3 feet and no larger than 5 feet by 5 feet by 5 feet or the pile will not compost.
Place 3 to 4 inches of chopped brush at the bottom of the pile to keep it off the container or the ground. This aids in aeration and prevents moisture from collecting, says Ohio State University.
Add a layer of 6 to 8 inches of leaves, grass clippings and kitchen scraps. Add bulkier items to this bottom layer, says the University of Illinois.
Add 1 inch of soil, then a layer of fertilizer on top of the soil. Repeat the layering in the same order to build up your pile.
Water the pile so that it is moist but not dripping and allow the pile to begin the composting process. Allow the compost pile to sink in the middle, which should happen after two weeks when the pile temperature reaches between 110 and 160 degrees Fahrenheit. Turn the pile every 4 to 5 weeks, until the pile has composted after 3 months.