Going green means reducing consumption as well as finding other uses for waste products. A compost pile in the backyard takes some of the garden refuse out of the landfill and returns it to the land right in your yard. Don't fill up your garbage can with lawn clippings and dead leaves week after week. Turn them into compost instead and enrich your soil with organic matter.
Not Too Big, Not Too Little
Compost heaps need to be big enough to keep the decomposition process going but not so big that the material starts to rot rather than turn to compost. A backyard heap of 27 cubic feet is a good size. That's only 3 feet wide, deep and long.
Vary the Materials
Combining the kitchen refuse with other materials turns all of them into compost more quickly. Use one-third kitchen refuse, one-third green material and one-third brown material. Kitchen refuse such as fruit and vegetable peelings, coffee grinds and tea bags work well. Egg shells provide calcium but can attract rodents. Green material is grass clippings, prunings, spent plants and green leaves. Brown materials are dead brown leaves, straw and paper. Bird, cow and horse manure is considered brown material.
These Don't Go In the Pile
No meat, dairy products, fats or oils should go in the compost bin. They turn rancid, don't decompose quickly and attract dogs, rodents, snakes and other critters. Colored paper or paper that has colored inks shouldn't be used. The ink can be toxic. Manure from carnivores is not a good idea because it spreads disease. Decaying animal products smell bad and turn the compost heap foul smelling.
Turn and Spray
Turn the compost heap once a week or so. If the weather is very hot and dry, spray the heap with water to keep the bacteria alive and actively working. If it's cold, lay a black garbage bag on the heap to retain heat from the sun.
Let the Compost Mature
It takes from one to three months to turn garden garbage into compost depending on the weather and what's in the compost. Large chunks of material take longer to decompose than small pieces. The more surface area exposed the faster the decomposition. Chop up leaves and plants. Adding a handful of nitrogen-rich fertilizer for every five gallons of compost speeds the process up a bit.