Most green and brown plant material is suitable for composting and is layered in equal parts to create a dynamic microbial process and an odor-free composting environment. Make a "compost lasagna," keep lightly moist and turn weekly and a supply of rich garden compost will be yours. Avoid using plants such as those treated with herbicide, seeded plant, invasive plants, diseased or moldy plants or heavily thorned plants whose prickles don't break down completely in composting.
Add live green nitrogen-rich plant materials to the compost pile in equal amounts with brown and dry materials. Use green plant materials such as fresh grass clippings, vegetable tops and peels, garden cuttings, pruning off cuts, fruit cores, peels, excess garden vegetables, deadheaded flowers and green leaves.
Layer in carbon-rich brown organic material such as shredded newsprint, used coffee grounds, dried leaves, dried grass clippings, crushed egg shells, straw and peanut shells in even alternating layers with the green material. To keep the breakdown process working, make each layer no more than 2 inches thick.
Water over the compost layers until just lightly moist at the top and sides. Light moisture helps stoke the microbial processes that break down the materials and brings oxygen into the process.
Turn the compost pile with plant material at least once per week using a pitch fork or shovel. Move the warm material from the center of the pile to the top and perimeter and turn the top and side material into the center to break down further.