Backyard composting is becoming more popular as people look for ways to reduce their household waste. Composting creates a dark, rich soil that feeds your garden naturally without synthetic fertilizers. If you get the right balance of materials in your compost, there won't be any pests or annoying smells. Creating a successful backyard compost pile is a little like baking bread; it may take a few tries to get it exactly right, but the results in your garden are well worth the hard work.
Make a simple compost bin by forming a length of chicken wire into a cylinder and tying it shut with twist ties or twine. For a family of four and a small garden, the bin should be about 3 feet high and 3 feet in diameter. If a compost bin is too small, it will fill up too quickly, but if it is too large, the materials won't be able to heat up enough to decompose.
Place the bin in a partially sunny place. The compost needs some heat, but full summer sun hitting it all day could make it too hot and dry. The bin should also be somewhere that's protected from automatic sprinklers, but where it can get some rainfall. The compost needs to be moist, but if it gets too wet, the beneficial microbes can suffocate.
Throw your garden and kitchen waste onto the compost pile. To help it break down faster, chop kitchen scraps into small pieces, and break up large sticks and branches before composting them. Do not use dairy or meat products (except eggshells) from your kitchen in the compost, and avoid oily cooked foods. These carry dangerous pathogens that can make people sick, they smell awful and they attract vermin and maggots.
Strive for an even mix of brown material and green material. Brown material is carbonaceous waste like dried leaves and grass, sticks, newspaper and cardboard. Green material is nitrogenous waste like vegetable scraps, coffee grounds and green garden waste. If there is too much brown material, the compost will not heat up enough, but too much green material will make the compost slimy and smelly.
Make sure the compost pile stays moist. If there is a long period without rainfall, you should water the pile yourself. If it rains for several days non-stop, cover the compost with a tarp to protect it from getting too soggy.
Turn the compost once every four to six weeks to aerate the pile and mix up the ingredients. Use a shovel or pitchfork to move the materials around and fluff them up.
Wait eight months to a year. After this time, the materials in the compost should be broken down into black, sweet-smelling soil. Use this soil to nourish your garden and potted plants.