Using a compost bin or pile is an ideal way to help the environment, save money, organically get rid of waste and make your plants more healthy. Although there are hundreds of things you can put in a compost bin or pile, all of these materials fall into two different categories: nitrogen or green materials and carbon or brown materials. Healthy compost piles also need water and air. After layering green and brown materials and providing them with water and air, all it takes is time in order for the organisms to break down and provide compost for your garden or landscape.
Decide where you want your compost pile or bin to be. You can create compost in a 5 to 10 gallon bucket or container with a lid; or you can create a large pile in a corner of your landscape or garden.
Add nitrogen-producing materials first. This means mostly green materials, like yard clippings, grass clippings, fruit cores or scraps, vegetable peels or scraps, rinds, manure, eggshells, and produce that has gone bad in the refrigerator. Bury food scraps deep to avoid pests or odors.
Layer carbon material over the nitrogen material. Carbon or brown materials include dry leaves, hay, burlap, wood ashes, coffee or tea grounds, sawdust, or untreated paper napkins or plates. Chop or shred any large items into smaller pieces.
Add enough water to moisten up the organic materials. To test if your compost has enough water, squeeze a handful. If no drops come out, add water. Add more water every couple of days, letting it run down the sides so it reaches all parts of the compost pile or container.
Shift around or fluff up your compost pile weekly, using a shovel or trowel to get fresh air to the ingredients. Air is as necessary to composting as water, since proper circulation between the layers of compost encourages decomposition. Air also helps bacteria and fungus to go to work, composting the materials even more quickly.
Keep an eye on your compost. All piles or bins will take different periods of time to decompose, depending on the materials used and environmental factors. You'll know it's finished when the compost is a crumbly, dark brown, even mixture that has an earthy odor.