Composting produces a healthy soil amendment from your fallen leaves, grass clippings and other yard and household waste. Microbes within the compost pile break down the materials, causing the pile to heat up and helping to break down the materials faster and sterilizing them. Carbon and nitrogen are required in the right amounts for a healthy, hot compost pile. This is simple to accomplish if a little care is taken when building the pile.
Place a 5-inch layer of carbon-rich materials in the compost pile. Use dead leaves, dead but not diseased plant material, and wood chips.
Place a 3-inch layer of nitrogen rich materials on top of the carbon rich pile. Use fresh grass clippings, green but not diseased plant material, kitchen scraps, and coffee grounds. Mix this layer in with the carbon layer using a pitchfork.
Place a compost activator on top of these layers to start the composting process. Use a commercial compost starter, following label directions for application, or sprinkle 1 cup per 25-square-foot of pile of balanced 10-10-10 fertilizer.
Cover the top of the pile with a shovel-full of garden soil or finished compost to introduce the microbes necessary to the composting process. Mix everything in the pile together with your pitchfork then begin layering again starting with the carbon material. Continue layering and mixing until the pile is about 3 to 4 feet high.
Water as needed to keep the pile moist but not soggy. Squeezing a handful of the pile should cause a drop or two of water to come out and nothing more. A too dry or too wet pile will not heat up.
Turn the pile often to add aeration, especially if the pile starts cooling down before the compost is ready. Turn at least once a month and turn once a week or more to have finished compost sooner.