A backyard compost heap produces a fine organic soil conditioner for the garden. Once you have got the bin and added the right portions of "brown" and "green" materials, you may want to jump-start the process. Numerous commercial chemical or "organic" preparations are available to help. Experienced gardeners, though, know that the well-designed heap holds within it the potential of dark, rich, completely natural humus that takes nothing else but a few easy steps to get started.
Water the pile; a dry heap will not decompose. Layer your compost pile with 6 inches of brown materials alternated with 6 inches of greens and mix. The chemical balance (or composite carbon to nitrogen ratio) for a beginning heap will be 25 to 30 parts carbon to 1 part nitrogen. The weight of brown versus green materials has to be about half and half. Moisture provides the catalyst to begin the spread of nitrogen-based bacteria that digest the carbon-based materials.
Dissolve a few cups of garden soil or cow chips (dung) in a bucket of water, let it sit for an hour and pour it over the pile. Use a garden fork to aerate the pile to allow the water to soak in. The soil provides a nitrogen and bacteria boost to start the process.
Add more greens to decrease the carbon-nitrogen ratio and water well. Grass clippings or shredded fibrous vegetables will tip the balance toward nitrogen-rich elements. Be sure to top off the pile with a layer of shredded cardboard or other browns to insulate the heap and contain odors.
Work in a shovel-full of finished compost or fresh stable (or other omnivorous) manure to provide a leavening or "yeast" for the new pile. The bacteria from the finished product will quickly migrate to the fresh materials.
Sprinkle some high-nitrogen fertilizer over the pile and work it in with a garden fork to give it a boost. Lawn fertilizer is high in nitrogen but organic garden fertilizers like fish emulsion, algae, seaweed or blood meal will also work well as accelerants.