Compost is an excellent, nutrient-rich fertilizer and moisture balancing material that can be added to garden soil, and can easily be made in your own home. Composting accelerates the decaying process of natural materials, and with a little bit of effort, can be ready in as little time as a few weeks. To make compost at home, it is necessary to first understand how composting works.
Organic materials need a combination of nitrogen, moisture, heat, and exposure to air in order to decay. The organic materials needed to make compost are usually broken down into "green" and "brown" categories, as compost piles need a combination of green and brown materials to ensure effective breakdown. Green materials include kitchen scraps such as egg shells, coffee grounds, and scraps from fruits and vegetables or their peelings, as well as organic materials from the yard. These include grass clippings, leaves, and weeds.
Brown materials often act as the source of nitrogen, and include twigs, straw, shredded newspaper, and sawdust, among others. Livestock manure may also be added to these piles to make compost; this does not include waste from pets such as dogs or cats. Complete lists of acceptable compost materials can be found online; you might be surprised at everything that can be used to make compost. Finally, do not use meat or dairy products, or anything that appears greasy, to make compost.
To make compost, it is necessary to have a designated compost area. This may simply be a pile outside, a small enclosure, or a designated compost bin or plastic container. While compost needs air to break down, it should be relatively closed in to prevent it from drying out. Wherever you put your compost area, be sure it is far enough away from the house to not cause odors, but close enough to not attract wild animals or bother neighbors.
To make compost, add a combination of green and brown materials. Materials may continue to be added to the compost, and the compost should be kept moist, but not wet. Approximately every week, turn the compost using a shovel or pitchfork, moving new materials to the inside and transferring the fresh compost to the outside, where it may be used. The interior of the compost pile heats up to break down the materials, so it is necessary to keep it turned over. Some compost bins are designed to rotate, which eliminates the need for shoveling. Within a few weeks, you should begin to have dark compost that may be added to garden or potting soil.