Basically, composting is the decomposition of plant material. Properly composted material will be weed- and disease-free as well as full of nutrients and organic matter. Compost can loosen soil, increase water-holding capacity and add fertility.
The recipe for compost starts with two parts “green” material – grass clippings, weeds, spent flowers, manure, kitchen scraps, etc. Green materials provide a nitrogen source to feed the microbes that “digest” the pile. Add one part “brown” material – leaves, straw, pine needles, etc. Top off with a few shovels of soil, to inoculate the pile with microbes and bacteria. Mix in a little water to moisten, and pile up.
The compost should be kept moist, as a dry pile will compost very slowly. The finer you can grind or chop debris for the pile, the faster it will break down. As the microbe population grows and the feeding frenzy begins, the pile will begin to heat up. Some piles can heat up to 130 degrees. This heat will kill off weed seeds and help to sterilize the debris. After the pile cools down, thoroughly mix the pile with a pitchfork, add some water and let it heat up again. Repeat this process until all material has turned into rich compost.
The best piles are three to four feet tall. Having this amount will help the pile to heat up and compost faster. A simple pile will work, however you can use barrels, trashcans or store-bought compost bins. An online search will yield hundreds of different types of composting systems. There are many recipes for compost – choose the one that works for you and enjoy!