You can start your compost on and handy bare space of earth. This allows worms and other beneficial organisms to aerate the compost and be transported to your garden beds.
Make sure there’s drainage
Lay sticks or hay first, a few inches deep. This aids drainage and helps aerate the pile.
Add compost materials in layers, alternating moist and dry. Moist ingredients are food scraps, tea bags, seaweed, etc. Dry materials are straw, leaves, sawdust pellets and wood ashes. If you have wood ashes, sprinkle in thin layers, or they will clump together and be slow to break down.
Add manure, green manure (clover, buckwheat, wheatgrass, grass clippings) or any nitrogen source. This activates the compost pile and speeds the process along.
Keep compost moist. Water occasionally, or let rain do the job.
Cover with anything you have – wood, plastic sheeting, carpet scraps. Covering helps retain moisture and heat, two essentials for compost. Covering also prevents the compost from being over-watered by rain. The compost should be moist, but not soaked and sodden.
Churn & turn
Oxygen is required for the process to work, and turning “adds” oxygen. So very few weeks give the pile a quick turn. Once your compost pile is established, add new materials by mixing them in, rather than by adding them in layers. Mixing, or turning, the compost pile is key to aerating the composting materials and speeding the process to completion.
The secret to a healthy compost pile is to maintain a working balance between these two elements.
Carbon – carbon-rich matter (like branches, stems, dried leaves, peels, bits of wood, bark dust or sawdust pellets, shredded brown paper bags, corn stalks, coffee filters, conifer needles, egg shells, straw, peat moss, wood ash) gives compost its light, fluffy body.