A compost pile can be set up in a corner of the yard with few supplies. Choose a level spot about 3- to 5-feet square near a water source and preferably out of direct sunlight. Clear the area of sod and grass. When building a composting bin, such as with chicken wire, scrap wood, or cinder blocks, be sure to leave enough space for air to reach the pile. One removable side makes it easier to tend the pile.
Many foods can be composted, including vegetable trimmings, egg shells, coffee grounds with filters, and tea bags. In addition to leaves, grass, and yard clippings, vacuum cleaner lint, wool and cotton rags, sawdust, shredded newspaper, and fireplace ashes can be composted. DO NOT compost meats, dairy foods, or any fats, oil, or grease because they can attract pests.
Start the pile with a 4-inch layer of leaves, loose soil, or other coarse yard trimmings. If you are going to compost food scraps (a slightly more involved process), you should mix them with yard trimmings when adding them to the pile. Alfalfa meal or clean cat litter may be added to the pile to absorb odors. In dry weather, sprinkle water on the pile, but don^t get it too soggy. Turn the pile every few weeks with a pitchfork to circulate air and distribute moisture evenly. Don^t be surprised by the heat of the pile or if you see worms, both of which are part of the decomposition process. Make sure children do not play in the composting pile or bin.
In most climates, the compost is done in three to six months when it becomes a dark crumbly material that is uniform in texture. Spread it in the garden or yard beds or under the shrubbery. The compost also can be used as potting soil.
Compost yard trimmings and some food scraps.
Backyard composting of certain food scraps and yard trimmings can significantly reduce the amount of waste that needs to be managed by the local government or put in a landfill. When properly composted, these wastes can be turned into natural soil additives for use on lawns and gardens, and used as potting soil for house plants. Finished compost can improve soil texture, increase the ability of the soil to absorb air and water, suppress weed growth, decrease erosion, and reduce the need to apply commercial soil additives.
For more information, consult reference materials on composting, or check with local environmental, agricultural, or park services. Composing foods in highly populated areas is not recommended because it can attract rodents and other pests.
Participate in local or regional programs that collect compostable materials. If no program is in place, contact public officials and community leaders about setting one up.
If there^s no room for a compost pile, offer compostable materials to community composting programs or garden projects near you.
If you have a yard, allow mown grass clippings to remain on the lawn to decompose and return nutrients back to the soil, rather than bagging and disposing of them.
(To comment about this topic in the forum message area, read the Composting discussion.)