If you want to know how to make compost your best teacher is Nature. Composting is a process that's been going on since life began on the planet. It's what happens in the forest when leaves pile up and then decay. They eventually become an important part of the soil. This natural composting takes place on some level in every forest, prairie, meadow and even desert throughout the world.
Our role in making compost is simple. We find a place where we are willing to allow Nature to rot our leftovers and biodegradable garbage, and we then toss those things into that bin, barrel, pit or trench instead of putting them into the garbage.
If we just keep adding our biodegradable stuff to our compost, over time nature will convert it into a rich humus. It is almost impossible to completely blow it. Nature willingly corrects almost all our mistakes.
While our essential role is very simple - just reroute the biodegradable garbage away from the trash can and into the compost - there are ways we can help rather than hinder Nature.
Science's observations of how to make compost Nature's way tell us that the compost pile is home to billions and billions of micro and macro organisms. These beings are living and dying in our compost. Like all living things here they prefer a balanced diet, water, air and shelter.
Composting today is essentially an intensification of the natural decomposition process. The closer we come to providing our compost with ideal conditions for the decomposers, the easier it is for them to do their work. We get a good product in a few months or a few years depending on the work we do. The finished compost is really a whole ecosystem we put to work in our soil.
The compost micro organisms eat a balance of nitrogen rich and carbon rich food. Balancing this is a big part of our role in learning how to make compost. This page will give you an overview and specifics on how to feed your compost a balanced diet.
The right amount of water is as important for your compost as it is for your garden. Ideally your compost should be as wet as squeezed out sponge, or about 40-60% water. This page will give you ideas on how to maintain the right moisture in your compost whether you live in a soggy wet place or an area suffering drought.
Ideal decomposition happens in an oxygen rich environment. However, as your compost settles and decomposition continues oxygen can get squeezed out or used up. Here you'll find strategies to structure your piles with air pockets, how to tell when your piles needs some fresh air and how to put air back into your compost.