Describing how to make compost is like trying to describe how to make soup. There are almost as many recipes as there are cooks. Similarly, it’s possible to make good compost by using many different methods. The secret to successful composting is to choose the basic approach and the techniques that suit your needs and life style. Your choices will depend on how deeply you want to be involved in composting—tending a compost pile can take a few hours a year or a few hours a week.
Composting can range from passive—allowing the materials to sit and rot on their own—to highly managed. Whenever you intervene in the process, you’re managing the compost to some extent. You can choose to manage a little or a lot. For example, you can either ignore or pay varying degrees of attention to the ratio of carbon materials to nitrogen materials. You can throw uncut materials onto the pile, or you can shred them to encourage faster decomposition. You can install aeration pipes, or you can turn the pile, either once or frequently, to speed up the decay process. As you’ll learn, you can intercede in many other ways.
How you make compost is determined largely by your purpose in composting. If your objective is to process yard waste because the trash collection service no longer accepts it, you may prefer a relatively simple method. On the other hand, if you’re eager to produce as much compost as possible to use regularly in your garden, you may opt for a more elaborate method that produces compost faster. If you view composting as an opportunity to get vigorous exercise while producing a valuable product for your landscape, you may choose to be even more actively involved in the process. Finally, if your goal is to produce compost free of most disease organisms and weed seeds, you’ll have to manage the pile carefully to get it to the proper temperatures to kill those pests.