Composting is usually the easiest and least expensive way to fertilize your garden. It is also a great way to garden organically. Homemade compost is generally comprised of household food waste, organic matter from your garden - such as leaves and grass clippings - and possibly recyclable paper products and no chemicals. Once these items decompose, they create compost which can then be added to your garden soil and used as a fertilizer.
Creating a compost heap at home can be anywhere from relatively simple to very involved. You should first start by building or buying a container to hold your compost. Some gardeners choose to create an area at the back of their garden comprised of simple posts and fencing, while others purchase ready-made compost bins at their local garden supply center or over the Internet.
Where you place your compost pile should also be taken into consideration. If you will be using a lot of household waste, don’t put it at the back of the shed, over the river and through the woods! You will probably also want to take your neighbors into consideration. Compost piles can be unsightly and, depending on the materials you select to use, can be very smelly.
A basic rule of thumb to use is "if it will rot, I can use it." However, some things should be avoided. Meat, fish, and cooked food rot too quickly and can cause bad enzymes to develop in your compost. It is also a good idea to avoid cat litter and dog excrement as these can contain disease.
You should be aware that all organic matter does not decompose at the same rate. To make the best compost you should use a combination of slower and faster decomposing items. Things such as grass clippings and weeds, along with chicken or bird manure are fast decomposing and are good to get your compost started. Other items, such as leaves, hedge clippings, and anything woody, decompose at a slower rate, but the result is much richer compost. Other items you can include are fruit and vegetable scraps, tea bags, coffee grounds, and old flowers.
To get started you should already have the location and container selected. Collect all the material you wish to include. Spread them evenly along the bottom of the selected container, making sure to get a nice mix of quickly- and slowly-decomposing items. At this point you should add water to the mix to add moisture; this will help with decomposition.
Continue adding to the pile over time. As the bottom layers decompose, turn the mixture and begin to use this on the garden. You can continue the same compost heap for as long as you like. The more time the scraps have to decompose, the richer the compost that comes out.
If turning the compost by hand every few weeks doesn’t appeal to you, you can also use a multiple bin system and transfer the compost from bin to bin every few months. While almost as labor-intensive as turning the compost with a fork or shovel, the multi-bin method can be more efficient.