Layer brown and green materials on level, bare ground in an area that receives some sunlight but is protected from constant direct sunlight and wind. The bottom layer consists of the organic materials being composted. The second layer is the fertilizer, manure or starter. Top soil creates the third layer.
For effective composting, the minimum pile size is 3 feet long, 3 feet wide and 3 feet high. The maximum recommended size is 5 feet long, 5 feet wide and 5 feet high. When starting a compost pile, it may take time to build up the height, but the base of the pile should fall within the recommended range.
The organic layer should be about 6 to 8 inches thick and contain both green and brown materials. Green materials include fruit and vegetable peels, fresh grass clippings and green leaves. Brown materials include sawdust, dead leaves and twigs. When building the pile, add equal parts brown and green materials for the best balance. Chopping or shredding the pieces makes the materials break down faster.
The fertilizer layer helps the newly created pile heat up to break down the materials. A layer of 1 to 2 inches of grain-fed animal manure gets the pile going. Another option is 10-10-10 or 12-12-12 fertilizer at a rate of 1 cup per 25 square feet.
Finish off the pile with a layer of soil 1 to 2 inches deep. If the pile is dry, add just enough water to make the pile damp but not soggy or dripping with water.