Making compost involves layering brown and green materials and allowing them to decompose in an open pile or enclosed compost bin. The materials also need moisture and oxygen to reach the optimal decomposition temperature and to support bacteria that break down the materials.
A compost pile on bare ground allows composting without special equipment. This method also allows natural organisms and worms to reach the pile to aid in decomposition. Others choose to use a compost bin -- either commercially produced or homemade -- to contain the materials. Small indoor compost bins allow those without yards to compost at home.
The compost pile needs equal parts of brown carbon-rich materials and green nitrogen-rich materials. Examples of brown items include dead leaves, sawdust and wood chips. Green materials include fruit and vegetable peelings, fresh grass clippings, and green garden plants. If rain doesn't keep the pile moist, add enough water to keep the pile moist but not saturated. Covering the pile with a tarp, old carpet or similar material keeps heat in and controls moisture.
Turning the pile occasionally adds oxygen. Some bins have a turning mechanism. For an open pile, a pitchfork to stir up the materials every few weeks works well.
Certain items shouldn't go in the compost. Meat, oils and dairy products attract pests and cause odor. Plants with diseases or chemicals on them contaminate the compost. Other items to skip include charcoal ash, pet waste and black walnut debris.