Composting is a good way to aid your plants, your yard, and yourself. Choose a location that is easy to reach and that is partially isolated. It may be in full sun, part shade, or full shade, and should be well drained. Decide how formal you want the compost heap to be. A simple pile will work well, but you or your significant other may want it more contained.
To hold your compost, construct a simple screen wire (plastic) enclosure. Drive wood or metal stakes in a square pattern with each post about three feet apart on each side. If you need a larger container, just attach more screen and posts to one side of the first bin until you have all you want.
Start your compost pile with grass clippings, leaves, weeds, wood chips, or kitchen waste. Alternate layers of compost ingredients. Make a layer of about 6 to 10 inches of brown leaves, then a layer of grass clippings at about the same thickness. Brown material should be about 75% and green material should be about 25%. As the layers are put down, wet each one thoroughly. To increase the speed of composting, incorporate some farm manure or commercial fertilizer. Kitchen wastes, such as fruits, vegetables, coffee and tea grounds, and eggs shells, may be used.
The pile should be turned every two weeks or so, and you should have good compost in six to eight weeks. Turning the pile is also a good way of working out frustrations and burning extra calories. If you do not want to turn the pile, the compost will be ready in about one to two years. It is better to avoid dairy products, fats, or meats, as the compost pile will smell very bad.
After the compost has become garden ready, spread it in the flower beds or in the garden to improve the soil and fertilize the plants.
Andy Andrews, Smith County Master Gardener
Texas AgriLife Extension Service