Confession time: I'm not a master-gardener, a raging environmentalist or an expert in ANYTHING related to gardening. But I DO compost. I compost because it's good for my wallet, my garden, my city's landfill, and my sense of guilt about my impact on the environment. I compost because I'm too cheap to waste garbage bag after garbage bag to throw away leaves and weeds, too lazy to pull bag after bag to the curb if I don't have to, and too cheap to buy tons of organic fertilizer. I compost because I have horrid clay soil and want to make it better.
Some articles and books make composting sound like a complicated process involving precisely layering ingredients, rigorous pile-turning schedules and strict rules. Maybe those steps would help you compost faster, but basically it all boils down to this: compost just happens.
This is my compost pile. As you can see it's not fancy. Like other garden bloggers, I don't layer ingredients. I throw in whatever I have, whenever I get it: leaves, coffee grounds, kitchen scraps, rotten or squirrel-eaten vegetables, grass clippings, planting clippings, weeds that haven't gone to seed, etc.
This is my fancy coffee can compost bucket. It sits under the sink and holds my vegetable peelings, egg shells, coffee grounds (I use unbleached filters so I can throw them in too), and tea bags until I have time to take them to the pile. When it gets stinky I rinse it out with vinegar, add some baking soda, or change to a new coffee can (which I save for paints cans and compost buckets).
I turn my pile rarely. Sometimes I water it, but more often than not I don't. There is always some finished compost at the bottom of the pile to help start the next pile. None of this seems to matter because compost just happens.
There are some things you shouldn't put in your pile: human, cat or dog waste; meat, and dairy items are some of the biggies. I also avoid weeds that have gone to seed since I doubt my pile gets really hot. This compost guide lists more dos and don't for your pile, but don't get too bothered with the rules (other than the things to avoid, I DO follow that one), because (say it with me), compost just happens.
Once you have some compost, just add it to your beds and pots. This bed received an application of compost in the Spring, and that's it, no other fertilizers.
This post is my contribution to Blog Action Day 2007.