Returning compostable ingredients to the earth is the most natural way to enrich your garden soil. Leaves, grass, spent un-diseased plants, seedless weeds, and non-animal kitchen scraps can be used to build a compost pile. It takes a lot of material, in the correct mix of nitrogen to carbon ratio (known as green to brown), to heat up a compost pile.
THE COMPOST PILE:
Your compost pile will do best if started on the bare earth. You want to encourage beneficial microorganisms as well as earth worms to penetrate and aerate the compost. Adding red worms will speed the process along as well as increase nutrient levels in the finished product. A layer of twigs or straw should be placed first, a few inches deep. This aids drainage and helps aerate the pile. Add compost materials in layers, alternating moist ingredients (food scraps, tea bags, coffee grounds, seaweed) and dry ingredients (woody trimmings, straw, leaves). Water the pile often during dry periods. You may want to cover it to contain moisture. An ideal temperature is 130-140 degrees F. When the temperature drops, the pile is either finished or needs to be aerated.
If garden space, time, or material is preventing you from building a compost pile, then consider this as another way of composting in your garden. Bins have a nice appearance and give you the cubic dimensions required to build a compost pile that will correctly "cook".
TRENCH OR HOLE COMPOSTING:
Chop up any large leaves or plants before adding them to your compost. Then simply dig a trench about 12 inches deep and a shovel's width wide thru a part of your garden that you aren't going to plant right away. Fill the trench with your composting ingredients. Water well, then cover with your garden soil. Check back in a week or two to see how fast the decomposition is going. Keep the soil moist to help speed things up.
Do not compost ash from treated wood (contains arsenic) or painted woods. Be leery of banana peels, orange rinds, and other produce items that often contain pesticides. Do not compost meat, bones or dairy (they will attract pests). Some plant diseases can survive the composting process; never use fruit or plant material from a diseased plant.
If you haven't tried composting yet, you will be amazed at how little time and energy it takes to get great returns in your garden!