Composting was once a common practice for many. It's once again becoming popular as more people consider what environmentally sustainable activities they can take part in. Indeed, waste that could be composted "constitute[s] 24 percent of the U.S. municipal solid waste stream," according to the Environmental Protection Agency. With less and less space in landfills every year, a cultural change toward home composting could have a significant impact on the environment.
According to the Urban Gardening Center, composting "is a dark, crumbly and earthy-smelling form of decomposed organic matter." It is natural, and happens throughout nature on a regular basis. When you compost, you assist the natural process of breaking down organic waste. There are many commercial "compost starters" you can buy but you have all of the necessary ingredients right in your own backyard.
Commercial compost starters are said to provide bacteria and micro-organisms that help break down the waste quickly. They do, but as Simple Gifts Farm points out, "Your own garden...has a full range of bacteria and fungi living there that are acclimatised to your specific climate." They recommend adding a few shovelfuls of your own garden soil in the compost mix.
You might consistently spray your yard with insecticides or just want to get your compost pile going as quickly as possible. If so, you may want to add something with slightly higher micro-organism and bacteria concentration. Primal Seeds suggests "fermented cow dung in ten parts water...a four to one dilution of urine...[or] Nettle tea, made by brewing nettles or fermenting them in rainwater." For health and safety reasons, the EPA points out that pet waste should never be composted.
Getting the Right Proportions
You can't just compost anything. The purpose of composting is to speed natural decomposition. A 30-to-one ratio of carbon-rich and nitrogen-rich ingredients, respectively, will do that. Examples of carbon-rich ingredients are brown material, such as leaves, sawdust, wood chips, bark, straw, cardboard and brown paper. Nitrogen-rich ingredients include fruit and vegetable waste, grass clippings, coffee grounds and horse manure.
You probably have leaves every fall, as well as grass clippings. Make a place for these things and start your pile. If you haven't sprayed your lawn heavily, try using a few shovelfuls of your own soil. If that doesn't seem to get it started quickly, try one of the homemade starters. Your compost pile will likely be ready to go in just 2 to 3 weeks. Don't forget to stir the compost pile once or twice a week.