Composting Part 1

Composting is not too difficult.  Here are some basic guidelines and you will successfully create good compost every time.
There are 4 things required for making compost - Carbon (dry plant materials), nitrogen(green plant materials and fresh manure), water and oxygen.  These elements just need to be assembled in the correct ratios and the composting process will happen by itself.
Carbon makes up the bulk of the compost heap.  In fact, you start off with a layer of at least 30cm thick.  Start with a base of about 2m X 2m.  The first layer can be slightly coarse such as small twigs and grassy materials.  In areas that experience regular rainfall, the layer can be made up of even coarser materials to allow excess water to drain and keep oxygen circulating. After the carbon layer comes a layer of about 10cm thick of nitrogenous material.  This can be a mixture of green materials such as kitchen peelings, plant materials removed from the garden that are still fresh and fairly fresh manure (sheep and horse manures are the best).  Every layer that has been completed should be lightly watered.  This means the heap should be damp rather than waterlogged.  The layers are then repeated in the same quantities until the heap is about 1,5m tall or up to 2m tall.  As the decomposition starts, the heap will sag and become lower.
Th heap can be built over a week or two - just remember to add water from time to time as it will not heat or decompose if it is too dry.  Ideally, the heap should be built over a day or two as the decomposition process starts almost immediately and works optimally on a completed heap.  The combination of the elements in the correct ratios begins the process by heating up.  The temperature can reach almost 60 degrees celsius in the centre within a few days.  After about a week the heap will start cooling.  At this stage, you have the option of turning the heap, which involves taking the outer layers and working them into the centre of the heap so that it creates a second rise in temperature.  But this is not really necessary.  The heap cools down over a period of a about three weeks - you should check from time to time that the heap still has enough moisture.  If the heap is saturated with water, this means that the oxygen has been forced from the heap, resulting in rotting rather than decomposition.  A compost heap should have a slight ammonia smell for a time and then settle - it should never smell bad or rotten.
Once the heap has cooled completely, other organisms take over to finish processing the heap.  Generally 10 - 12 weeks are needed for the process to complete.  If compost is used too soon it can cause yellowing in the plants near it as it is withdrawing nitrogen to complete the decomposition process.