While on my journey to build my own greenhouse I made the decision to start composting. It is a great thing to do and environmentally friendly. It allows you to make a rich soil amendment from things you would normally consider to be trash. Different items add different nutrients to the compost to help grow your plants. For example dead leaves from your trees in the fall are a great source of brown matter. That will provide carbon for your pile. That is a major nutrient component for you plants that will be necessary for success. So instead of bagging all of those leaves, next time bring them to the backyard and put them in your compost pile. Vegetable and fruit food scraps can provide nitrogen to your pile which is another essential nutrient.
The only thing to watch out for is food items that may have used pesticides and don’t place any animal products b/c they will attract pests to your pile. The last thing you want is a rodent or a raccoon digging up your compost pile. One thing I do to limit the risk of smell with any decomposing food scraps is I make sure to cover in leaves after I put them into the pile. That is a good practice b/c you should have roughly a 2 parts brown to 1 part green matter ratio in your pile.
I don’t have any covering around my pile but I did dig a 6in or so hole for my pile and then i just cover with a tarp. The tarp is more to make sure the compost is separated from some of the other materials i through in the nearby area that wouldn’t compost as quickly. Large tree branches are an example. I also have ivy in my backyard and I do not want it using my compost pile as a nutrient source. Finally the tarp helps keep the pile hot, and keeps in moisture. I will add a picture of my pile to the site for you to see.
The basic structure of a compost pile is to have a bottom layer that is usually a carbon adding material. Items like leaves or newspaper are suitable. I have also seen and I myself placed some sticks/twigs on the outside of the bottom. that increases pile breath-ability and drainage on the bottom. Then place a layer of vegetative food waste(or egg shells). Then then a carbon type material. Keep rotating the layers keeping to the correct ratio in mind until out of materials.
In general composting will happen on its own but there are some things you can/should do to help it. The main thing is to rotate/turn the pile. That is to ensure there is enough oxygen in the pile to progress. This should be done every week or two make sure you help to process along. Make sure to keep your pile moist as that is important to keeping the process rolling. Normally the rain will do this for you unless you are in area that doesn’t have a lot of rain or is in a drought. As you get new materials make sure to add them in to keep your pile going.
I hope that this was informative for you. Please see the link below for more composting info.
The following link has more info on composting. The thing I really like is the list of what each item adds to the pile. Eartheasy.com