Also check out The Compost Bin for some information about building a bin.
From what I've learned, it seems some of the biggest things to keep in mind are:
- Don't use too much woody material, like branches, twigs or woody shrubs. Fibrous material takes much longer to break down into compost, so only use it if you intend on having slow-"growing" compost.
- The same thing goes for things like corn cobs. Try to beat them with a rubber mallet before adding them to the compost bin. They take a long time to decompose.
- Coffee grounds are good in moderate doses. Coffee grounds, pine needles and oak leaves are all acidic material, and can make the compost too acidic for earthworms, which are very good for the compost, so you don't want to run them off.
- Keep the compost damp, but not overly wet.
- Keep a nice balance of "browns" vs "greens". "Browns" are dry and dead plant material. "Greens" are fresh plant materials, kitchen scraps, tea bags and coffee grounds.
- Layer the composting materials like leaves and debris and kitchen scraps. You don't want the material to be too dense (you want some aeration), but you also don't want it too airy. You want it to create some heat. Brown material is bulky and promotes aeration, while greens are high in moisture and help keep the compost moist and hot.
- There are some really unusual things that you can compost that you might not think of, such as hair, vacuum debris, junk mail and paper napkins, dryer lint, old spices, bird cage cleanings, stale bread, Kleenex tissues, old flower arrangements, old leather gardening gloves, stale potato chips, crab and lobster shells, cooked rice, tofu, pickles, old beer, ivory soap scraps, and urine! See PlantTea for a list of 163 Things You Can Compost.
- A pile typically should be at least 3 feet square with lots of mass to help it stay hot for a long period of time, thereby speeding up the composting process.
- Yep, as noted above, urine is actually good for a compost heap. It is full of nitrogen, like the "greens" that you add to the compost heap.
Those are just a few things that I have learned that you may want to keep in mind when building your compost bin or heap. Good luck creating your own bundle of black gold!