If you have a garden, then it is unlikely that it will produce enough material to create the conditions necessary in a compost heap to bring about rapid fermentation and decay. As a result, compost heaps are little more than neglected rubbish dumps. Fortunately, there are many ways to improve this situation. A compost heap can be built up with extra material brought in from outside the garden, such as kitchen scraps or fallen leaves.
A compost heap will only thrive if it has enough air, water, nitrogen, non acidic conditions and high temperature. The material in the heap is broken down by bacteria and other micro-organisms. Woody material will not be broken down by bacteria. Any tough stems should be cut into small pieces before putting them on the compost heap.
You should never use obviously diseased plant material in the compost heap because the disease will spread with the compost. Take care not to use the roots of perennial weeds, as well as annual weeds which are carrying seeds.
It is often said that the best compost is made from soft rubbish, such as dead leaves, lettuces, peelings from the kitchen, beetroot leaves and dead flowers, leafy hedge clippings and lawn mowing. Do not use cooked scraps or anything containing grease. Build the compost heap into a regular shape, so that it is less likely to become dry around the edges. The heap should be made directly on the soil, so that any excess water can drain away. The soil should be well drained.
You can buy readymade compost bins or make an open topped wooden box, leaving spaces between the side boards to let air through. They can also be made of brick providing a few bricks are left out in the sides in order to let the air in. If you prefer a free standing compost heap, you should build it up with gently sloping sides to the required height. It is always useful to do further reading on this subject. The choice is yours.