A pile of composte is sprayed with water.

Where do you begin?

I pick a spot that's 4 or 5 feet square — partial shade is best — and go over the soil with a digging fork. Then I spread brown matter (straw, dry leaves) and green matter in alternating 2- to 3-inch layers. The first layer is brown, the second is green, and the third is brown. I water each layer so the finished pile is as damp as a wrung-out sponge.

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