Why compost? link lists many reasons for composting. Read The Art of Composting from Barney Rosedale of the Permaculture Group. There are several compost articles on Organic Gardening website (type compost into their Search box). There are several good books on the subject (I like Green Guides "Compost" by Rachelle Strauss, available from Marlborough library - Shirley).
Composting is nature’s way of recycling. Millions of tiny and microscopic bugs eat the things we put into our compost bin and break it all down into a crumbly, soil-like material. This compost can then be spread onto the garden to improve the condition of your soil, in turn saving you money. Neighbours or local allotments may be glad of compost that you have produced but don’t need.
You can create a compost heap, make a compost bin with old pallets and wire or use a modern compost bin, such as a Green Joanna, which makes the process of composting very easy. (The Green Joanna and Green Cone - just for food, not garden waste - are available at greatly reduced cost, susbsidised by Wiltshire Council). Wormeries are an alternative for people without a garden and just food waste to dispose of.
What You Can Compost
Brown Waste Dry fibrous things – shredded twigs, paper, cardboard, crushed egg shells, sawdust, straw & pet bedding (e.g. from rabbits and hamsters).
Green Waste Sappy, soft, wet things – vegetable peelings, fruit leftovers, (see garden waste) grass cuttings and weeds.
The ratio is usually 2 parts brown to 1 part green.
Cooked food and meat should not be composted on an open heap, but may be added to a Green Joanna or Cone (both completely sealed).
The Royal Horticultural Society advises that you can compost wood ash from a wood burning stove, but only in small quantities (too much is alkaline). Do not use ash from treated timber and never use ash from solid fuels.
What else you need
Air To make the composting process work there needs to be plenty of air. You can add air by putting in scrunched up paper or cardboard and by giving your compost a stir now and then.
Moisture Too wet and it gets slimy, too dry and nothing will happen. It should be a little damp.
Take a look at the Wiltshire Wildlife Trust website here for information about composting and suggestions for gardening for wildlife. The Trust also recommends compost ambassadors. Contact yours at: compost at transitionmarlborough.org