We've recently moved to a house which has a small back garden (and an even smaller front one). I've bought a compost bin (a plastic one) & its currently sitting empty in the back garden because I want to be very careful about using it correctly (don't want rats anywhere near it etc ). Since I'm a complete composting / gardening virgin (but an eager learner) could you give me some advice about composting to start with? Just, you know, basic guidelines, what to put in it, what to avoid putting in it, online sites to look at etc.
I don't know of any websites though I'm sure they're out there. You can put down a first layer of grass clippings, leaves, straw, weeds and branches/twigs though they have to be chopped up first. Whatever you have-if you trim your lawn and weed then you've a start! Some people will not use grass clippings that have had a weed killer applied to it out of concern that the weed killer will remain active even after decomposition. I've never had a problem with this and we a lot of grass clippings because my 13 year old mows all the neighboring lawns. Anyway, if you can put down a handful of fertilizer next or a shovel of manure that's really great otherwise the next layer would be from your garden and kitchen. No meat and no bones and I don't do dairy or anything that's been cooked or paper products either though I know many people do paper.
I water all my layers as I add them and whenever I remember to throw a hose on it. After my garden and kitchen waste (old plants, leaves, dead heads, egg shells, banana peels, ends of carrots celery, broccoli, etc.} get to be about six inches deep I throw a little actual soil on top if it starts to have any smell about it-which is rare but can happen. A lot of people use limestone too, I think-I don't and turning the pile regularly is really good but I don't do that either. My compost is totally enclosed and we empty it twice a year.