Start your compost pile in the fall. Collect all the leaves that fall, and pile them up. As you add the leaves, have the garden hose on the pile at full-throttle. Soaking the leaves is a critical part of the process. If the leaves are too dry, they won't decompose. You can't get them too wet.

If you're trying to start a new pile from scratch, you'll need to add some sugar. Don't waste your time with home center composting kits. Plain old sugar (about a 5# bag for about 7 trees' worth of leaves) will start a pile very effectively. Just spread it over the pile when you're done piling them up, and water liberally. The sugar will ooze into the pile and the bacteria will find it particularly appealing. If you have a pile already active from the last year, by all means spread some of the digested material into the fresh leaves. That will work better than sugar at starting the pile.

Work the pile as it starts to heat up over the first month. This working keeps the aerobic bacterial activity high. You don't want your pile to go anaerobic on you. The decomposition is slower, as not as much heat is generated, and it stinks! Working the pile will keep oxygen going into the center. Just stab it with a pitchfork and wiggle it around a bit, at least once a week. Do this throughout the pile.

Add any vegetable rubbish from your kitchen, such as used coffee grounds and peels. Not only will you be creating rich organic fertilizer from garbage, you'll find that you generate much less garbage for the curb. DO NOT add eggshells or other animal waste. They will attract vermin, and that will make your neighbors very unhappy.

It takes about a year for the material to be sufficiently decomposed for application to gardens. I don't advise using compost for indoor plants. Make a compost tea for that purpose.

If you like to fish, the compost pile is your friend. Worms by the thousands will discover your pile by mid-spring.