Compost is easy. Take some vegetable matter (weeds, fallen leaves, kitchen veggie scraps, lawn clippings, etc.), throw it in a pile. Wait for Mother Nature to break it down and then use as a top dressing in your garden or blend it with new soil when planting.
Where most people get caught up is in the what NOT to compost area. In short, nothing animal-based. No lard, rotten eggs, milk products, grease, leftover lunch meat, fish, bones, etc. Most of all -- no fecal matter from animals that eat meat. I'm looking at YOU dog owners. It is tempting, but don't. I've seen maggot-infested compost piles and it is not pretty.
There is a second category of NOT to compost items and those are plants you do not want to propagate in your garden. Sure, compost could produce enough heat to kill off those weed seeds and such, but rarely does that happen in a small backyard compost operation. Don't chance it. Keep poison ivy, weeds with seed heads, and anything with opportunistic spreading rhizomes (like Japanese honeysuckle) well out of your compost pile. Instead, I put mine in yard waste bags for county pick-up. In their giant piles, it will heat up enough to kill off these bad boys.
My full compost article is in the July/August 09 issue of the Takoma Voice and its sister publication, the Silver Spring Voice. See page 44, if you are in the area and can pick up a free copy of this wonderful local publication or you can read it online here.