How can I get the most out of my compost pile? It seems to never breakdown as much as I hope for, am I losing valuable nutrients. Any ideas would be much appreciated.
how big is your compost bin? How often do you turn?
With frequent turning you can make compost in about 4 to 6 months.
If your compost isn't broken down completely, the breakdown process in the soil might take nitrogen away from the plants.
If it never breaks down there is a imbalance. What are you putting in your compost. What kind container is in? Sun/shade is the pile dry/wet?
Generally speaking, the bigger the pile, the easier it is to tend. What goes into your pile? How do you maintain it? Is it in a bin, or just a loose pile?
We have been composting for a few years and have had great success. You need a good combination of "brown" material, like dead leaves and deadheaded flowers, etc., and "green" material like prunings, grass clippings and the like. We put all of our kitchen waste in and I cook a LOT, so we have tons of peelings, egg shells, etc. Everything but meat or meat drippings. Mix that all together and water it. Here in NM we need to water a couple of times a week, so it depends on your location.
I believe Mother Earth News has a lot of good info and I've read that some people also compost bones and paper. We don't need to experiment with that, but our compost pile is awesome.