How To Build Your Compost Pile

How To Build Your Compost Pile


We humans generate plenty of waste, from what we flush down the toilet to the scraps of leftover foods we don’t consume. As Americans, we expend more than our share of global resources, but some of what we use can be reused again in our gardens. That’s right, composting is an excellent way to make good use of cast off foods and yard debris, stuff that will eventually break down to become nutrient rich fertilizer for your garden.

Compost Pile

compost binThough everything breaks down over time, you can hasten the process by building a compost pile. According to the University of Illinois Extension, there are three important attributes needed to make a compost pile: moisture and air, exposed surface area, and materials used. Not everything should be put in your compost pile, most certainly anything that may attract unwanted varmints.

Yes, you can purchase a container to house your compost, using anything from a simple fenced in area to a cylindrical device with hand for stirring the compost. Your choice may depend as much on cost as well as intended benefit. In any case, you will want to create a compost pile system that will do the trick, namely break down the included ingredients.

Pile Placement

Once you determine what kind of compost system you will use, then finding the right place for it is important. The University of Illinois advices a flat area with good drainage, not much direct sunlight and protected by the wind. Sun and wind can dry out the pile quickly, but no sun exposure at all can make it difficult for a saturated pile to dry—look for a good balance of sun and shade when selecting a location and, yes, be mindful of the neighbors and local laws requiring that you set back the compost pile a certain number of feet from property lines.

With your new compost pile in place you’re now ready to add to it. The Environmental Protection Agency advises three ingredients be added: water, browns, and greens. Water can come in the form of rain or what you add from time to time yourself. Brown includes dead leaves, branches and twigs while greens include coffee grounds, grass clippings, fruit scraps and vegetable scraps. Yes, add certain food scraps, but not meat or dairy products. You don’t want to attract said varmints or flies.

Layering Materials

I won’t go into all of the details of layering your compost pile, but know this: there is a method for placing stuff in your bin to help encourage the breaking down of materials. Visit the EPA link provided to find out that information. Just know that you will need to turn your pile over from time to time in order to expedite the composting process. A pitchfork can come in handy for that job as can a shovel to help remove fully composted materials.

Moisture, oxygen and temperature go hand and hand with particle size—the smaller, the better—and a balanced pile of green and brown matter. Yes, your compost pile will heat up, an essential part of the breaking down process. Expect to become very familiar with how best to regulate your compost pile and, finally, don’t hesitate to contact your university extension if you need additional help.

Composting has many upsides to it including at-home recycling. Your municipality may encourage composting and offer discounted bins to you as a way to help keep yard clippings and leaves out of the town landfill.

Photo Credit: Ellen Levy Finch

Adv. — Are you planning to renovate your home? has a 6-step plan to help you organize your project.


end of post idea


Helpful article? Leave us a quick comment below.
And please give this article a rating and/or share it within your social networks.

facebook linkedin pinterest

Amazon Affiliate Disclosure: is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to The commission earnings are used to defray our cost of operation.

View our FTC Disclosure for other affiliate information.

Categories: Home Tips

About Author

Matthew C. Keegan

Matt Keegan is a freelance writer and editor as well as publisher of "Matt's Musings", his personal blog. Matt covers campus, consumer, business and financial topics on various websites and blogs, and has been published in the "Houston Chronicle", "Sam's Club Magazine" and "Wisconsin Golfer".