How to Situate a Compost Pile


Where you put your compost pile affects more than just the compost pile itself. Situate your compost pile up against the side of your wooden tool shed and before you know it, the boards on your shed will start rotting. In fact, according to the University of Illinois Cooperative Extension, any wood in contact with compost--including a living tree--will decay. Avoid this and similar composting pitfalls by exercising care when planning your compost site and building your piles.

Step 1

Start your compost heap in a location that is convenient but does not interfere with your daily life. For example, a compost heap in the middle of the backyard will impact entertaining and children's play. A compost pile far from your house makes it a chore for you to take your food scraps out to it each day. A compost heap next to your garden will let you add mature compost to your garden without having to haul it in a wheelbarrow or bucket.

Step 2

Place your compost heap away from buildings, especially those with large overhangs or dripping eaves that can affect the moisture level of your compost pile. Put your pile in direct sun if you live in a cold climate and in a shaded area if you live in a warm climate to help the maturing compost maintain optimal moisture and temperature levels.

Step 3

Walk around your property and evaluate what areas are concealed from your neighbors' view. If your prime composting location is in sight of a neighbor's kitchen window, consider adding a screen or planting tall flowers to keep her from having to look at the decomposing waste every day.

Step 4

Dig a 6-inch-deep hole in the soil, fill it with water and check it the following morning to see if it still has water in it. If so, avoid this spot, or any area that has standing water, for compost pile placement. Excessive moisture in your heap can lead to smelly anaerobic decomposition.

Step 5

Lay down a wooden pallet on your chosen compost site to promote good heap drainage. Build your compost heap directly on the pallet. Excess moisture will drain through the wooden slats, keeping your compost about as wet as a wrung-out sponge.

Step 6

Layer organic waste on the pallet to build a pile between 3 cubic feet and 5 cubic feet in volume. Start with a 4- to 5-inch layer of high-carbon waste, to provide quick energy to the decomposing bacteria, and top it with 2 to 3 inches of nitrogen-rich waste. Repeat these alternating layers and moisten as you add them with a gentle spray of water from your garden hose.

Things You'll Need

  • Wooden pallet
  • High-carbon organic waste
  • High-nitrogen organic waste
  • Garden hose


  • University of Illinois Cooperative Extension: Building Your Compost Pile
  • "The Complete Compost Gardening Guide"; Barbara Pleasant & Deborah Martin; 2008
  • University of Illinois Cooperative Extension: The Science of Composting
Keywords: build compost pile, locating compost piles, compost heap

About this Author

Regan Hennessy has been writing professionally for 11 years. A freelance copywriter and certified teacher, Hennessy specializes in the areas of parenting, health, education, agriculture and personal finance. During her time with Demand Studios, Hennessy has produced content for Ehow, Answerbag and Travels. Hennessy graduated from Lycoming College with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English.