How to Create a Compost Pile


Composting involves controlling and accelerating the natural decay process to turn yard and plant waste into a valuable soil amendment. Compost added to the garden improves soil structure and soil fertility as well as water holding capacity. There is no one right way to create a compost pile, but rather several effective methods for developing one. Often, a compost pile is built in layers to ensure the appropriate balance between carbon and nitrogen, but the layers are mixed after the pile is built.

Step 1

Create a 2-inch layer of brush 10 by 10 feet to serve as the base of the pile. Place a 6-inch layer of dry material on top of the brush. Add a 2-inch layer of wet material and then sprinkle ¼ inch of soil or finished compost on top.

Step 2

Layer dry material, wet material and soil until the pile is at least 4 feet high, but not more than 6 feet high.

Step 3

Turn and mix the pile contents every six weeks until the compost is finished. Begin by placing a layer of brush where you plan to move the pile. Then use the pitchfork to move the compost to the new pile location. Try to get the material that was previously on the edges near the middle of the pile, where the most intense composting action takes place.

Step 4

Squeeze a handful of the composting material to check the moisture. If you can just squeeze out a drop of water, the pile has the correct amount of moisture. If several drops of water come out, mix in some additional dry material. If no water can be squeezed out, sprinkle the pile with water until you achieve the correct moisture level.

Step 5

Apply the compost for a soil amendment or mulch after two to four months, when it has become a rich, dark brown, crumbly humus.

Things You'll Need

  • Brush
  • Dry compost material
  • Wet compost material
  • Soil
  • Pitchfork


  • Purdue University Extension: Household Composting
  • University of Missouri Extension: Making and Using Compost
  • Washington State University: Backyard Composting
  • Penn State Cooperative Extension: How to Make Compost
  • University of Florida: What Can Be Composted
Keywords: create compost pile, make compost pile, composting technique

About this Author

Ann Wolters, who has been a freelance writer, consultant, and writing coach for the past year and a half, has had her writing published in "The Saint Paul Almanac," and in magazines such as "Inventing Tomorrow" and "Frontiers." She earned a master’s degree in English as a second language from the University of Minnesota and taught English as a foreign language for nearly seven years.