How To Make a Home Compost Pit


A compost pit is among the simplest options for home composting, as it requires little more than an unused area of ground and a shovel. Pit composting is less efficient than bin- or barrel-style composting; these methods have the advantage of above-ground aeration, which speeds the decomposition process. Pit composting is particularly well-suited for food wastes, since each new layer of waste is immediately covered with a layer of soil.

Selecting and Preparing the Compost Pit

Step 1

Survey the yard to select a site for the compost pit. Good potential pit sites include fallow areas of the garden, areas where a future flower or vegetable beds are planned, or an area near the garden so finished compost can be easily transferred from the pit into the garden.

Step 2

Mark out the boundary of the intended pit area with the point of the shovel. An average-sized compost pit might be around 3 feet square, about the same size as an above-ground bin. Pits that are to be lined with brick or wood should be dug out slightly larger to accommodate the lining materials.

Step 3

Dig out a square or rectangle no more than 2 feet deep. If the pit is much deeper than this, materials at the bottom of the pit will be very slow to decompose. Store the excavated dirt nearby for use in covering the compost pile as new materials are added.

Step 4

Line the sides of the pit with bricks, cinder blocks or treated wood, if desired. First, compact the soil walls and floor as much as possible.

Step 5

Stack bricks by laying a complete floor layer and first level, continuing to add levels by offsetting the edges of the bricks for rigidity.

Tips and Warnings

  • Pit composting generally takes a longer period of time than above-ground composting, due to reduced oxygen content and an anaerobic decomposition process. Finished compost may not result for several months to a year using this method.

Things You'll Need

  • Shovel
  • Cinder blocks or lengths of treated wood (optional)


  • University of Hawaii: Backyard Composting
  • University of Illinois: Composting Methods
  • Texas A&M: Composting Structures
Keywords: home compost pit, digging compost pit, about pit composting

About this Author

Michelle Z. Donahue lives in Washington, D.C., and has worked there as a journalist since 2001, when she graduated from Vanderbilt University with a B.A. in English. She first covered politics as a reporter for the weekly Fairfax Times newspaper, then for the daily newswire Canadian Economic Press, where she reported from the U.S. Treasury. Donahue is currently a freelance writer.