How to Make a Simple Compost Pit

Overview

Homeowners and gardeners use a variety of composting methods to convert organic scraps into nutrient-rich humus. One of the simplest composting methods--called pit composting--consists of inserting organic waste directly into a hole in the ground and covering it with a layer of soil. Barbara Pleasant, coauthor of "The Complete Compost Gardening Guide," notes that pit composting works particularly well for food scraps, because it keeps your compost area from becoming an unsightly heap of smelly, decomposing food waste. According to the University of Illinois Cooperative Extension, pit composting produces finished compost after one month to one year, depending upon factors such as the temperature of your soil and the prevalence of decomposing microorganisms in the soil.

Step 1

Walk around your property to find a suitable location for your compost pit. Look for an area that has well-draining soil. Choose a compost site that is conveniently located near your home or along the edge of your garden, if you plan to use the finished compost to enrich your garden soil.

Step 2

Measure off a 2-foot-square section of the ground and mark the corners of the space with rocks or stones. Dig a 1-foot-deep hole within the marked area, shoveling the soil from the hole and depositing it on the ground next to the composting site.

Step 3

Fill the bottom 4 inches of the pit with organic scraps and food waste. Try to include equal amounts of carbon-rich waste (such as straw, sawdust and dead leaves) and nitrogen-rich waste (such as vegetable peels, fruit scraps and other mild food waste) to promote more rapid decomposition. Spray the waste with a gentle mist of water with a garden hose; use enough water to dampen the waste until it's about the consistency of a wrung-out sponge.

Step 4

Shovel the loose soil on top of the organic scraps in the compost pit. Scoop the dirt into the pit until it is several inches above the level of the surrounding soil. Pack the soil on top of the organic scraps, patting it firmly with the back of the shovel to help level it off.

Step 5

Leave the rocks to mark the corners of your compost pit, letting the waste decompose for minimally one month but preferably at least six months to ensure that the waste is fully composted. Create extra compost pits near the first one as you need them.

Tips and Warnings

  • Never add manure from pets or meat-eating animals, such as pigs, to compost; it may contain harmful pathogens that could survive the composting process and infect humans, especially if you use the finished compost on a vegetable garden.

Things You'll Need

  • Tape measure
  • Shovel
  • Organic waste and food scraps
  • Garden hose

References

  • "The Complete Compost Gardening Guide"; Barbara Pleasant and Deborah Martin; 2008
  • University of Illinois Cooperative Extension: Composting Methods
Keywords: compost pit, easy composting, how to compost, composting food waste

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.