How to Make a Small Compost Pile


Composting does not have to be a time-consuming process that takes up a lot of space. A small composting pit can be made in a corner of a landscape, and it will benefit your yard and household by delivering rich nutrients to your garden and getting rid of household waste. With some sturdy sticks as an infrastructure to hold in the compost, and the understanding of what to compost, you can have your own small compost pile.

Creating the Structure

Step 1

Pick a location for the small compost pile in an area that receives at least six hours of sunlight every day. It should also be far enough away so that any odors won't be apparent in your home. An ideal small compost pile is about 3 by 4 feet.

Step 2

Pound four of the larger branches securely into the ground, using a hammer. Make a square, 3 feet wide and 4 feet long. This forms the main support system of the pile to hold in the compost.

Step 3

Fill in gaps between these main supports with the smaller branches, using your hands or the hammer to secure them. These creates a more uniform wall to hold in the compost.

Step 4

Bind the smaller and larger branches together with the smallest of twigs, weaving them in and out of the horizontally through the branches. Continue to do this over the entire bin until all the binding has been weaved in on all sides from top to bottom, or until you feel the compost pile is sturdy.

Step 5

Place a thick layer of dirt and straw on the bottom of the compost pile to give the composting a kick-start when materials are added.

Creating Compost

Step 1

Add carbon materials to the compost pile. This refers to dry, brown, carbon-based materials, most often from landscape clippings. Common carbon items include coffee or tea grounds, sawdust, paper napkins, wood ashes, hair, paper shreds, small or chopped up wood branches and paper plates.

Step 2

Layer nitrogen materials on top of the carbon. Nitrogen materials refer to all "green" materials. These are not only from the landscape, but from the household as well. Leaves, shrubbery, grass clippings, pine needles, spices, food scraps, vegetable and fruit trimmings or peels, rinds, manure and eggshells. Dozens of carbon and nitrogen items can be added to a compost pile (see Resources).

Step 3

Add water to begin the composting process, as it cannot be done successfully without this element. If materials are too dry, composting won't happen. Distribute water around the edges of the compost pile and on top of it. The goal is to allow the water to reach all areas of the compost, but you do not want to soak the pile.

Step 4

Turn and sift around the compost pile to let fresh air reach all the materials every week. Use a shovel to turn the pile. Air is the fourth and final necessary element for composting. Circulation and ventilation help spur the bacteria to create compost, and the air and water work together to complete the composting process.

Things You'll Need

  • 8 thick branches, cut to same height
  • Several thick twigs or small branches, cut the same height
  • Hammer
  • Smaller twigs
  • Pruning scissors
  • Twine
  • Dirt
  • Straw
  • Composting materials
  • Shovel


  • How To Compost: The World's Ultimate Compost Bin
  • Compost Heaps
  • CalRecycle: Home Composting

Who Can Help

  • Plantea: 163 Things To Compost
Keywords: composting materials, composting, making compost

About this Author

Lauren Wise has more than eight years' experience as a writer, editor, copywriter and columnist. She specializes in food, wine, music and pop culture. Her writing has appeared in various magazines, including "Runway," "A2Z," "Scottsdale Luxury Living" and "True West." Wise holds a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from Arizona State University.