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How to Activate a Compost Pile

By Kathy Burns-Millyard ; Updated September 21, 2017
Grass and leaves are good for the compost pile
compost surface. image by mdb from Fotolia.com

Making compost is an excellent way to recycle kitchen food scraps and leftovers, as well as giving your lawn and garden waste a way to contribute back to the lawn and garden naturally. The secret to having well matured, nutrient rich compost is making sure you mix both carbon and nitrogen organic waste into the pile. Nitrogen materials are often referred to as "green" compost ingredients, and these include things that smell as they rot such as old tomatoes or banana peelings. Carbon materials include dry straw and hay, shredded leaves and sawdust. When the mix of green and brown material is right in the compost bin, your compost will generate heat from the busy activity of all the organisms working to break down the materials you've added. This heat generating activity is known as an active compost pile, and you can force compost to activate just by adding a few extra nitrogen rich materials as needed.

Pee directly onto the compost pile or capture your urine in a bucket and pour it onto the pile. Human urine is one of the fastest known activators for a compost pile because it's very high in nitrogen. After adding the urine, cover the area well with hay or sawdust so there is no odor.

Spread fresh comfrey leaves or grass clippings over the compost pile, then cover with hay or sawdust. Comfrey leaves get slimy as they decompose and they will create a strong odor, but they are an excellent source of nitrogen to activate the compost.

Spread rotted chicken manure over top of the compost pile and then cover with hay or sawdust. Add as much covering material as needed to eliminate all odors from the manure.


Things You Will Need

  • Human urine
  • Comfrey or grass clippings
  • Rotted chicken manure


  • You can activate a compost pile by doing just one of the above steps or all three at the same time.

About the Author


Kathy Burns-Millyard has been a professional writer since 1997. Originally specializing in business, technology, environment and health topics, Burns now focuses on home, garden and hobby interest articles. Her garden work has appeared on GardenGuides.com and other publications. She enjoys practicing Permaculture in her home garden near Tucson, Ariz.