Learn which plants thrive in your Hardiness Zone with our new interactive map!

How to Build a Compost Pit

By Alexis Lawrence ; Updated September 21, 2017

Making your own compost pit takes some prep work and some basic ingredients. While a compost pit works in roughly the same way as an above-ground compost pile, a pit will keep the decaying organic matter out of sight and some of the smell underground.

Dig a pit in a cool, shaded spot in your yard or garden. Use a shovel to dig approximately 3 feet into the soil and make the hole 2 to 3 feet in diameter to make it wide enough to work in.

Line the pit with granite or brick. Granite powders can be mixed with epoxy and spread over the inside walls of the pit, while brick must be stuck into place with mortar around the inside.

Place a thin layer of manure over the bottom of the pit and cover with a bedding, such as hay or straw. Make the layer of bedding about 3 inches deep.

Layer ΒΌ-inch of the soil that you removed from the ground atop the bedding. Sprinkle the soil with lime or wood ash to add minerals to the compost.

Water the layers of the compost to keep the layers moist. The layers must be regularly watered to retain moisture to compost the items.

Add layers to the pit as you create waste. Use any natural items that do not contain chemicals. Food and organic waste that is appropriate for a compost pile includes banana peels, fruit cores, vegetable peelings, coffee grounds, grass, bark, grass and sawdust.

Cover each layer of organic matter with a layer of fresh bedding to keep the decaying matter covered. Leaves or top soil can be used for this cover.

Turn the pile out of the pit with a pitchfork every three weeks or so to aerate the compost. Return the compost to the pit once turned and allow it to sit without disturbance in the periods between.

Use the compost when it is ready. It should take 45 days to three months for compost to be ready for use. When done, it has a rich, musky smell and there are no visible signs of the organic matter that was originally placed into the pit.


Things You Will Need

  • Shovel
  • Granite mix with epoxy or bricks and mortar
  • Manure
  • Hay
  • Straw
  • Garden hose
  • Organic matter
  • Pitchfork
  • Lime or wood ash

About the Author


Alexis Lawrence is a freelance writer, filmmaker and photographer with extensive experience in digital video, book publishing and graphic design. An avid traveler, Lawrence has visited at least 10 cities on each inhabitable continent. She has attended several universities and holds a Bachelor of Science in English.