How to Start a Compost Pile In 6 Easy-to-Follow Steps

Composting comes with multiple benefits. It enriches and retains soil moisture, reduces and prevents plant diseases and pests, and removes the need for chemical fertilizers.
On top of that, it’s supremely beneficial to the environment, as it recycles kitchen leftovers and reduces landfill waste.
To reap the mentioned benefits, we’ll guide you on how to start a compost pile. It’s super easy and doesn’t take any effort at all!

Step 1: Gather Your Materials

Composting is a fantastic way to recycle food items past their due date. Rather than sending them to the dump, take advantage of their decomposing state and turn them into a valuable resource.
To start off on the right foot, gather these materials for your compost pile:
  • Vegetable peels
  • Fruit waste
  • Teabags
  • Plant prunings
  • Eggshells
  • Coffee grounds
You can also gather other non-food items like cardboard egg boxes, crunched-up newspapers, grass cuttings, fallen leaves, finely chopped wood, bark chips, and even sawdust (from untreated wood).
Keeping a sizable container in your kitchen is a great way to accumulate compostable materials as you prepare meals or make yourself something to drink. Instead of throwing your teabags, vegetable peels, and eggshells directly into the bin, throw them in your compost container instead.
With that said, it’s important to note that not all decomposing products can be turned into compost. For instance, animal byproducts (bones, dairy, meat, etc.) shouldn't be turned into compost because they may harbor unhealthy bacteria and attract insects and animal pests.
The same is said with feces, garden waste from sick plants or plants treated with pesticides, and foods rich in fat and oil (peanut butter, mayonnaise, salad dressing, etc.).
Plastics—even biodegradable ones—shouldn't be used, either.

Step 2: Choose the Right Location

The location of your compost pile makes a great difference to the composting process.
Traditionally, compost piles are tucked in the farthest corner of the garden to prevent smells and leaking liquids from affecting the rest of the area. The pile should be easily accessible and placed in an area with partial sun or shade, as you don't want it to be too dry or too wet.
Just as important, the pile must be placed on a level, well-drained ground that's near to a water source (i.e., sprinkler or hose pipe). Don't put it in an area with a natural water source like a well or stream, however, as the pile might contaminate the water.

Step 3: Pile It Right

Before making the compost, wait until you have enough materials to make a pile of at least three feet deep.
The first layer must contain several inches of twigs and straws to help drainage and aerate the pile. Then, combine your dry, brown items with your wet, green items.
Brown items include scrunched-up newspapers, fallen leaves, wood shavings, and similar dry items, all of which add carbon to your pile. Green materials include vegetable peels, eggshells, coffee groups, and grass trimmings. These items add nitrogen to your pile.
You need to strike a perfect balance of carbon and nitrogen to create a successful pile. For best results, mix three parts browns with three parts greens. Your goal here is to create a moist pile. It shouldn't be too dry or too soggy.
If the compost looks too wet and smells kind of funky, add more brown items to the pile. If it looks too dry, add green items to make it a little wetter.

Step 4: Feed It Good (With Water)

As mentioned earlier, your pile shouldn't be too wet or too dry; instead, it needs to have a consistency similar to that of a rung-out sponge. Therefore, you must regularly sprinkle water over the pile so it doesn't get too dry and stiff. Don't add too much water though as this may encourage the growth of harmful bacteria and attract annoying pests.
Also, too much water might drown the useful microorganisms you're trying to cultivate. Ideally, your compost should contain about 40% water.
If possible, invest in a thermometer specifically made for compost. The temperature of your compost tells you when it's time to turn your pile when to add more material when to add more water, and, more importantly, when the compost is finished and ready to use. It's extremely useful and you should never go without it.

Step 5: Turn the Pile

Turn the pile once every week to aerate and introduce oxygen to the compost. This helps the pile "cook" faster and prevents it from becoming too packed and matted. For best results, use a garden fork or a large shovel.
When the center of the compost thermometer reads between 130 and 150°F, it's time to turn the soil. Stir the compost thoroughly but carefully. If you're not too fond of physical work, consider investing in a rotating compost tumbler. This device will turn the compost automatically for you.
In addition to aerating the compost, mix raw ingredients into the pile to speed up the composting process. Simply mix them in rather than adding them in layers.

Step 6: Reap the Fruit of Your Labor

When your compost pile is ready, it's time to feed it to your garden. You'll know it's ready when the compost gives off a rich, earthy smell and has a brown, crumbly texture.
The compost will look well-rotted except for a few sticks, roots, and other plant parts, which should be plucked and sifted from the compost before it's used.
To use your compost, add about four to six inches to your pots and/or flower beds at the beginning of the planting season.
You can also turn your compost pile into compost "tea" (liquid fertilizer). You can do this by steeping the fully formed compost in water with several other ingredients for 24 hours.
Here's how to make compost tea:
  • 3 gallons of tap water
  • 2 cups of organic compost
  • 1 tablespoon of kelp fertilizer (must be liquid)
  • 1 tablespoon molasses (blackstrap, unsulfured)
Let the mixture sit in a five-gallon bucket for 24 hours, stirring it occasionally. Then, strain the mixture and transfer it into a bottle. Use immediately.


Compost is not only a delicious treat for your garden but it's also environmentally friendly.
As you can see, composting is incredibly easy and doesn't take much effort. After the initial layering process, all you need to do is to sprinkle water into the pile every day and turn it once every week (or every other week during colder months). That's it.
So, what are you waiting for? Start your composting journey today!